Michigan View: Auto show headliners: What is your favorite car?

What kind of car do you like?

It might be the hardest question a Michigan politician is asked to answer. The query is riddled with landmines. The answer must be Detroit-made, of course. But by which manufacturer? GM, Ford, or Chrysler? And does preference for a luxury car indicate the privilege of class? Does a favorite SUV betray a lack of concern for the environment?

The Michigan View popped The Question to the state’s political leaders at the Detroit Auto Show’s black-tie charity event, January 14 (and a coupla Michigan celebrities just for fun). And to notch up the pressure, we also asked what cars they own. Here are their brave answers.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville

“A Chrysler 300, a Chrysler 200 convertible, a Ford Mustang, and a Cadillac ATS,” said the senator from Monroe in naming the show cars he’d like to take home with him.

You’ve got one there from every Detroit manufacturer, senator.

“Of course. I’m not stupid!” he laughed.

Governor Rick Snyder

“I’m a nerd. I really like all the new electronics in these new cars,” said the governor as he surveyed the new, hi-tech Dodge small car, the Dart. “You’d have to ask my wife what car she’d want to take home from here. ”

As governor, Snyder is chauffeured in a government car – getting his work done in the back seat as he commutes around the state from his Ann Arbor home. “My kids each drive a Ford Escape,” he says. And then, dusting off memories of his driving days: “I used to own a Corvette.”

There may be hope for the nerd yet.

Mayor Dave Bing

“I no longer drive a car,” said Detroit’s CEO, who, like Governor Snyder, uses the back seat as an office. “But I like what Detroit is making.”

So, Mr. Mayor, if you could take anything off the floor tonight, what would it be? A Camaro? A Corvette? A Mustang?

“Yes!” responded a mayoral aide and whisked the winking mayor to his next media interview.

L. Brooks Patterson

“I drive a Chevy Impala,” said Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, “but I’ve got my eye on a new Chrysler 300.” But you knew that one of Michigan’s most colorful pols was only getting started.

“I used to own a Plymouth Barracuda,” he said of the famous, snarling, early-70’s muscle car. Close your eyes and you can easily picture Brooks cruising the Woodward Dream Cruise in the hot rod icon.

And what would he drive off the show floor? “Oh, I want that new Viper,” he said of Chrysler’s plans to re-introduce the earth-shaking supercar. Alas, Brooks will have to wait for New York’s auto show to get a peek.

Miss Michigan Kristen Danyal

The only thing prettier than the cars are the ladies, chief among them Miss Michigan’s stunning Danyal who we found wowing passersby in front of the Ford exhibit. She was raising money for The Pink Fund, a breast cancer awareness group. The 21-year old beauty’s stallion? A Range Rover Sport.

True to the state she represents, this miss knows her wheels. “I’d take the Maserati GranTurismo or the Chevy Volt,” she said of her dream cars.

Attorney General Bill Schuette

“I drive a Buick Lucerne, my wife a GMC Acadia, and we also have a Jeep,” said the AG describing the contents of his garage.

His dream car? A Chevy Camaro he said without hesitation. Careful, top cop, have too much fun in that bad boy and you’ll attract the cops.

Radio Talk Show personality Paul W. Smith

It’s never hard to find celebrities at the Detroit show. They hang out at the WJR-Radio booth where Paul Dubya – as he is fondly called – broadcasts the show every year. Looking regal in a black penguin suit, Paul W took a break from chatting up celebs to divulge that he cruises in Buick’s head-turning Enclave crossover.

His dream car? The familiar voice of Detroit’s early morning drive wants Caddy’s new Bimmer-beating ATS or Lincoln’s sleek new MKZ.

The Dingells

The lion of Michigan’s Congressional delegation, cane-wielding John Dingell, was on hand in the original electric vehicle – a golf cart – to speed him on his rounds. The Dean of Dearborn had kind words for the Caddy XTS, but his heart is with Ford. What car would he cruise in for the ladies – one Mrs. Dingell in particular? “A Ford Mustang,” he replied.

For her part, the diminutive Debbie – who keeps a flaming red Cadillac STS and a Ford Escape in the family garage – also has likes Detroit muscle. She’d like to drag Big John’s Mustang in her show favorite: a Chevy Corvette.


Henry Payne
Henry Payne is the auto critic for The Detroit News. A 25-year newspaper veteran, Payne is also a Pulitzer Prize-nominated cartoonist with United Feature Syndicate, a former columnist and editorial writer for The News, and a contributor to The Wall Street Journal, New York Post, and other publications. His auto reviews appear every Thursday in the Drive section.