L.A. Auto Show: Fun things to do besides look at cars

Ski simulator
A woman tries out a downhill skiing simulator at the Los Angeles Auto Show on Wednesday.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

The South and West halls of the Los Angeles Convention Center are chockablock with glitzy booths promoting the latest in automotive technology. It’s all very serious business.

But here and there among the booths at the L.A. Auto Show are some very amusing activities.

Dodge is featuring a driving simulator that allows two drivers -- one in a Dodge Charger, one in a Dodge Challenger -- to go head to head sitting in the actual vehicles, which rise, tilt and roar their way down a simulated track. Those who’ve tried it say it’s harder than it looks, and harder than real driving. Several drivers in a row could not keep the cars from crashing, in fact, and would have destroyed actual vehicles.

Less high-tech, and less difficult, is a similar driving simulation at Hyundai. Drivers there were having less difficulty keeping on the track, but also looked a little bored.


Over at Toyota, you can make your own paper airplane and try to throw it into a target on the bed of a Tundra pickup -- because, see, it was a Tundra that pulled the space shuttle Challenger through the streets of Los Angeles. Get it?

You can also “drive” a Toyota FT-1 sports car, via a simulation video game that allows operators to choose from several world tracks or the streets of several cities.

Much more dramatic is the opportunity Ford will give you to race a Shelby Mustang GT350 -- on a track, outdoors, off the convention center’s West Hall. But don’t get excited. It’s an remote-controlled version of the iconic racer. Operators can speed around a specially designed track and test their mettle against other drivers in other Ford race cars.

Down in the Aftermarket Hall, a lower-adrenaline kind of racing is going on.


There, the Razor company has set up a drifting track, fitted with cones, to test its new Crazy Cart, a 12-mph electric scooter-cart that, with the pull of a brake lever, can drift like a gymkhana machine. If that works out for you, try the Crazy Cart XL, which can go 17 mph and whizzes like a rocket.

Co-inventor Ali Kermani, who perfected the machine as part of his UCLA Anderson School of Business master’s degree, says the popular carts retail for $399 for the small one and $799 for the big one. They sold out at Toys R Us, he says, and will be a hot item this holiday season.

In the non-motorized activity department, Kia was offering a downhill ski lesson on a simulator that electronically recreates Alpine slopes. And, nearby, in the Joshua Tree section, a man spent much of the day Wednesday rapelling up and down on a rope attached to the rafters. He wasn’t offering rides, though.

Kia says the skiing simulator will be taken down before the general public arrives on Friday.

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