Don't expect to see many of these beauties at the North American International Auto Show.
For the eighth year in a row, the annual Detroit auto show quietly opened up with the Gallery at MGM Grand Casino. The exclusive Saturday night event featured more than two dozen of the most expensive ultra-luxury, performance and exotic cars on the market. About $6 million dollars worth of cars, to be precise. Or in other words, the kind of cars most members of the public can only dream of tucking into their garages at night.
"It's an unreal experience," said Brad Ernst of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., who, along with his father Richard was checking out the Aston Martin Vanquish. "Once-in-a-lifetime."
The event was born during the lean years just before the auto bailout and recession, when most automakers were more focused on survival than showing off. And it's continued to draw in crowds of the kinds of people who wouldn't have a problem dropping a couple hundred thousand on a car. Many of them do, in fact. In its first seven years, the Gallery has resulted in $10 million in vehicle sales, not unsurprising for an event that costs $1,000 just to attend.
"This kicks off a two-week love affair with cars," NAIAS chairman Scott LaRiche told the crowd. "Is there anywhere that throws a party like this?"
Following a strolling dinner served by world-renowned chef Wolfgang Puck, the 300 attendees moved to the grand ballroom, where a dazzling array of glitz and horsepower awaited. Among the vehicles on display: the Aston Martin V12 Vantage S (from $184,995), the Jaguar F-Type project 7 (from $165,0001), the Falcon S7 super car ($195,000 with some versions costing as much as $250,000) and the always head-turning Rolls Royce Wraith (from $284,900).
Also making an appearance were homegrown hits like the Dodge Viper GTS (from $107,995) and the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 (from $78,000). Brighton's own luxury car customizer Lingenfelter offered up two modified C7 Corvette Stingrays. The executives responsible for producing these fine specimens were also on hand to talk with potential buyers.
This year, organizers of the Gallery teamed up with Henry Ford Hospital, putting a portion of the money raised toward the hospital.
Cardiologist Dee Dee Wang was on hand demonstrating the hospital's 3-D organ-printing initiative, which allows doctors to re-create a high-risk patient's heart, lung or other organ so that they can test out best methods before doing any actual surgery.
Wang likened the innovation to that going on in the car industry.
"Why do we invest more in cars than our patients?" she said. "We need to have 'crash-testing' in medicine."
The night also included a fashion show by Neiman Marcus and music by DJ Ryan Richards.