Classic Car News » Kevin A. Wilson Your daily dose of steel, rubber and soul Sun, 25 Jun 2017 10:09:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Eye Candy: Woodward Dream Cruise 2016 Sat, 27 Aug 2016 09:35:30 +0000 Read More

Like the concurrent automotive love-fest on California’s Monterey Penninsula, the annual Woodward Dream Cruise keeps expanding. While still nominally a one-day event, the Cruise has become a weeklong extravaganza flying under the southeast Michigan region’s Autopalooza banner. Originally limited to a short list of inner-ring Detroit suburbs (primarily Royal Oak and Ferndale), it also has stretched its reach north and south along Woodward Avenue.

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Eye Candy: Concours d’Elegance of America 2016 Sun, 07 Aug 2016 09:30:58 +0000 Read More

Long ranked among the country’s top-tier concours, the Concours d’Elegance of America (formerly known as Meadow Brook for its original venue) continued to expand its scope in its 38th year. Spread across the golf course behind the Inn at St. John’s, a former seminary converted to a resort in the Detroit suburb of Plymouth, Michigan, attendees could find everything from Enthusiast of the Year Barry Meguiar’s 1901 Duryea to a Bugatti Veyron and a 2017 Porsche 991 in a circle of modern supercars.

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Classic Packard, Talbot-Lago chosen Best of Show at St. John’s Mon, 01 Aug 2016 12:32:14 +0000 Read More

A pair of distinctive coupes, a 1934 Packard Twelve and a 1937 Talbot-Lago, won Best-in-Show honors Sunday at the Concours d’Elegance of America in Plymouth, Michigan. The 38th concours (previously known as Meadow Brook) on the grounds of The Inn at St. John has customarily named two Best in Show winners, one American-built and one European, and hews to tradition again in choosing cars built during the Classic era.

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Eye Candy: Sweet Sixteens at the CCCA national meet Sat, 23 Jan 2016 09:25:14 +0000 Read More

Quiet, smooth and powerful, the Classic Era V16 engines built in the 1930s by Cadillac in Detroit and by Marmon in Indianapolis remain landmarks of automotive history. These top-of-the-line powerplants inspired coachbuilders to work to their highest standards for a discerning clientele that had somehow managed to remain wealthy through the depths of the Great Depression.

Twenty examples including the single Peerless V16 prototype — the only such car built by a domestic automaker other than Cadillac or Marmon — gathered last week for an exhibit dubbed Sweet Sixteens. It was part of the judged car show accompanying the 2016 annual meeting of the Classic Car Club of America, this year in the Detroit suburb of Novi and coincident with the opening weekend of the North American International Auto Show.

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Eye Candy: Woodward Dream Cruise Wed, 19 Aug 2015 09:30:02 +0000 Read More

The 2015 Woodward Dream Cruise drew more than a million people and somewhere between 30,000 and 60,000 “classic” cars to suburban Detroit on a sunny Saturday celebration of the car.

On a map, Woodward Avenue looks like a 27-mile long needle pointing into the heart of the Detroit. The southern end points into the Detroit River, far south of 8 Mile Road, the city’s northern boundary. That stretch is not officially involved in the Dream Cruise, though many visitors do venture into the city where so much automotive history was written.

The far northern end forms the eye of the needle, known as The Loop, where the road circles downtown Pontiac, a town named for an Ottawa war chief. Inside The Loop is where we took most of these Eye Candy photos during what is nominally a one-day event. In reality, Dream Cruise-related car activities stretch out over more than a week; we also grabbed a few photos on Friday night near 12 Mile Road in Berkley, where a lot of clubs and auto manufacturer marketing events congregate.

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Eye Candy: 37th Concours d’Elegance of America Sat, 01 Aug 2015 09:30:14 +0000 Read More

After a full, sunny day spent roaming the show field at the former seminary that is the Inn at St. John’s, viewing nearly 300 cars and meeting with the gathered clan of car collectors and admirers, one can only agree with the credo of the Enthusiast of the Year, Bruce Meyer: “Never Lift!” Because if you do, you’re going to miss something.

Billed as the 37th annual staging of this premier concours, the

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Old guard rules as Duesenberg, Bugatti win at Concours of America Mon, 27 Jul 2015 09:30:44 +0000 Read More

Pebble Beach may have been ready for a break with tradition last year when it awarded its coveted best of show award to a post-WWII Ferrari, but that hasn’t marked a sea-change in the classic car hobby so far. Earlier this year, the Amelia Island show gave its top awards to a 1932 Alfa Romeo and a 1930 Cord and Sunday the judges at the Concours d’Elegance of America in Plymouth, Michigan, re-affirmed that the old guard still dominates.

