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cias primer

When the doors are flung open to the 40th annual Canadian International Auto Show at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre today, you'll see only the shiny, perfect results of thousands of man-hours of preparation.

Covering nearly 56,000 square metres isn't for the meek, or the unprepared. The show has a way of drawing you in for one reason and keeping you there for so many more; devote some time to your prep work to make the most of your experience.

You should start at the bottom. Your shoes, that is. There's a lot of concrete under all that carpeting, and you'll feel it all the way up your back. Go for comfort. If you're toting a backpack or bag, expect a security check. Strollers for the little ones are recommended. Use the site guide to plan your day; crossing back and forth between the north and south building makes for a lot of walking.

Food isn't allowed in the exhibit areas, though there are eating areas in each building. When you get there, note their locations as well as washrooms. If you have small children, a trek across a massive showroom can be challenging. There are coat check areas ($2.75 per item) in both buildings, a small price to pay to rid yourself of bulky winter jackets. Clear your pockets of any valuables.

Kids love the auto show. It's big, glossy, noisy and busy. They'll also need a break. Once again, Volkswagen is sponsoring the VW Playcare Centre on Level 600 behind the escalators. Staffed by professionals, your kids will love the books, toys, arts and crafts and more. Security is tight: you fill out a survey for your child, photos and wristbands guarantee the right child goes to the right parent, and cell phones can keep you instantly connected.

Take pictures. No need to collect cumbersome leaflets and pamphlets. Take pics of specs and details of cars you're interested in. Use an auto journalist trick: take a picture of the badge and model first, then follow with the detail shots. Keeps things organized. If you're looking to buy, get business cards of salespeople you're speaking with.

Expect crowds at the Auto Exotica booth. Spectacular cars like the Aston Martin One-77 (only 77 made) and the Bugatti Veyron (1,001 horsepower, anyone?) will be sharing rarified air with a handful of the world's finest.

For a crash course in what is happening in the land of tomorrow (and increasingly, today) the Canadian Automobile Association will feature cars from across the brand spectrum in the Eco category. Play "remember when" with a visit to the 2013 Cruise National finalists, the best that Southern Ontario has to offer from decades past.

There are some seriously nice cars up for grabs this year. Fill out a ballot to win a 2013 Hyundai Genesis R Spec (North Building exhibit on Level 300), and two Subarus: a 2013 XV Crosstrek and a 2013 BRZ (South Building exhibit, Level 800). TADA (Trillium Automobile Dealers Association) is giving you a chance to win $40,000 towards a car of your choice. Looking to road trip it a little differently? You might win a VIA Rail Canada cross country trip worth $8,600.

The show is also a great place to do a little research on other areas of the car world. OMVIC (Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council) will have its mediators and advisors on hand. Experiencing trouble with your new car and the dealership? These are the folks to help you. The OPP will be on hand, and you can finally ask if it's illegal to block the passing lane, or merely annoying. If you're thinking of studying and working in the auto industry, Georgian College will have reps at its booth to talk about its Automotive School of Canada.


When: The show runs from noon until 10 p.m. today, 10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. from Feb. 16-23, and on Feb. 24, from 10:30 a.m.-6 p.m.

Where: Metro Toronto Convention Centre, the show sprawls across both the North Building (255 Front Street West) and the South Building (222 Bremner Blvd.) in downtown Toronto

Cost: You can save 10 per cent ordering online, but at the show, adults are $22, kids 7-12 are $7, a two-day pass is $32. The VW Family Admission Ticket for two adults and two kids (aged 7-12) is $44. Children under 6 (with an adult) are free. All prices include HST.

Getting there: Parking will be at event rates, so consider transit, which will deliver you to the doorstep. Maps are available on the CIAS web site:

For more Toronto AutoShow coverage, please click here.