Is EyesOn Design the best Father’s Day show on the planet?

Bonneville-raced 1955 Mercedes-Benz 'gullwing' coupe | Steve Purdy photos
Bonneville-raced 1955 Mercedes-Benz ‘gullwing’ coupe | Steve Purdy photos

Canada geese grazed the long grass adjacent to the show field as if nothing out of the ordinary was occurring. But it was, because the expansive lawns of the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House on the western shore of Lake St Clair were covered with the most eclectic assortment of cars, and other things vehicular, one could possibly imagine.

This was the 30th iteration of one of the best classic and collector cars shows in the country – EyesOn Design – where the emphasis is not on rarity, restoration or arbitrary aesthetics. Rather, as its name implies, this is a show celebrating the elements of design. As a result, it is here that we first saw displays of such vehicles as historic SUVs, motorcycles, pedal cars, travel trailers and, this year, farming tractors.

Other classes featured this year included:

  • Crosley, an American Original;
  • American Station Wagons;
  • Traditional Hot Rods, from Flatheads to Overheads;
  • Designs for the Farmer;
  • The Lincoln Continental Mark Series;
  • 4-Door Hardtops (sometimes called “Pillarless Hardtops”) from the ‘50s and ‘60s;
  • Cars Built or Conceived in Ypsilanti, Michigan (Tucker, Corvair, Kaiser);
  • Postwar British Roadsters;
  • Pre-War Roadsters and Convertible Coupes;
    And many more -– 26 classes in all.
Some judges are hands-on at this car show
Some judges are hands-on at this car show

The show was started, and has been sustained, by automotive designers themselves. The selection of cars, and other things vehicular, is based on an overall design theme for the show. For 2017 the general theme for EyesOn Design was “Body Styles,” from the earliest days to the present, arranged around classes that show how these styles reflect the lifestyles of their times.

Another distinguishing characteristic is the original purpose for the show that has continued though these three decades: to raise research and service funds for the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology, an organization that is on the cutting edge internationally of breakthroughs in the science of restoring functional sight to people who are visually impaired and completely blind. In fact, a team of those visually impaired does some of the judging for the show. You’ll see them going over the cars using their other senses, including gloved hands, and smelling interiors.

A lifetime achievement award for an accomplished designer is part of the show, usually going to a highly respected auto designer. This year, it went to visual futurist Syd Mead, who has designed imaginary vehicles for the motion picture industry, including films like Blade Runner, Tron and Aliens. He also created the poster design.

EyesOn Design has become a Father’s Day tradition for thousands in and around Southeast Michigan and a profoundly respected celebration of vehicle design. It’s been honored as the fourth-best car show in the country by popular vote from a USA Today list. Some would argue it’s the very best taking place on Father’s Day.

Photos by Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions

3 thoughts on “Is EyesOn Design the best Father’s Day show on the planet?”

  1. Nice article and photo’s Steve. But I just have to ask?

    If Eye’s on Design took 4th place in the USA Today public poll, what were the other 3 best car shows in the poll? My guess would be; 1.) Pebble Beach Concours, 2.) Amelia Island Concours and 3.) the Woodward Ave Cruise.

    Although, I don’t really think that Detroit’s Woodward Ave Cruise, or Reno’s Hot Summer Nights, or even Las Vegas’ SEMA Show should be considered car shows per se, but I can’t think of another particular Concours that would get 3rd place as there are so many excellent Concours around our Country? Perhaps the AACA’s show field at Hershey PA, or Keels & Wheels in TX, or the Arizona Concours d’Elegance at the historic art deco Biltmore Hotel & Resort in Phoenix AZ?

    PS; Your Special Spectator photo of the Groucho Marx figure appears to be sitting in a ’59 Ford as the interior material sure looks familiar to my first car, a 1959 Ford Galaxy 500 HT.

  2. Thanks for the comments Bill. The “4th Place” designation is from the event’s promotional material that was annotated but I don’t recall the source. I agree with your speculation of Pebble and Amelia and at one time our Meadow Brook Concours (now at the Inn at St. John’s in Plymouth, MI) would be third. But, as you say, there are so many great show now it would be hard to say. Amelia has been voted one of the best in the world according to a European source. Groucho is in the back seat of a ’56 DeSoto.

  3. 100% Agree! This is a very special show with, as you say, focus on design. Great photos here, but there is nothing like standing next to these automotive heros from the past and having that one-on-one experience that only a car show can deliver.

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