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Wilson’s Wisdom: Kevin picks favorites at RM Sotheby’s Motor City auction Thu, 23 Jul 2015 09:25:15 +0000 Read More

RM Sotheby’s Motor City auction Saturday includes a proper array of grand classics that could feature on the lawn the next day at the Concours d’Elegance of America at St. John’s, including a Duesenberg SJ that should sell for somewhere around a million dollars, a few Auburns and several Packards.

A highlight will be one dozen cars from the notable collection of Howard and Norma Weaver, all offered without reserve and in excellent show-worthy condition.

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Eye Candy: SVRA Shine & Show at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Sun, 28 Jun 2015 09:25:53 +0000 Read More

Not content to stage four days of

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Eye Candy: SVRA Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational Fri, 19 Jun 2015 09:30:47 +0000 Read More

Donald Davidson was stunned. As the resident historian of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum, Davidson had been invited to moderate a news conference with the “Indy Legends” slated to participate in the Pro/Am Feature race at the second SVRA (Sportscar Vintage Racing Association) Brickyard Invitational.

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Eye Candy: Motostalgia 2015 Brickyard Auction Thu, 18 Jun 2015 09:25:49 +0000 Read More

The mania for patinated “barn find” cars eligible for entry in a concours “preservation class” continued at Motostalgia’s Brickyard Auction, where

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Eye Candy: National Hudson Motor Company Museum Wed, 11 Mar 2015 09:25:14 +0000 Read More

Caretakers at the new National Hudson Motor Company Museum (NHMCM, see our earlier story here) were apologetic when we visited to take these photos. They’d rented the space out for a business luncheon earlier in the day, so some of the cars and displays had been moved out of position to make way for tables. And yet, what struck us most about the recently opened Ypsilanti, Michigan museum is that it’s so tidily and neatly arranged.

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Eye Candy: Engines Exposed at The Henry Ford Tue, 24 Feb 2015 09:35:15 +0000 Read More

256-cid 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air small-block V8 267-cid 1936 Lincoln Zephyr flathead V12 1956 Chrysler 300B stock car racer 1963 Chrysler Turbine Mirrored hood shows 1964 Ford Mustang engine Exhust pipes: 1965 Lotus Type 38 DOHC V8 1916 Woods Dual Power Hybrid coupe 334-cid 1948 Tucker 48 horizontally opposed six cylinder adapted from Aircooled Motors helicopter engine Exhaust detail: 427-cid Ford GT Mark IV 1960 Chevrolet Corvair air-cooled and horizontally opposed six cylinder 177-cid 1919 Ford Model T with electric starter Turbine engine: 1963 Chrysler Turbine 1924 Essex L-head inline six Detail: 1931 Bugatti straight eight Ford flathead V8 on stand Overhead view: 1935 Miller-Ford engine with steering box Exhaust detail: 1960 Meskowski Indy roadster with Offenhauser inline four 779-cid 1931 Bugatti Type 41 Royale straight eight 1907 White steam engine 352-cid 1956 Chrysler 300B Hemi V8 car racing engine Ford Focus EV electric motor 1931 Duesenberg Model J straight eight Driver controls: 1907 White steamer Henry Ford's "kitchen sink" engine Carburetor: 1931 Bugatti Holborn-Injected Hemi in Barris-Ala-Kart hot rod A.J. Foyt's view of the Offenhauser inline four in the Bowes Seal-Fast Indy racer 1927 LaSalle V8 1949 Volkswagen Beetle Type 1 (Beetle) air-cooled horizontally opposed four cylinder 1935 Miller-Ford racing car 1931 Bugatti Type 41 Royalle 1965 Lotus Type 38 Indy 500 winner 1927 LaSalle Engine exposed: 177-cid 1919 Ford Model T inline L-head four cylinder in Scripps Booth Rocket Cycle Car 'Exploded' view: Mazda Wankel (rotary) engine on stand 1907 White steamer Engine: Ford 999 racing car Scripps Booth Rocket Cycle Car 1918 Overland 1935 Miller Ford racing engine 1916 Woods Dual Power Hybrid Engine bay: 1948 Tucker 48

Photos by Kevin A. Wilson

We see a lot of engines at car shows. More than we might like, really — the practice of parking the car and popping the hood is widespread but can ruin attendees’ view of a vehicle’s design and disrupt photo opportunities. A line of show cars yawning is not often a pretty picture.

Exhibitors may expect judges will be swayed by cleanliness and detailing, but we — and most show judges — would rather see the car closed first and have the owner open it up for inspection later (and then only if the under hood presentation is included in judging criteria).

