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Slideshow: Flying cars, giant hamsters and new cars make the New York Auto Show fun again

Updated: April 5, 2012 01:03 PM EDT

By Dan Meade

(WORLDNOW) -- It was as if the 2012 New York Auto Show had re-found the spring in its step. Walking around the various pavilions you could see flying cars, floating cars and cars made to resemble Hot Wheels miniatures peppered between the new models and concept vehicles. More than that though, there was a greater sense of fun and excitement than has been present in recent years. The auto industry is starting to get its swag back, and it showed.

From the very get go, this post-ennui jubilance could be felt. While Ian Beavis read the nominees for the Nielsen Global Advertising Awards during the opening breakfast of the show, a life-sized Kia Soul hamster could be seen frolicking behind the stage. As the award ceremony progressed, the hamster handed out the awards and could be seen popping and locking along when his ad was nominated for Ad of the Year (Chevy won for its "Salute" spot). The giant hamster added a much-welcomed air of silliness during an otherwise dry event.

When Mercedes-Benz introduced their new GL-Class SUV, they skipped the usual dramatic video or sheet-pulling reveal. Instead they had a ten-piece marching band come out playing a funky groove before one of the GLs drove on stage, nearly knocking over the band like a set of bowling pins. No one was in actual danger, but it still made for a dramatic unveiling.

Over at the GM pavilion staff members handed out "magic buttons [that] bring good luck to all who wear them," each representing a different GM model. You could take your picture next to a gleaming green Camaro modeled on one of the original 1968 Hot Wheels models, draw on giant Chevy Sonic dry-erase board or have your picture super-imposed into a photo with OK Go, the band who use a Sonic in their latest music video.

One of the most talked about vehicles, the Terrafugia Transition (aka the "flying car"), was a sight to be seen. Its wings can expand and collapse in mere seconds and make less noise than an electric can opener when doing so.

Not to be outdone, MINI had on display the Yachtsman, a duck car that can travel on both land and sea. Advertised as being shark proof and able to go from 0-50 knots in 2.4 minutes, the Yachtsman had a price tag of roughly $230,000 (slightly less than Terrafugia's airborne wonder). When asked for more details, the MINI team explained with knowing winks and all-too-wide grins that the Yachtsman was built to be a "mermaid magnet" and that while it could probably repel a giant squid's beak, it is not currently equipped to do battle with the ink nor tentacles of that aquatic abomination. Needless to say, for those looking to drive into the sea, well… they shouldn't be looking to drive into the sea just yet.

And what of the vehicles meant to transport those of us simply wishing to travel on land alone? The 2014 Chevy Impala, the 2013 Lincoln MKZ, the 2013 Nissan Altima and 2013 SRT Viper all made their debuts in New York. "Bold" was the catchphrase for many of the vehicles and each seemed to promise the best in-class infotainment system, custom interiors and meticulously designed exteriors that will combine to maximize comfort and style.

If that seems like a lumping together of disparate vehicles, it isn't. After all, they were all designed to please the consumer, and happy consumers buy more cars. The more cars that are bought, the happier the automakers become. The happier the automakers become, the more swagger they begin to carry themselves with. And when you throw a bunch of swaggering automakers together just off New York's Times Square? Well, that's how auto shows end up being fun events to visit.

The 2012 New York International Auto Show will be held at New York's Jacob Javits Center from April 6th-15th.

Dan Meade is the Auto editor for WorldNow and has been covering the New York International Auto Show since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter here. 

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