Classic Woodies celebrate their auto stardom

SHELBY TOWNSHIP, Mich. — There were plenty of roles for celebrities as well as talented supporting cast members at the 2011 Cars ‘R’ Stars show in June at the former Packard Proving Grounds. Here at the growing annual event, everyone was a star.

Woodies were celebrated this year and some 16 — from the authentic to a custom and a 1984 imitator — occupied an inner circle. They were surrounded by another 290 special vehicles with various pedigrees from by-gone and recent decades.

While the 1948 Packard station sedan woodie belonging to Ed Meurer Jr. of Farmington Hills, Mich. served as a poster child for the June 12 show, Meurer’s unusual 1951 woodie Mercury two-door wagon was equally impressive.

The radical 1948 Ford wagon belonging to Bob and Donna Petrusha of Ortonville, Mich. represented the other end of the woodie spectrum. Highly customized, this street rod featured suicide-style front doors, had been chopped two inches and was powered by a 4.6-liter V-8.

A 1984 Chrysler LeBaron convertible with faux wood paneling and owned by Andy Agosta of Farmington Hills, Mich. sat demurely among its betters.

Bob Dowell of Chesterfield Township, Mich. said he owns two 1930 LaSalles in original condition. But Dowell opted to bring his 1933 LaSalle with newer 500-inch Cadillac engine and drivetrain to the show.

“This engine has 80,000 miles on it,” Dowell said. “I drive it to Florida each winter.

“Every place we go becomes a car show,” he said, adding that a son takes Dowell’s Escalade down separately with belongings for a long winter’s stay. The rear-mounted trunk on the LaSalle is not original and doesn’t hold much, he said.

Less spectacular but interesting in its own way, Al Nemzek’s 1973 AMC Hornet hatchback looked like new in spite of its age. Nemzek, of Pleasant Ridge, Mich. bought the Green Hornet with 360-inch V-8 new, drove it for seven years, then stored it when he began using a company car.

The Hornet’s green, black and white houndstooth check seat covers looked like new. Nemzek said everything about the car is original.

Two shades of green covered the breathtaking 1931 Hupmobile Century 8 Phaeton brought to the show by owner Lou Mushro of Grosse Pointe Farms. The dual-cowl classic was built by Cleveland-based Raulang for Hupmobile. It is one of a kind, Mushro said, noting its beautifully sculpted touches including a unique aviator-style overhang atop the instrument panel.

Mushro was one of several owners with prestigious Meadow Brook Concours d’Elegance credentials beside their vehicles tht day.

Bob Kuttner’s fiberglass body 1927 Ford Track T had few credentials but it did own an interesting history. Kuttner, of Clinton Township, Mich., started the ’27 Ford project two years ago. Some 14 months later, he decided to try it out at the annual Harper Cruise in St. Clair Shores in late August.

“It had an electrical problem and caught fire,” Kuttner said. A neighbor along the cruise route dashed inside and returned with a fire extinguisher, he said. His Cars ‘R’ Stars outing had so far been fireproof.

Clean lines of the white 1968 Plymouth Barracuda owned by Larry and Maryann Stopczynski of Clinton Township set the unusual convertible apart on the crowded field. Stopczynski said bought the car from a doctor in California in 2005 and spent 13 months — and lots of money – turning it from a yellow convertible into a cool vanilla beauty with new chrome moldings, a healthy 318-inch V-8 and perfect leather seats with tasteful metal Barracuda insignia on each.

“If I ever complain about my wife’s spending habits, she wants to know if her collection of shoes cost anything like what I’ve invested in this car,” he said. End of discussion.

A portion of the proceeds from the show, organized by the Detroit Chapter of the Veteran Motor Car Club of America, Motor City Packards and the Packard Motor Car Foundation, go to the Packard Motor Car Foundation for the refurbishing of the Historic Packard Proving Grounds. The grounds date from 1927.