At museums, though, the problem is usually the other way around — even the most intriguing powerplants remain hidden away and opportunities to see them are rare.

During the 2010 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, curators at The Henry Ford responded to the pleas of hardware-hungry car geeks by opening the hoods on some of their treasures, primarily for the benefit of industry and media insiders attending special events at the museum for the short run of the auto show. Afterward, the hoods slammed shut again… for five years.

But now they’ve done it again, this time making sure the public at large gets a chance to see these hidden gems by keeping the exhibit open for nine weeks, ending March 15.

Transportation curator Matt Anderson selected 40 vehicles from The Henry Ford’s outstanding Driving America display for the special exhibit dubbed “Engines Exposed.” Twice during this year’s Detroit show and once more (on Saturday, March 14 at 1 p.m.), Anderson shares a deeper look with a digitized presentation in the museum’s Douglas Drive-In Theatre.

Earlier this month, he walked us around the sho in early February, explaining that he’d chosen these particular cars because their powertrains were historically significant in one way or another.

And the museum’s collection includes some real landmarks and rarities — yes, there’s a small-block Chevy and a flathead Ford, but also a Bugatti Royale, a Tucker, a White steam car, a Chrysler Turbine, and several outstanding customs and race cars in the mix.

The Henry Ford takes a preservationist approach to the vehicles in its collection so few of the engine bays opened for public viewing are up to concours or even cruise-night standards of gleam and glitter. Instead, they look much as they would have in regular service — keep in mind, though, that regular service might mean running the Indy 500 or 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Also, due to the way the cars are displayed, not all the engine bays are easily seen by visitors — the museum has tried to address this by mounting mirrors under some hoods (including the 1965 Mustang and 1956 Chevy Bel Air), but not all the cars that could use a mirror had one when we visited (the Corvair and VW Beetle, for instance, are mounted on platforms too high for easy engine viewing).

Even after this special display ends, there are many opportunities to see engines at the museum — some cars, like the Ford 999 racer, never did hide their engines inside the bodywork. There are also stand-alone displays of an early Ford V-8, a Wankel rotary (disassembled), the single-cylinder gas engine Henry Ford first built at his kitchen sink, and more.

Plus, 18 digital kiosks in the Driving America display routinely include details about the powertrains in telling the stories of what sets these cars apart. Consider, for instance, the Woods Dual-Power Hybrid Coupe of 1916, which put both a gas engine and electric motor to work 80 years before the Toyota Prius (one of which is also included in Engines Exposed).

After March 15, we can’t say when The Henry Ford will repeat this opportunity — Anderson says it will definitely happen again and that some have suggested doing it every year during the auto show.

“I’m not so sure, though,” he told us. “Maybe it should be more of a special event, every couple or three years.”

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Eye Candy: 64th Old Car Festival at Greenfield Village Wed, 10 Sep 2014 09:35:29 +0000 Read More

Tom Barrett of Rocky River, Ohio, showed this barn-found 1909 Cartercar Hood latch: 1932 American Austin 1916 Dodge Brothers Model 30 owned by Thomas Daniel of Tiffin, Ohio Terry Stevers of Marshall, Michigan displayed this Model T-based speedster Badge and radiator cap: 1919 Dodge Series 116 Shifter and brake handle: 1913 Coey A 1927 Auto-Kamp trailer and 1928 Ford Model A, shown by historian Daniel Hershberger Pair of 1930 Ford Model As. 1928 Willys-Knight 66A owned by Greg Gumtow of South Lyon, Michigan Hat-in-Ring: 1925 Rickenbacker D6 owned by Fred Hyatt of Livonia, Michigan Edward Wright of Ottawa Lake, Michigan, showed this 1924 Hupmobile RS Cool and air-cooled: 1926 Franklin 11-A owned by James C. Herber of Dearborn, Michigan 1930 MG M-Type owned by Eric Richardson of Lapeer, Michigan Radiator mascot: 1928 Willys-Knight 1919 Dodge Model 30 tow truck conversion A drive around the village Jerry Miklas of Wheeling, West Virginia, showed this yellow 1928 Ford Model A 1913 Coey A was built in Chicago Radiator badge and cap: 1920 Nash 687 Radiator mascot: 1926 Franklin Fender-top marker lamp: 1930 MG M-Type A 1909 Sears High-Wheeler owned by Michael Robinson of Syracuse, New York, passes in review Mounted on the window of Gary Revyn's 1930 Ford Model A  is a ticket he got in 1996 for drag racing. 1932 American Austin owned by William Dreist of Saginaw, Michigan Ribbons go to all participants Elegant 1928 Chrysler shown by Rob Burchill of Jefferson, Maryland Hood ornament: 1928 Overland Whippet Leather strap: 1924 Hupmobile RS Badge and radiator mascot: 1928 Chrysler 1931 Studebaker President State Sedan owned by Larry Gordon of Quincy, Michigan 1924 Dodge Brothers Series 116 owned by Barry Cogan of Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan Mickey Moulder of Tecumseh, Ontario, showed this 1930 Auburn 125 Brasshorn: 1913 Ford Model T Hood ornament: 1921 Hispano-Suiza

