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A small history of a big Show
22 August 2011
In 2012 the Motor Show celebrates its 90th edition. Time to take a look back at a fantastic history.
You have to turn the clock back to 1892 to find the first trace of an exhibition devoted to mechanical transport in Belgium. That gathering, the “1ère Exposition des Cycles”, was organised in Brussels by the Union Veloce Club and exhibited only bicycles and their accessories.
It wasn’t until 1895 and the “3ème Salon du Cycle” that two automobiles were to be seen – actually two motorised carriages. In 1899 the representation of autos became so large that a new name change became necessary, to “Salon de l’Automobile et du Cycle”.
It was only in 1902 that the Show as we now know it really got off the ground. With the support of Louis Mettewie, manufacturer of the Belgica, the Chambre Syndicale des Constructeurs d’Automobiles et de Cycles [Union of Automobile and Bicycle Manufacturers] started its own show under the name “1er Salon de l’Automobile, du Cycle et des Sports”. It took place on the Cinquantenaire site with 82 mostly Belgian exhibitors.
In 1903 the Chambre Syndicale organised its 2nd edition of the show, which this time could present the imposing figure of 161 exhibitors! There were of course many Belgians involved, flanked by a succession of foreigners including the renowned Panhard, De Dietrich and Renault makes. A special feature of this expo was that it was not limited to shiny sports cars but also accommodated body makers, tyre makers, manufacturers of electric appliances, tools, etc. It was an unprecedented success and the show was launched!
Despite the increasingly larger share of foreign vehicles, the shows were an extraordinary success time after time. In 1911, aviation was also present with dirigibles and airplanes, a trend that would persist until 1914, the beginning of the first world conflict.
After the armistice, the thread of automobile production was slowly picked up again and Brussels decided to organise a show once more in October 1920. The nine Belgian manufacturers present had to contend with stiff international competition. But the gathering was a success and provided proof that the Brussels Show remained one of the finest shows in the world, certainly the most varied, and with a decidedly commercial character.
In 1937 the Show was set up in the new Heysel Park site, built in connection with the 1935 International Exposition. The more spacious halls in Heysel offered room for larger stands and the level of quality of the gathering was raised at once.
After a new postponement due to the Second World War, the 31st show opened its doors on 14 February 1948. Most of the world automobile manufacturers were on display, while only one Belgian auto make, Imperia, remained, and that for the last time.
After several years of postponement – by Expo 58 among other things – the Show counted 650,000 visitors in 1967. The Show could also rely on the presence of several Japanese manufacturers, such as Mazda, Toyota and Datsun.
Starting in 1973, the varied offer of vehicles obliged the organisers to impose criteria that vary from year to year on the stand holders. Since then, commercial vehicles (later accompanied by recreational vehicles) have their show in odd years, while shows of autos in the broad sense of the term are organised in even years.
In 1995 the motorcycle show was introduced. It was organised in parallel with the Commercial Vehicle Show and attracted 31,000 visitors.
In 2000 FEBIAC celebrated its 100th birthday and could boast a visitor total of 757,000 people at the Motor Show.
The organisers of the Show do their best to make their gathering evolve with the times. In 2010 the Show had a test track for electric vehicles for the first time. It was an ideal addition to the test section for all-purpose vehicles that had been launched several years before as an adjunct to the commercial vehicle shows.
In its turn, 2011 was innovative too, with the establishment of a Dream Cars showroom for luxury cars alone. The public responded eagerly and a new visitor record was achieved for what is usually called the “small show”: 379,667 visitors, an unhoped-for result!
The organisers have a number of surprises in store for 2012 too. So be sure to come back to this Show website again to keep up with the latest innovations…