GROSSE POINTE SHORES, Mich. — The 31st annual EyesOn Design Automotive Design Exhibition returned to the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House on Sunday. It was extremely hot; temperatures reached 93 degrees, but there was still a fantastic turnout.
The theme for this year’s show was Design Inspiration & Influences. The poster featured a 1959 Cadillac Cyclone sculpture created by David Chapple. Is this like a regular car show? No way. It is all about design. The grassy meadow of the Ford House was lined with beautiful vehicles that delighted the eye.
Former GM Design Chief Ed Welburn described each car as “A sculpture on wheels.” He received the Lifetime Achievement award at the show. Welburn oversaw the development of the 2010 Buick LaCrosse, 2010 Chevrolet Camaro, Chevrolet Malibu, Cadillac CTS, and Buick Enclave, among many other vehicles.
“When I was younger, my parents took me to the Philadelphia Auto Show,” Welburn explained. “I was crazy about cars. The auto show was kind of like my fantasy land. And all of a sudden I saw this car, [a 1959 Cadillac Cyclone]. I didn’t know what it was. But I saw this car and I told my parents at that moment, ‘When I grow up, I want to design cars for that company.’ I think I was 11 years old when I wrote my letter to GM design saying ‘I want to be a designer for you when I grow up.”‘
To name a few, there were several different categories of cars such as:
- The Jet Age, with vehicles inspired by the post-war jet aircraft and was symbolic of American optimism.
- The Small Car Invasion from Europe, which brought their ideas home to America.
- The Asian Influence which brought in some stylish sports cars
- The Sports Racing Cars of the 50’s and 60’s.
- Military vehicles from 1942-1945
I was impressed by the 1956 Buick Centurion Concept. It is normally on display at the Sloan Museum in Flint. “Only one car was produced and was debuted at Motorama in 1956 in such cities as New York City, Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Miami,” says Geoff Woodcox, Curator of Collections. In the center of the dash, there is a TV screen used for a back-up camera. The camera is located on the hood at the rear of the car.
The gear shift is on the center of the steering wheel. The speedometer is behind the steering wheel. This vehicle features a V8 engine with 325 horsepower which no longer runs. “There is a plexiglass bubble top and it gets warm on a day like today,” says Woodcox.
The headrest is motorized and can be raised and lowered. The Centurion was never mass produced and he is not sure what it cost to build the concept car.
AmericaJR’s Jerome Rzucidlo was interested in the 1944 Willys-Overland Jeep. This vehicle, which is representative of the 29th Division of the U.S. Army, has cutouts for tools on the side door. It also has a toolbox inside the back end containing tools and a jack.
“This military vehicle was originally made in Toledo, Ohio, but Ford and Willys made it for the war”, says the owner, Joe Coppens. “It has a 4-cylinder engine with 4-wheel drive and goes up to 60 mph. This particular vehicle has a 12-volt battery but the original was a six-volt system. There are also no seat belts. They wanted something small and lightweight so it can be shipped overseas, as it was used in Normandy,” added Coppens.
There are two ways to start it. It can be crankstarted and also has an electrical ignition–which can fail due to humidity and temperature conditions. The gas tank is under the driver’s seat and the fire extinguisher is under the dash. The glove box holds spare light bulbs, a fan belt and tape, so that it is self-sufficient in the field. “You don’t have AAA,” joked Coppens.
There are five extra gas cans for emergencies. The government is stringent on height, weight, and width features so it will fit in a wooden airplane glider. There is an M1 Carbine gun in the rifle rack on the dash. The gun weighs 10 pounds. Even in warfare, the windshield was made of real glass. There was no bullet proof glass at the time.
There were several awards handed out today. The judges based their votes on design criteria, not on restorative originality. There were three categories: VIP Gold Ribbon Awards, Blue Ribbon Awards, and Red Ribbon Awards. The Bridgestone Grand Marshal Award went to a 1928 Auburn Speedster. Meanwhile, the Bridgestone Honorary Chairman’s Award went to a 1939 Bugatti T57C.
This car show is a fundraiser for the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology. The DIO supports the visually impaired and blind of southeastern Michigan. The DIO also sponsors international research congresses that annually bring together the world’s leading vision-related scientists.
For more information about EyesOn Design, visit www.eyesondesign.org.