Photos by Kevin A. Wilson

If you were looking for ways to make an old car show great, you could do a lot worse than to take your cues from the 64th annual Old Car Festival in Dearborn, Michigan. It’s like a re-creation of the early days of motoring on the streets of Greenfield Village at The Henry Ford, with hundreds of pre-1932 cars displayed, driven, discussed and demonstrated.

This year the weekend after Labor Day delivered perfect shirt-sleeve weather for an amble through the park or to sit on a bench listening to expert historians narrate the tale as each car passed in review. Cars from 1918 and earlier drove by the reviewing stand Saturday, and those from 1919 to 1932 did the same Sunday.

Every year since 1950, the longest uninterrupted streak in the country, the historic village Henry Ford assembled has played host to this gathering, one that sets a high standard without resorting to an exclusive invitation list or a focus on high-dollar cars. More than 875 vehicles (including more than 100 period bicycles and motorcycles and some boats and camper trailers in tow) were entered for the gathering from Friday evening through Sunday afternoon.

While there were no-shows and cars that appeared for only part of the weekend (a Friday afternoon thunderstorm delayed some), the place was abuzz without being overcrowded. Photographers can get up close to the cars as you can see in our Eye Candy gallery, and most of the owners are friendly and eager to chat about their vehicles.

This year incorporated a tribute to the centennial of Dodge Brothers, the company John and Horace Dodge founded in 1914 to forge their own way after many years of being the key supplier of major components to Ford.

It was not a particularly amicable parting of ways when the Dodges gave Henry a year’s notice that they’d decided to become competitors rather than the ghost company making most of the vehicles that wore Ford’s signature on the grille. But it was an historic turning point that today’s museum properly acknowledged by giving Dodge center stage.

Not that you’d notice any paucity of Fords — the majority of cars arrayed along the streets (organized by year of manufacture) were Fords, with Model Ts and Model As in every conceivable variation. Sure, it’s Dearborn, and the museum and village owe their origins to Ford, but the pre-1932 focus (the Village hosts a show for newer cars, the Motor Muster, in early summer) also coincides with the era when Ford was the dominant brand in the market.

So if the traffic on the village streets was Ford-heavy, there were still plenty of examples from brands still popular today (Chrysler, Chevrolet, Cadillac) and the obscure and defunct ones of the early 20th century. Yes, there are judges, and awards, all aimed at historic accuracy more than “elegance” and the museum curator chooses recipients of a preservation award for unrestored examples.

What makes the Old Car Festival particularly delightful is the setting, of course, in the village where Ford gathered Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park laboratory, the Wright Brothers Bicycle Shop and a host of other historic structures.

The show is just an activity visitors find happening in the village, like others through the year, such a vintage baseball games or musical events.

Greenfield Village invites show participants to drive their cars around the grounds, and not just for the Pass-in-Review. In a few hours on Saturday afternoon, we heard half a dozen owners say, “Let’s go for a drive, shall we?”

In a trice, family and friends loaded up and hit the streets. For spectators, this proves equally fascinating, as you not only see the cars move through bright sun and shadow, but hear and sometimes smell them in action.

The clattering cacophony of a Model T in motion is interspersed with the chuff-chuff-chuff of a Curved Dash Oldsmobile, the hum of a big Chrysler six, the utter silence of a Detroit Electric and the hiss of a White steamer. And they’re surrounded by vintage buildings, period street lamps, and the sights of a paddle-wheel steamer on the “river” and a steam locomotive on the Village’s railroad.

Want to get a kid hooked on old cars? It all comes to life here in ways far more engaging than seeing the same vehicles polished and posed behind velvet ropes in a museum or poised like fashion models on a golf course.

There’s far more going on at the Old Car Festival, including car “games” on an athletic field, the opportunity to watch a Model T being assembled in minutes, and even a Gas Light Parade just after sundown Saturday when the cars use their acetylene and early electric headlights to navigate the streets.

Go, see for yourself, and take home some ideas for your own old car show.

