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Auto Show Highlights New Models

February 21, 1986|BENJAMIN EPSTEIN

A world premiere: the first true Toyota sports car, the Supra.

A masterpiece: the Aston Martin Lagonda.

A new subcompact: the Hyundai from Korea (it rhymes with Sunday).

Those are but a few highlights of the 27th annual Orange County International Auto Show, which this year attracted virtually all of the world's 33 major manufacturers. More than 300 vehicles are on display through Sunday under five acres of tent next to Anaheim Stadium.

Other attention-grabbers:

- Three Ferrari 328s never before seen in Southern California.

- The restyled Mazda RX-7, named Import Car of the Year by Motor Trend magazine.

- The sleek, new front-wheel-drive Mercury Sable.

The 1986 1/2 Supra is changing Toyota's image.

"We're going for the sports market," said Earle Ike, past president of the Motor Car Dealer Assn. and owner of a Toyota dealership in Costa Mesa. "We're going head-to-head with the Corvette and the Z-car." The Supra ($17,000 to $21,000) resembles both. "It's an aggressive look but with smooth body lines."

The crisply angular Aston Martin Lagonda is offering no exterior styling changes this year; the $153,000 Lagonda--only one is produced each week--has, however, gone from a digital dash to three little television screens. "The same designer was used for the instrument panel for the Lagonda and the F-15 fighter plane," noted Lee West, owner of Newport Imports.

At the other extreme, Art Meissner of Hyundai Motor America in Garden Grove talked about what is being promoted as the most affordable passenger sedan. It starts at $4,995. (The Yugo from Yugoslavia will debut in the fall at $3,995.)

Meissner admitted that "the beauty of the (Hyundai) is in its value to the retail customer."

Not an 'Econobox'

"There is only a certain number of things you can do with X number of platform inches to get the kind of interior space you want," Meissner said. "So it's going to be utilitarian, but it's not an 'econobox.' There's an attempt to present a very attractive package."

Few will dispute the attractiveness of the package called Ferrari. If the bodies of those at the show looked somewhat familiar, Newport Imports-owner West said the 328s nevertheless represented "the first major changes from Ferrari in five or six years." In addition to an increase in engine size, the new models, which start at $75,000, incorporate the molded bumpers, door handles and cockpit of the limited-production GTO race car.

The Mazda RX-7, at $18,000, offers retractable headlights, slightly flared front and rear fender openings, a steeply raked windshield and a rear hatchback with double-curved, saddle-shaped glass.

The Audi-like Mercury Sable sedan is being described as the "most aerodynamic family car ever launched in North America." Starting around $16,500, it features a light bar and halogen headlights (and no grille) in front and wrap-around taillights in the rear.

Aerodynamic Look

"The glut of oil on the market notwithstanding, there are still limited reserves of oil," noted Jay Gorman, executive director of the Southern California Motor Car Dealers Assn., co-sponsor of the auto show. "If it slides through the air easier, it's going to take less fuel. With the Taurus and the Sable, Ford has taken a giant step ahead in that respect.

"Back in the '60s and '70s, we all liked those big, boxy, roomy vehicles. You'll be seeing more and more of the manufacturers getting away from that look. It's not more expensive to produce aerodynamically designed cars. But they're a new sight people aren't used to. Take the Chrysler Airflow that came out in the '30s. That was aerodynamic, but it failed miserably. Now efficiency is getting the attention; it's being promoted.

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