Thursday, November 12, 2009

Auto show opening with generous pledge

In a city so dependant on the automobile, here's a chance to look at a few hundred new cars and do some good.

The people behind next week's 17th annual Charlotte International Auto Show are holding its first ever Charity Preview Night on Wednesday, on the eve of the show's opening day at the Charlotte Convention Center.

Buy a $75 ticket ($30 is tax deductible) and you'll get to see all the show's 2010 models -- 400 of them -- and hear about a significant financial contribution Charlotte area auto dealers are making to the Charlotte Rescue Mission.

The first 500 people to buy tickets will get a tour of the nearby NASCAR Hall of Fame, not scheduled to open until May. The event also includes music from The Embers, a variety of heavy hors d'oeuvres and all the new cars you care to eyeball.

But the night's main event: A $100,000 commitment by the show's producer, the Greater Charlotte Automobile Dealers Association, to the rescue mission's Dove's Nest program that will go to building its planned shelter for homeless women struggling with substance abuse in west Charlotte.

On top of that pledge, proceeds from tickets sales -- above expenses for the preview party -- and a live and silent auction will go to the rescue mission.

The 35,000-square-foot women's shelter planned at West Boulevard and Old Steele Creek Road will allow Dove's Nest to expand from 12 beds at its current Dilworth location to 90 beds.

Construction could begin in 2010, with move-ins possible in 2011.

"The dealers association supports many charities, but this is a favorite of ours," said Dick Lewis, director of the auto show. "We know what great work the Charlotte Rescue Mission does and they don't take any government or United Way money."

Many auto shows across the country include a charitable event. This is the first for Charlotte, designed to cut the ribbon on the show -- and the 2010 model year. Winston Kelly, executive director of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, will deliver opening remarks.

"The auto industry needs support and some excitement again," Lewis said. "The auto show felt this was the best way to do it -- have an energetic preview night benefiting a charity."

The auto show will take up 240,000 square feet of the convention center, nearly five football fields. The 400 vehicles will come from 30 manufacturers, domestic and foreign.

There will also be an exhibit of classic Mustangs and Corvettes, and the Hornets Nest chapter of the Antique Auto Club of America is bringing in two dozen vintage cars including: A 1928 Auburn, 1928 LaSalle, a 1951 Hudson convertible and 1966 Shelby Mustang.

There will also be a "green room," with 25 new hybrids and low carbon-emission vehicles.

Lewis said the show hopes to sell 1,000 tickets to the preview event, though sales have been slow.

"We understand money is tight these days," Lewis said. "But this is going to be a fun evening to open what we believe will be our most exciting auto show. And it's for a very good cause."

Want to go? Wednesday's inaugural preview night starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Charlotte Convention Center, 501 S. College St., and ends at 9 p.m. Tickets are available at, or call 704-364-1078.