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Eye Candy: Woodward Dream Cruise (part 2) Wed, 20 Aug 2014 09:20:57 +0000 Read More

Woodward Ave. is lined with classic car enthusiasts Just another Vette David Liles all-original 1965 Buick Riviera 1968 Ford Fairlane 500 Wiring 'harness' on a Citroen 2CV Cobra A passel of Pontiacs in the cars' namesake city Chevrolet Fleetside on a side street Charlie and Wilma Zang brought their 1962 Dodge Lancer 1959 Chevrolet Impala J. Hardin's 1938 Chevrolet coupe in downtown Pontiac Microbus as VW club gathering along the route Say aaahhh There's room for cars of all flavors on the Dream Cruise Mustang Mach I Hood badge: Kevin Van Wagner's 1948 Ford F6 cab-over truck High and low: C7 Chevrolet Corvette follows a donk Chevrolet Impala, but with Corvette LS1 not a 409 Ginetta G20 Artwork on a dragster's door Growler badge: Darrell Parks V12 Jaguar E-type coupe A roadside row of spectators' cars Jeanie and Kenny Hill came from Pennsylvania with their pink 1934 Chevrolet The Sand and Gravel hot rod Quinn McCarthy dressed the engine of his 1968 Pontiac Firebird to show how quickly its engine burns through his Benjamins

Photos by Kevin A. Wilson

Editor’s note: This is the second of our pair of Eye Candy photo galleries from the 2014 Woodward Dream Cruise in Detroit’s northern suburbs. Here’s the link to the story we published about the event.

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Eye Candy: Dream Cruise spans more than Woodward Ave., it’s a week-long carfest Tue, 19 Aug 2014 09:30:14 +0000 Read More

This 1971 Triumph Spitfire was for sale in Ferndale Dodge used Woodward week to launch its Charger SRT Hellcat at Vinsetta Garage In Pontiac, Woodward becomes Wide Track Drive Hellcat Hemi pumps out 707 horsepower, good for an 11.0-second ET and 204 mph This rat rod wears blue metal-flake finish Quinn McCarthy's 1968 Pontiac Firebird has nicely executive flame paint job Rat rod powered by a Chrysler V8 with cross-ram manifolds 1971 Mercury Cyclone Fender badge: 1971 Mercury Cyclone with 429 Cobrajet engine Earl Black drives up from Tennessee in his GTO-powered 1964 Pontiac station wagon Dream Cruise, or miles-long party? Sign in matte-finished 1939 Ford There's a carnival atmosphere in downtown Pontiac There's room on Dream Cruise for cars of all kinds Thursday night traffic jam, and the big show isn't until Saturday It's a VW Thing This Corvair has its oversized engine mounted up front, not in back Hand-grenade shifter  and goggles are part of rat rod's equipment A nightclub in Pontiac has a rolling version of its logo Badge: 4 4 2 Hood ornament: 1955 Chevrolet 1969 Chevrolet Chevelle is curbside in Ferndale Spoiler alert l961 Ford Falcon Spectators line Woodward for miles and miles

Photos by Kevin A. Wilson

Nominally a one-day Saturday event, the Woodward Dream Cruise has, over the 20 years it has run annually, grown forward into a full week of car-related activity along what is officially a 16-mile route from Ferndale (a suburb immediately north of Detroit proper) to Pontiac. It also has spilled over into surrounding areas and numerous unofficial events timed to take advantage of the crowds that turn out.

That would be more than 1 million people on August 16, according to the Oakland County sheriff’s office, gathered to view “classic” cars driving the historic boulevard.

It’s really a free-form party, a gathering of all the car clans. Estimates of “participant” vehicles range from 30,000 to 60,000, a figure that varies largely dependent on which cars one identifies as cruisers and which are just “traffic” on what remains a major artery (albeit one many local commuters grumpily avoid during the week).

Is that Bullitt Mustang a cruiser or just another local headed home from the office? Your call.

There’s no “official” entry list. Everybody just brings whatever they want, whenever they want, for as long as they want.

When it started as a fundraiser to build a soccer field in Ferndale, Dream Cruise sought to draw on nostalgia for the ‘50s and ‘60s era when kids — and car company engineers — drove muscle cars and street rods in search of impromptu races and hormonal satisfaction.

Succeeding beyond expectations, it drew 250,000 that first year, 10 times the organizer’s expectations, inspiring more cities to join for subsequent repetitions.

The center of the action migrated a little north, as those who remembered the old days re-created the run from drive-ins in Royal Oak (the Totem Pole and the Wigwam) to the south side of Pontiac (Ted’s).

