SHELBY TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Cars ‘R’ Stars is what they call the big annual classic car show at the historic Packard Proving Grounds here on Van Dyke between 22- and 23-Mile roads. But this year, the cars weren’t the only stars, as the preserved section of the old proving grounds test track was filled with vintage travel trailers and motorhomes.
“We try to have some unique feature each year,” said event chairman Thomas Mitchell. “One year, we did woodies [wood-paneled station wagons]. Last year, we had the historic drag cars. This year we thought we’d go way outside the box.”
Well, actually, the committee opted to go inside the box, though the vintage travel trailers on display were much more than just boxes on wheels. They have living rooms, bedrooms, kitchens, even bathrooms aboard.
In fact,, Craig Leach of St. Clair Shores said his 1969 Newell motorhome really just an old car, albeit one “you can sleep in.”
Tom and Kathy Dixon of Shelby Township showed their 1976 GMC motorhome, which like its 12,000 or so twins is powered by an Oldsmobile Toronado drivetrain. Tom Dixon said the units were so well constructed that of the 12,000, some 8,000 still are on the road.
While a lot of those GMC units are still providing accommodations for their owners, Tim Myhre said his 1949 Zip likely is the last one of its kind. The Zip is a travel trailer produced by the Al Adams Trailer Co. of El Monte, Calif. Myhre pulls it with his 1953 Ford Ranch Wagon.
“I’ve been collecting cars all my life,” said Myhre, who decided it would be nice to get a vintage camper to pull behind his station wagon, “so I checked the web for a few months and found this trailer in Southern California.
When the previous owner got the Zip, it was in such sorry condition that he was able to swap it even-up for a case of beer. The trailer’s original Masonite body had deteriorated so badly that the man from whom Myhre bought it found a 1950’s-era Detroiter travel trailer, stripped it of its aluminum skin, and turned that skin inside out to cover the now zippy little Zip.
Airstream has made polished aluminum a popular material for covering travel trailers, and several vintage models were on display at Cars ‘R’ Stars, both those produced by Airstream and a 1957 Avion that was built in Benton Harbor.
Predating such units, however, was the 1936 Curtiss Aero-Car owned by Ken Hindley of Union, Ontario.
Hindley’s father owned a garage and one day he sent Ken on a service call. While working on a tractor in a barn, Ken noticed the unusual travel trailer and its streamlined International tow vehicle. Years later, and after the trailer and tow vehicle had been exposed to Ontario weather after the barn was partly toppled during a wind storm, Ken was able to rescue both vehicles and then began the long restoration process.
But since the restorations were completed, in 1989, Ken and his late wife, Lana, put in 60,000 miles traveling to various camper shows. Lana died last fall. Cars ‘R’ Stars was the first time Ken has shown the vehicles by himself.
“This is the first time I’ve ever set the table setting,” he said while showing the nicely set eating area inside the Aero-Car.
Also sharing a teary-eyed story was Robert Bergman of Clarkston.
Bergman and his wife, Doreen, have owned more than two dozen vintage travel trailers through the years, and they had two on display at Cars ‘R’ Stars — a recently restored 1948 Spartanette and a 1938 Covered Wagon.
Bergman said he spent many years pursuing a Covered Wagon.
Covered Wagons were produced from 1935-1945 in Mount Clemens.
“My grandfather, Henry Bergman, was a foreman at the Covered Wagon plant,” said Bergman, who proudly was wearing his grandfather’s Covered Wagon Co. employee badge as he invited show visitors to see his vintage trailer.