Collector cars draw visitors to unique arts festival

Car shows are more than ego trips for special-vehicle owners. Shows often help raise funds for charities.

Or they provide a curb appeal that encourages passersby to park and check out an event.

The modest gathering of collector vehicles on the front lawn of Services for Older Citizens in Grosse Pointe Farms on June 25 proved that point, helping steer visitors into an unusual art exhibit inside the SOC building.

>> Browse a photo gallery of the Greater Michigan International Dementia Creative Arts Festival car show

The event was the first Greater Michigan International Dementia Creative Arts Festival, which opened for a two-month engagement here June 25. Some 300 persons viewed original art created by persons with various levels of dementia, by their caregivers and by family and friends.

John Wood, a key organizer of the exhibit and an artist with what he called “a dementia diagnosis,” said the art expresses the humanity of its creators.

Dementia not only affects the individual but the entire community, said Wood, a retired art teacher from Grosse Pointe Park.

“Our mission is to remove the stigma of dementia,” he said. “Through art we can discuss what is happening. Persons with dementia face dismissiveness and are seen as disabled. In fact, everyone is valuable.”

Ron Konopka was playing both sides of the court that day. Konopka’s beautiful model of the art deco Standard Oil filling station – now a restaurant in Grosse Pointe Park – was on display in the SOC building while he stood watch over his bright-red 1950 MG TD on the lawn outside.

Konopke, of Harper Woods, said when he got the sports car over 25 years ago it was literally in pieces.

“At that time I knew nothing about cars,” he said. “I assembled it over several years.” Evidently with the same patience it takes to build a scale model of a service station facade.

1971 Plymouth Duster

A recent acquisition by Steve Scavone of St. Clair Shores, this 1971 Plymouth Duster with 340-inch engine features a special shark-tooth grille.
(Jenny King, Special to The Detroit News)

St. Clair Shores resident Steve Scavone was serving as a kind of Mopar ambassador at the outdoor show. The stunning 1964 Dodge Polara 500 owned by Marilyn Pullin of St. Clair Shores had been modified to produce more than 500 horsepower to match its 500 designation.

“The 500 was a top-of-the-line model,” he said.

Scavone’s 1971 Plymouth Duster – the kind of coupe that, with a small engine and accompanying modest price tag, might have been a public school teacher’s special – was baring its shark-tooth grille. This Duster was powered by a 340-inch V-8 engine assisted by a four-barrel carburetor and attached to a four-speed manual transmission.

Representing the muscle car competition from General Motors, a 1976 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am belonging to Philip Bradford of Grosse Pointe, with gigantic 455-inch V-8 and four-speed transmission, featured its original factory paint. Bradford said the horsepower rating was likely 350-379 for the 455 engine, offered for the last time in the Firebird in 1976.

“Options for this car were limited,” Bradford said. It has no air conditioning and a dealer-installed AM/FM radio.

1910 Reo S

A roadster with room for four, this 1910 Reo S was a limited model, built for only two years. Kevin Klein of Grosse Pointe Woods is pictured driving his “brassy.”
(Jenny King, Special to The Detroit News)

The oldest car at the June 25 gathering was the 1910 Reo S driven to the site by owner Kevin Klein of Grosse Pointe Woods.

Klein, who bought the elegant partial-tonneau car in 1998, said he favors cars from the auto industry’s brass years. He found the 1910 Reo through Hemmings Motor News, went to Harrisburg, Pa. to meet with its owner and bought the car. Klein said he does some work on it himself. He and his father restored a 1923 Ford Depot Hack, so he had had some experience.

In spite of its fragile appearance, the Reo S, a top-line “sport” model, is powered by a 35-horsepower four-cylinder engine and was factory rated to a 50-mph top speed.

“I trailered it to Lansing in 2001 for the 100th anniversary of Oldsmobile and drove it there in tours,” he said.

Mike Skinner’s 1950 Ford F-1 pickup came from the factory equipped with a 100-horsepower eight-cylinder engine. An optional heater and defroster added $36 to the base price of $1,257. Skinner displayed the bill of sale from Versailles Motor Company in Versailles, Mo.

It was amusing to note that the original buyer of the 1950 pickup, John Stansfield of Stover, Mo., was given a $275 trade-in allowance by the dealer for his 1934 Oldsmobile.

1950 Ford Pickup

According to a bill of sale from a dealership in Versailles, Mo., this 1950 F-1 pickup with eight-cyllnder engine had a base price of $1,257. It belongs to Mike Skinner of St. Clair Shores. (Jenny King, Special to The Detroit News)