Twenty years is a long run, though, and there are participants in today’s Dream Cruise who weren’t born for the first one, let alone have memories of the ‘50s. So today there’s a growing eclectic flavor that goes far beyond poodle skirts and sock-hop tunes.

Got a rat rod? Sure. Exotic sports car? Bring it. Modern pony cars mingle with donks and low-riders; antiques with supercars; electrics rub elbows with diesel pickups rolling coal; beauties that belong on magazine covers park next to abused heaps only one mechanical failure away from the scrap yard.

While there are independent car shows and club gatherings along the full length of the route, from Mustang Alley in Ferndale to the Oakland Press-sponsored show in Pontiac, in the official accounting there are no entry fees, no judges, no trophies, but everyone wins.

This year the proprietors of M1 Concourse hosted a by-invitation “Kickoff” party and car show on August 10. The site is little more than 80-odd acres of old pavement with weeds growing out of it today, but if they pull it off, M1 Concourse will be car-centric development including condos, garages, retail and dining facilities and a test track, all built on the grounds of a demolished GM factory in Pontiac acquired after GM’s bankruptcy.

It’s right on Woodward and that’s the point: it would be the jewel in the crown of the Cruise’s economic boost to the region.

People come from all over, a boon for lodging and dining businesses — no one blinks anymore when a cruiser turns out to have come from Texas or Arizona, Europe or Australia. However, the big numbers depend on people who live within a day’s drive, though, so the recent recession had some fearing the magic had gone out of the event.

The 2014 Dream Cruise marked a return to form, with increased participation not only by individuals but by the many auto-related corporations that employ the cruise for marketing and hospitality functions.

The M1 Concourse party notwithstanding, early in the week things got off to a slow start due to torrential rains that flooded highways and basements right in the heart of the action. The floods made it hard to get around, and kept a lot of locals busy cleaning up.

But things started to hum along Woodward on Wednesday, just in time for Dodge to make a splash by introducing a modern muscle car, the Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat. The company also put a pack of journalists in its Challenger Hellcats to flood the boulevard with loud colors and louder exhaust notes. Ford and Nissan also made their presence known, and title-sponsor Chevrolet put three trucks on the road to help anyone who had trouble with a car, regardless of make, model or era.

So the week built to a nice crescendo. Nearly perfect weather on Saturday helped — there have been years when rain held back the crowds, and others when the oppressive heat and humidity challenged tourists and aged vehicles alike. But 2014 delivered a beautiful summer day with just a trace of drizzle when the sun was already getting low in the west.

Editor’s note: With so many cars on Woodward Ave. for so many days, we can’t fit it all in a single Eye Candy gallery, so we’ll have a second installment tomorrow.

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Eye Candy: 20th Ann Arbor Rolling Sculpture car show Sat, 26 Jul 2014 09:25:28 +0000 Read More

Quartet of British cars, all owned by the Deboer family Elton's 'The V8' Hood ornament: Oldsmobile Rocket Porsche row Signboard: 1965 International-Harvester Metrovan ice cream truck Grille: 1965 International Harvester Metrovan 1967 International Traveall A Triumph TR-3 leaves, headlights on as the sun is setting Tail fin: 1968 Cadillac Badge: 1947 DeSoto The Rolling Sculpture show continues to pack downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan John Russell's 1957 Land Rover Multi-hued trim: Oldsmobile Rocket Rusty Blackwell's 1969 Triumph Dolomite Spring License plate: 1947 DeSoto Steel guitar busker in front of a Kaiser sedan 1939 Chevroelt 3/4-ton stake truck Grille badge: 1962 Pontiac Bonneville Closeup: Mosiac-tiled Lebaron 1958 Cadillac Original owner Gerald Staggs shows his 1962 Pontiac Bonneville The scene as the cars head back to their garages Detail: Mosaic-tiled Chrysler Lebaron 1958 Packard Clipper Patina: 1947 DeSoto Everyone and everything are welcome at this show Ford Model T on the street

Photos by Kevin A. Wilson

Twenty years ago, Bob Elton was serving on the parks commission in the city of Ann Arbor when he came up with an idea for a car show right in the center of town. His idea was to show off the attractive trees that line the streets of the business district (another project he had a hand in) and to boost activity downtown in the summer, when the adjacent University of Michigan campus has a lower population of students packed into the city.

“I thought it’d be a one-time thing,” Elton remembers. “I went to a meeting of the Main Street Association and said we should do this, and to my surprise at the time, they said ‘okay, let’s.’ They like to schedule events on the first Friday of the month, so that’s what when we did it.”

