One-of-a-kind Hoffman concept draws attention at EyesOn show

Grosse Pointe Shores  —  Exhibitors, guests and volunteers know that EyesOn Design is not just any car show. Its continuing dedication to design, its volunteer industry experts who know where the great cars are and how to invite them, and its focus on raising awareness and money for vision research make it an outstanding event.

At the 29th annual show on June 19, 2016, some 350 vehicles were scattered in groups across the expansive lawn of the Edsel and Eleanor Ford Home in Grosse Pointe Shores. Many showgoers found their way into the estate a couple of hours before the 10 a.m. opening even as display vehicles were arriving, many of their owners staking out places in the shade.

>> Browse a photo gallery of the 29th EyesOn Design show.

Among them was Myron Vernis, whose little 1935 Hoffman sedan, in apparent original condition, was attracting a lot of attention. The Hoffman, brought to EyesOn Design by Myron and Kim Vernis of Akron, Ohio, was designed and built for members of the Fisher Body family, who had plans to buy the Hudson Motor Car Company and wanted a “halo” vehicle to help seal the deal.

Myron Vernis said when word of an acquisition got out, the price of Hudson stock went up and soured the venture. Robert Hoffman, who had worked for Budd Company, was hired by the Fisher Brothers to build what became the Hoffman: a unibody, mid-engine sedan with rear-hinged front doors (the rear and front doors are interchangeable crosswise, Vernis said). Hoffman successfully completed an X-8 engine, something Henry Ford had secretly tasked his engineers to do in the late 1920s.  Ford’s engine never went into production.

But then neither did the Hoffman, with its sleek, aerodynamic design and quirky looks. Vernis, who last year brought his weird California-built 1948 Davis Divan to EyesOn Design, said he and his wife have owned the Hoffman for a few years and have shown it at the Pebble Beach Concours.

Vernis said he finds EyesOn Design a more interesting show and well-suited to his Hoffman.

1907 Jewel Stanhope

One of only a handful known to exist, this 1907 Jewel Stanhope Runabout with one-cylinder, two-stroke engine belongs to Morris and Carla Dillow of Eureka Springs, Ark.

The colorful 1907 Jewel Stanhope belonging to Morris and Carla Dillow made its journey from the Dillows’ home in Eureka Springs, Ark. to Michigan in a trailer. In fact, the Dillows did not even drive their runabout onto the field at the Edsel and Eleanor Ford home so that its smooth white tires would be pristine for judging.

“You wouldn’t want to drive behind the Jewel Stanhope,” Morris Dillow said. “Its top speed would be about 15 miles an hour and its one-cylinder two-stroke engine, with 4-1/2-inch bore and 4-inch stroke, fouls the air.”

Very few Jewel cars still exist, he said. His 1907 features a right-hand steering wheel; the ’06 models had tillers. Its builder, the Forest City Motor Car Company of Massillon, Ohio, only lasted from 1906 to 1909.

1971 Checker Aerobus

This 12-passenger 1971 Check Aerobus – proudly produced by Checker Motors Corp. in Kalamazoo – resides in the National Auto and Truck Museum in Auburn, Ind. There are seat belts for all on board. It served as a shuttle in National Parks and has only 33,000 miles on it.

The cars from Checker Motors in Kalamazoo were stealing the show because of their multiple personalities. Proving Checkers were more than taxi cabs were a 12-passenger Aerobus, a stretched Checker with raised roof and wheelchair access, and a custom sedan with opera windows from a Florida dealership.

The Checker vehicles shared space with a Kalamazoo-built 1921 Roamer from the Barley Motor Car Company and a fragile 1903 Michigan from the Michigan Automobile Company of Kalamazoo.

A tongue-in-cheek sign at the entrance to the show told visitors that the fish flies – those delicate insects that live but a day and coat streets and vehicles with a smelly, slippery mess –  do not bite and are said to be tasty with the right accompaniment, such as hollandaise sauce.

They were few and far between at the 2016 event.

Proceeds from the EyesOn Design show benefit the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology.