EyesOn Design turns all eyes on memories

GROSSE POINTE SHORES, Mich. — From extreme makeovers to dealer-built muscle cars. from Chrysler’s Forward Look to a bevy on nearly forgotten makes from the middle of the last century — EyesOn Design 2011 was a memorable show.

Unusual categories of vehicles brought to the Edsel and Eleanor Ford Estate in Grosse Pointe Shores were a remarkable collection of well-designed cars, most with colorful stories from the men and women who own them.

Stories like the one William Swor of Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich.. told about his bright-red 1961 Daimler SP 250 with 2.5-liter hemi engine. Swor said he got the British sports car when he lost a cast for his client in 2007.

The thin fiberglass body had recently been reconstructed by Adam Harris at Detroit’s Show & Go shop. Harris said he worked on the near-perfect coupe off-and-on for 13 months.

“When the itching from the fiberglass got too bad, I’d stop and go on to another project,” Harris said.

Swor added that had he won the case, he would now be the owner of a Jaguar XKE.

Terry Ernst is the owner of a camera shop in Port Huron, Mich. Ernest was showing his car-based 1934 Ford commercial vehicle with its beautiful Ernst Camera Shop lettering done to perfection by a local woman.

“I’ve owned this about a year,” Ernst said. “I found it in Oregon after an eight-year search. It’s a sedan delivery – one of 9,000 built in 1934.”

The gold 1950 Hudson Commodore 6 shown by Tim Ouding of Kalamazoo, Mich.. was a serendipitous find. Ouding had seen a photo of it on a calendar and said to himself, “I’m gonna buy that.”

Through a contact at work he actually located the car, turned his back on his 1948 Ford and bought the Hudson club coupe, a style he said is rare.

“I’m the third owner,” he said. “It has just 80,000 miles on it and I drive it everywhere.”

Ouding did travel the 100-plus miles to Grosse Pointe from Kalamazoo in the Hudson. And Jim and Vickie Oaks drove their mile-long 1958 DeSoto up from Kokomo, Ind.

But George Collar and Robert Brown had their black 1957 DeSoto Adventurer hauled to Michigan from their home in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.

An older restoration, the prize-winning DeSoto was one of some 300 Adverturers built that year. Collar enjoyed pointing out the record player beneath the dash. He said dealers sold special deep-groove records for the player, but that engine heat as well as outside temperatures often caused them to warp. Collar found the luxury car in a private collection in Boca Raton, Fla.

Many of the vehicles at EyesOn Design are rare. None is more so than the one-of-a-kind prototype of a 1954 Hudson Jet convertible shown by Ed and Kaylene Souers of Fort Wayne, Ind. Souers said the car was broken in half from improper storage.

The Jet never made it into production. But Souers’ creamy yellow 1955 Hudson Italia parked beside it was one of 26 Italias finished in Italy and shipped back to the States. When he bought it out of California 15 years ago, it was literally a basket case.

“They built 26 two-door Italias and one four-door,” Souers said. “I also own the four-door model. Dealer cost was $4,800.”

EyesOn Design has been the major fund-raising effort for the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology for over two decades. The DIO supports research, aid for the visually impaired and public and professional education efforts. Its emphasis is on automotive design, past and present.