Elton, an automotive historian and collector, reached out to his friends, aiming to get 65 cars. But he didn’t want to make it an exclusive, by-invitation sort of thing. It’s more like a pumped up version of a small-town cruise night, where anyone willing to pay the fee (now $20 a car in advance, $35 on show day) is invited to find a parking space.

He named it Rolling Sculpture, both as a tie-in with his own perception of automotive design and to appeal to the broader Ann Arbor community, which is less auto-centric than much of southeast Michigan, but does like to celebrate the arts in a big way.

“That first year, we just closed off three blocks of Main Street, we didn’t even close the cross-streets,” he said. “I was worrying that whole day, thinking, well, if we get 50 cars it’ll be a nice little show.”

More than 100 turned up.

“The next day I got a call from the Main Street Association asking to do it again the next year. Now it’s 20 years old.”

There were around 300 cars entered this year (at peak, Rolling Sculpture has had nearly 400), displayed along eight city blocks from 2 in the afternoon to 10 p.m., helping to pack the bars, restaurants, ice cream shops and cafes with people enjoying a festive atmosphere.

It’s southeast Michigan, so Corvettes and Mustangs are strongly represented, but Rolling Sculpture draws an eclectic mix of old and new models, imports and domestics, trucks and toys. It’s all presented in something of a jumble — there’s no overall map, no “area” devoted to, say, ‘50s Fords… if you see a string of Vettes, Porsches, electrics or microcars, it’s because a club (or, sometimes, a dealer) has organized a few to arrive at the same time. A DeTomaso Pantera might be found tucked in beside a finned Cadillac adjacent to a Kaiser, or a Corvair might share a bit of curbing with a Lamborghini. It’s all good, all celebrated, all welcome.

“The first-Friday turned out to conflict with Fourth of July activities, so it’s been the second Friday in July ever since,” Elton said. “We had good luck with sponsors and support from the industry and car people hereabouts.”

The show doesn’t have its own judges or trophies, but sponsors are invited to give awards. Chevrolet dealer Bill Crispin has been title sponsor of late; support also came from Hyundai (which has a nearby technical center. Toyota also has nearby facilities and has supported the show over the years).

Both Car and Driver and Automobile magazines have had editorial offices in town and have participated in the show (Automobile just relocated its offices farther east, but Road & Track has moved into Ann Arbor).

“Some people like these little cars because they fit more of them in a small garage.”

— Bob Elton


Elton no longer is directly involved in organizing the show, which is handled by the Main Street Association and a committee it put together. Among them is Jeff DeBoer, whose family displayed four British cars (a Bugeye Sprite, a big Healey and two Triumphs, a Spitfire and GT6) this year right on Main.

“Some people,” Elton noted, “like these little cars because they fit more of them in a small garage.”

Down at the other end of the block, he was showing off his own car, one that is decidedly not small. He’s had a car in the show every year, but this one really is a personal expression. Hand-crafted by Elton to his own design, “The V8” uses some GM parts but was fabricated by Elton.

He made a full-size plaster model, using plywood sections, to create the surface and made a mold from the plaster for the fiberglass body. It took with years to build from drawing, through concept model to a true rolling sculpture.

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Historic ‘last Hudson dealership’ becomes National Hudson Museum Wed, 11 Jun 2014 09:35:04 +0000 Read More

What was known for decades as the world’s “last Hudson dealership” will retain its focus on the history of Detroit-built Hudson, Essex and Terraplane cars and trucks now that the National Hudson Essex Terraplane Historical Society (HETHS) has struck a deal to house a new museum within the Ypsilanti, Michigan dealership.

“I’m really pleased with the news,” said the dealership’s long-time proprietor Jack Miller. “It keeps the dealership intact and focused on Hudson. And with Ed Souers involved, I’m confident it’s in good hands.”

The National Hudson Motor Car Company Museum is slated to open in late September, on the same weekend as the annual Ypsilanti Orphan Car Show, which this year takes place September 21. Until then, the museum will continue to operate in its current guise at 100 Cross Street, hard beside the railroad tracks in Depot Town, the city’s historic district.

Souers, spokesman for HETHS and the manager of the new Hudson museum, announced the agreement with Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum (YAHM) president Ron Bluhm.

Miller retired as curator of the Ypsilanti museum last year and was honored during the Orphan Car Show, which he’d cofounded 16 years earlier, leaving his many friends in the business and collector-car community worried about the future of the institution he’d nurtured.

While the dealership itself resides in a structure even older than Hudson (which was founded in 1909), the museum was created in 1996. With the leadership, notably, of Peter Fletcher, a prominent Michigan politician and Ypsilanti philanthropist and historian, the historic structure was preserved by expanding its mission. And its floor area.

