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W.Va. auto show revs up

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Chrisetta King Vealey and her family made sure not to miss the West Virginia International Auto Show, this weekend at the Charleston Civic Center.

The auto show rolled into Charleston on Friday, bringing a large variety of vehicles for people to check out.

Last year was the first auto show the family missed in 15 years.

"I like to look at all the cars I can't have," King Vealey said, laughing. "We try and come to all of the events here at the Civic Center, because things like this are family oriented and not so expensive."

This year, her kids, Samuel and Claira, even had a chance to get behind the wheel of the Ford Eco Boost simulation at the event.

"It's like driving in real life," Samuel said.

The simulation was the family's first stop at the auto show. Samuel went through the simulated test drive twice within the first 15 minutes of being at the show.

Participants of all ages lined up to sit down in the racecar-like driver's seat. Three large screens make up what would be a driver's windshield, showing a track drivers must navigate around.

"It's a fuel-efficient engine, but fast," said auto show spokeswoman DeeDee Taft.

While driving, Samuel hit a curve, causing his car to spin around about six times, and he quickly found out how different this was from the racing video games he plays at home.

"You don't just have the controller vibrating. The whole car is moving the entire time," Samuel said. "It feels like you're actually spinning around in a real car."

Samuel beat his track time by 15 seconds on his second try.

"I thought it was pretty cool," Claire said, "but I was kind of nervous having everyone watching around me."

She said the driver's seat tilts and turns with the simulation, adding to the "real" driving experience.

"The show opened yesterday, and it was a nice crowd, and today seems to be pretty steady," Taft said Saturday. "Hopefully, the snow won't affect us, but it seems like people are still coming out, which is great."

Taft added that it's a great place to check out snow vehicles, such as trucks, SUVs and 4-wheel-drives.

GMC Buick Cadillac and Ford were allowing test drives of real vehicles. Early in the afternoon, though, GMC Buick Cadillac had to halt the test-driving because of safety conditions brought on by a snow squall, on-site producer Matt Wyght said. By 2 p.m., though, all test drives were back on.

Taft said Charleston's snowy conditions offered drivers a chance to see how the trucks, SUVs and 4-wheel-drives handle.

Amy Rothman of Charleston said she went to the auto show Saturday because she'll be looking for a new car in the next year or so.

"I have no idea what I want, so it's a nice thing that I can look at everything all at once without going dealership to a dealership," Rothman said.

So far, the Audi Q5, LR2 and the Toyota Highlander have caught her eye.

Rothman is looking for fuel efficiency in her next car.

"The one thing we're a little disappointed about is that there are not as many hybrids as we expected here," Rothman said.

The show also offered attendees a glimpse into exotic cars. Taft said a $500,000 Lamborghini, Hulk Hogan's Dodge Viper and the latest from Bentley are a few of the exotics calling the Civic Center home for the weekend.

"They're the cars dreams are made of," Taft said.

Bobby Brantley of the television show "Lizard Lick Towing" met with fans Saturday.

"It's been a great turnout," Brantley said. "Hopefully, when the snow slacks off, it will be a better turnout.

It's Brantley's first time in Charleston. He admitted that the weather is a bit colder than he's used to in North Carolina.

"It's an awesome show," Brantley said. "I might just have to come back to the car show next year, because it is better than the one we have at home."

Brantley will sign autographs and meet with fans Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Sunday is family day at the show, running from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Admission to the show for adults is $10; for those 62 and older, $6; for children 7 to 12 years of age, $5. Kids 6 and under get in free. Admission fees for children 12 and under are waived on family day.

Charleston Newspapers is a sponsor of the West Virginia International Auto Show.

Reach Caitlin Cook at caitlin.cook@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.


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