GROSSE POINTE SHORES — Gray skies and cool winds appeared only to energize owners as they placed their vehicles on the grounds of the Edsel and Eleanor Ford Estate an hour or two before the 2013 EyesOn Design show.
Of the more than 200 vehicles, boats and motorcycles, only the 1962 Mercedes-Benz 190 SL was protected from the threat of rain. Owners Jim and Marla Diamond of Grosse Ile had an open and matching Mercedes umbrella above the front seats of the mint green sports car
Oblivious to all but his Kissel, Ron Hausmann was busy wiping each speck of debris from his prized 1923 Gold Bug Speedster, in spite of warnings by his companions that he would wear himself out.
“But I’m having so much fun,” countered Hausmann, a Bloomfield Hills, Mich. resident who owns four complete Kissels plus three chassis. Gold Bugs were built to order by the Hartford, Wis., auto maker. With ash frames and aluminum bodies, the now-rare Speedsters might feature outside-mounted mother-in-law seats or storage for the owner’s golf clubs. Of the 37 built, 25 are now known to exist, Hausmann said.
Hausmann said his ’23 Gold Bug once belonged to a Kissel family member reputed to be in a mafia. Bill Ruger restored the two-seater in the 1980s, Hausmann said, adding that about the only legal way to acquire a Gold Bug is to outlive an owner.
The 2013 design show, a benefit for research through the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology in Grosse Pointe Park, pondered design evolution through revolution.
One grouping of more revolutionary vehicles from the 1930s focused on fast-forward change versus a slow metamorphosis. Bob and Marge Mantel’s 1934 Chrysler Airflow with its dramatic aero profile, uses of delicate trim and its intricate grille represents the former and, although a timeless great beauty, paid the price of moving too quickly. It did not live up to sales expectations.
There was little revolutionary about the 1960 Rambler American except perhaps it’s smaller size. Dana Englin bought the Rambler American new a half-century ago and drove in it with his son Doug from North Aurora, Ill. to the 2013 EyesOn Design. Doug proudly showed visitors the gently worn-but-presentable interior of the family’s car, which with only 30,000 miles on it was used for special drives over the years.
“Everything was extra-cost,” Englin said of the $2,600 sticker on the window. The largest single item was the $175.50 Flash-o-matic automatic transmission. The continental spare on the rear, Englin said, contains an original tire, useless if one of his updated tires should go flat.
“As we were driving here Dad said he was thrilled to be out once again in the Rambler,” he added.
The Bedard family took a different approach. Brothers Gary and James parked their custom Fords side-by-side. Gary said his Swiss aqua 1930 rod was his wife Ruthy’s.
“We trailered it here from Howell, Mich., because it has been chopped, channeled, lowered and painted underneath,” Bedard said. “It has a one-piece, handmade grille and the outside mirrors are taillights housings from a 1937 Ford.”
James Bedard’s bright-red 1934 Ford was fashioned from a single piece of steel. James and Carole Bedard are from New Hudson, Mich.
The family connection behind the 1955 deep-coral Cadillac Fleetwood was this: Jerry, a cousin of owners Sam and Toby Haberman of Birmingham, Mich., was spokesman for the almost outrageous luxury sedan. He pointed out its Sentinel auto-dimming feature and the power front bench seat that could travel forward/backward and up/down.
M. Hideo Trapp of Troy, Mich., used his family connections to obtain parts for the 1996 Honda/Acura Integra he had turned into a 450-horsepower road racer.
Trapp said his mother is Japanese and when he visited Japan he could speak the language and had contacts there.
“This has been my plan since around 2001 — to make this turbo-charged,” he said. He changed the suspension, added racing seats, put a diffuser under the rear of the car to help keep the wheels on the ground and has a detachable steering wheel.
The nine-year project is ready for some circuit racing, said the owner of Speed Trapp Consulting.