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Auto show drives visitors into high gear

Exotic cars draw oohs and aahs from enthusiasts; others like standard models

News Business Reporter

The Buffalo Auto Show rolled into town Wednesday, greeted by an eager crowd of car enthusiasts.

"I like to see the practical family cars, but I also like to see the funky, trendy stuff," said Charles Abbott of Buffalo.

There was plenty of both in the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.

A shiny, orange Chevy Camaro, custom-built by Mark Abate of Grand Island's Sound Choice Audio and Performance, drew hordes of awed onlookers. "That is awesome," said Mike Schafer of East Aurora. "That is "Wow' with three W's."

The car, with $90,000 in custom modifications, took top honors at the prestigious Specialty Equipment Market Association, or SEMA, show in Las Vegas in November. Abate, who calls the car his "masterpiece," tweaked every part of the twin turbocharged V-6 from its widened body to its 22-inch iForged wheels.

"I wanted to build a car that got mass respect," Abate said.

Nearby, people were admiring the 2010 Porsche Panamera.

"Who doesn't get excited looking at a Porsche?" said Lou Santiago of Buffalo. "If I had an extra $100,000, that's what I would do with it."

Elsewhere, attendees were oohing and aahing over the 2011 Jaguar XJ. The 50 vehicles that were made in preproduction recently appeared in the Neiman Marcus catalog and sold out in four hours. A new batch will be available in April, with a price tag of $105,000. "People are comparing it to a Bentley or a Rolls-Royce, so relatively, it's a steal at this price," said Ray Ammerman, general manager at West Herr Jaguar.

Also drawing crowds were the gleaming silver 2011 Infiniti M35/M45, a replica of a 1957 Indy "Novi" hot rod race car and a Chevy "Black Widow" Monster Truck.

After a tour of the luxury and concept vehicles, Daryl Pinney of Batavia headed toward the more traditional, domestic models. "Ah, this is more our people," he said.

Pinney comes to the show every year. He appreciates the opportunity to slip into the fancier or more extreme cars, but what really brings him back is the chance to kick the tires on the new models of the mainstream vehicles. After seeing a Jeep Liberty at the 2005 show, he went right out and bought one.

He likes being able to see several different cars at once, all in one place, making comparisons as he goes along.

"You get to see what everybody has but without the pressure," Pinney said. "Nobody is trying to sell you anything.

Rather than delivering a sales pitch, representatives deliver knowledge.

"Everyone here really knows their stuff," said Chris D'Angelo of Williamsville. "You ask a question about mileage, they know the mileage. You ask a question about horsepower, they have the answer."

Brad and Ruth Ann Bane checked out a canary yellow 2010 Chevy Camaro. Though they weren't in the market for a new car when they arrived at the auto show, they found themselves tempted by some of the re-released American muscle cars, such as the Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger and Chevy Camaro.

"We could be easily influenced," said Brad Bane, who owned a Corvette and Mustang in his younger days. "After raising our kids, we need something a little more sporty.

The Buffalo Auto Show, presented by the Niagara Frontier Automobile Dealers Association, runs through Sunday at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center, 153 Franklin St. Tickets are $8 at the door, or $7 at Tops Markets. Family packs of four tickets are available for $20, and children under 5 are free. For more information, visit www.BuffaloAutoShow.com.