Fletcher and others helped secure backing to construct an addition to the old dealership that linked it to a former post office just east on the same block of Cross Street. In the expanded space, the focus broadened beyond Miller’s Hudson-centric dealership displays to recognize the community’s automotive connections. These include Tucker (Preston Tucker lived in Ypsilanti and built cars at Willow Run), the products of Kaiser-Frazer that were also built at the Willow Run factory, and later Willow Run products like the Chevrolet Corvair and Hydramatic transmissions.

YAHM’s exhibits include many vehicles, plus signage and a vast collection of materials related to the area’s car dealerships, clubs, racing activities and more. It also houses the collection of CORSA, the Corvair Society of America.

The expanded portion will continue to tell those stories, while the new Hudson Motor Company Museum will be housed entirely within the original dealership. Externally, the old dealership is distinguishable by its green-painted walls while the newer portion is done in yellow.

Originally an electric power plant converted to a factory, its origins as a new-car dealership trace to 1916. A Dodge outlet for a dozen years, in the late 1920s it shifted to Hudson.

Carl Miller, Jack’s father, bought it with a partner in 1932 and ran it as a Hudson sales and service point until the brand’s demise in 1957, following the merger with Nash-Kelvinator that created American Motors. New American Motors products (Nash and Rambler) appeared in the showroom until 1959. The franchise was dropped at that time and Carl Miller opted to just sell used cars and provide service for the many he’d sold over the years.

After Jack Miller took over, he operated a Hudson parts and service business favored by collectors long after the brand was fading from public memory. He also continued to restore Hudson, Essex and Terraplane cars and trucks. By selling at least one such vehicle every year while operating within the original structure, Miller built a reputation as “the last Hudson dealer.” He sold off his remaining parts in 1996 when YAHM was founded and became curator of the museum.

Until he retired, the dealership portion remained devoted entirely to Hudson, Essex and Terraplane products, including among its holdings an original NASCAR “stepdown” Hudson race car—the number 92 as driven by Herb Thomas–that he found and restored. It has appeared several times at Daytona vintage events. Since the Pixar animated film Cars appeared in 2007, children especially have delighted in visiting this original “Doc Hudson” in the museum. The car also spent a year on loan to NASCAR’s Hall of Fame museum.

While the YAHM put many collectible cars and memorablia holdings in its own right, Miller had retained title to many of the important Hudson vehicles and a huge collection of original factory papers, photos, memorabilia and records that he’d acquired over the years. He also kept the dealership’s own sales and service records on file. When Miller retired, he sold most of his cars, including the racer, along with the records to noted Hudson collector Souers.

This collection and those of others will feature in the new museum. Souers has previously displayed several rarities from his own outstanding collection, including an original Hudson Italia and a one-off prototype Hudson Jet convertible, at either or both the museum and the Orphan Car Show.

“He knows his stuff and will honor the heritage well,” said Miller.

Souers noted that the Nash/Hudson merger took place in 1954. “It is only fitting that we commentate the 60th anniversary by establishing the National Hudson Motor Car Company Museum in Ypsilanti, near Hudson’s Detroit birthplace,” he said.

HETHS has worked toward creation of a dedicated museum for Hudson Motors for some years; it was the topic of some discussion at the marque’s 100th anniversary gathering in Detroit in 2009. Several other potential locations had been considered, but the Ypsilanti dealership site ultimately won out as the most natural place. It is only an hour’s drive west of Hudson’s original home in Detroit and well within the southeast Michigan “Motor Cities National Heritage Area” that groups, under a National Parks system program, many historic sites in the region. YAHM is a designated “gateway” to the entire Heritage Area—visitors can start there and receive guidance to other attractions throughout the area.

YAHM president Bluhm said the plan is to change the showroom display annually with one car (all that fits in there) surrounded by objects, ads and other displays appropriate to the year in which the featured car was built.

These annual model changes will, over time, depict the entire history of the company, with the place of honor going to cars ranging from a 1910 Hudson Model 20 through the last to wear the badge, built at Nash’s plant in Kenosha, Wisconsin in 1957.

Displays in the service area, where Miller long worked on restoration projects, will now put Hudson Motor Company’s heritage in context with American history.

Bluhm says he’s excited about the prospects for raising the profile of the entire museum while expanding on its origins as a Hudson store. A recent acquisition at the YAHM includes furniture and other objects from the offices of the short-lived company Henry J. Kaiser founded, so while the focus on Hudson continues, so, too, does the expanded mission.

“Our partnership (with HETHS) provides us an opportunity to enhance our Hudson collection and place our museum on the national stage with other major auto museums,” Bluhm said.


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