AutoMatters+: 2015 San Diego International Auto Show

The first auto show of the New Year began early on the morning of Jan. 1, 2015. Aside from being first, this auto show is noteworthy for another important reason. The San Diego show does a really good job of identifying important niche segments and effectively presenting them to the public. By doing so, the show continues to get better each year, making it a must-see auto show.

This year, aside from the wide array of new vehicles presented tastefully on the show floor, things that caught my attention were: domestic high performance, repair, maintenance and restoration; hydrogen-powered automobiles; wheelchair accessible vehicles; and a most unusual and entertaining new band, courtesy of the San Diego Automotive Museum.

Of the — dare I use the word — conventional autos on display, Ford Motor Company had a huge exhibit. I also braved the bitter cold to take a couple of test drives, one of which proved to be unexpectedly quite exciting. While I was driving on the street in front of the Convention Center, a vehicle veered into my path. The Toyota representative in the passenger seat expressed his thanks to me for having swerved and avoided an accident.

JBA Speed Shop is a family-owned and operated institution in San Diego. This year, to celebrate their 30 years in San Diego, they gathered a large group of awesome domestic muscle cars (and their proud owners) for a car show within the car show. It was crowded much of the time that I was there.

Once known mostly for performance upgrades to Fords — especially Mustangs — JBA has expanded into a go-to shop for the bow-tie brigade, Mopar and other domestic makes and models as well. See JBA for just about anything from superchargers and dyno tuning to complete, high-performance engine swaps and more.

Heading up the operation is J. Bittle (everyone calls him Jay). He always has a big smile. He also races. He can be seen competing in his Mustang every year at the Coronado Speed Festival. He gets it. He has high performance in his blood. He and his staff work hard to make their customers happy.

A friend recently took his orange Ford Raptor there for some major performance upgrades — and then he let me drive it. It was quick, responsive and yet completely docile when I needed it to be. Jay has an uncanny knack for improving performance, optimizing fuel economy and maintaining everyday drivability.

JBA Speed Shop does repairs and knows how to troubleshoot tough-to-fix problems. If it is something that the manufacturer’s warranty is likely to cover, he’ll send you to a dealership with a sound diagnosis.

Also see JBA for restorations. They’ll even research the history of noteworthy vehicles.

This year, Jay’s son Austin came into the business, bringing with him a solid background in distribution. Look for JBA to significantly increase its parts business. JBA Speed Shop is at 5675 Kearny Villa Road in San Diego.

I’ve been seeing hydrogen-powered test vehicles for several years. Now Hyundai has brought one to market. In the exhibit was a vehicle and a hydrogen engine display. Right now the 2015 Tucson Fuel Cell is available only for lease in select Southern California dealerships. Hopefully, San Diego will get hydrogen refueling capability soon.

In a spacious, wheelchair-accessible vehicle display area, I observed an ingenious converted truck. It had both driver’s-side doors joined into one solid unit. This motorized assembly slid out of the way, revealing a platform to raise the driver into the vehicle.

Honda, Dodge and Chrysler minivan conversions also seemed ideally suited to the task. Find out more at GoldenBoy Mobility in Poway.

Perhaps the most unique band I’ve ever seen made its debut at the San Diego Auto Show. Playing instruments made from old car parts, and made possible by a generous planning grant from the San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture, the “Car Parts Symphony” is the brainchild of my friend Paula from the San Diego Auto Museum in Balboa Park.

Their big gamble paid off big-time. The musicians (one of whom works in the museum’s gift shop!) and their instruments are fantastic. I suggested to Paula that they should try to play Vegas. In the meantime, look for them to perform at various venues around San Diego throughout this year, as part of Balboa Park’s Centennial Celebration.

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Copyright © 2015 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters+ #366