By Charles Krome
If you listen to some people in the industry, traditional “car culture” is a dying animal here in the U.S. For example, when I attended an Automotive Press Association event earlier this year, I heard designers from the Detroit three talk about how the generations that are now coming of driving age really aren’t all that interested in the actual activity of driving; they view cars as means, but not ends. I don’t know if that’s really the case or not, but if it is, the culture is certainly going out with a bang. Take the growing popularity of neighborhood gatherings of auto enthusiasts, who bring their vehicles together on weekend mornings to share America’s favorite hot caffeinated beverage, show off, and talk cars.
I was even going to do a story on the phenomenon. Enjoyed my first Detroit event, made some calls, talked to some interesting people, added some Facebook friends. Then circumstances and fear of lawsuits got in the way, as they often do.
But I do have these pictures to share from a recent get-together of the type I described above. Held in an outlying parking lot of the Motor City Casino—appropriately featuring style accents by Chip Foose—it was overseen by a nice guy named Bill Borenstein, who is both vice president of entertainment and theater operations for the Casino and someone who seemed genuinely committed to helping the city by providing a place for car guys (of both sexes) to hang out.
Among the notable vehicles on hand were a 2004 Subaru WRX STi, long a guilty pleasure of mine. Frankly, I love the insane Group B look of these things, with the massive hood scoop and rear wing, and I’ve always been on the Subaru side of the STi vs. EVO divide. Naturally, this one was kitted out with a full roll cage, too.
There also was a rare Ford Starliner. I’d never come across one of these before, but my limited research tells me this was Ford’s idea of a sports coupe circa 1960-1961, and very popular with NASCAR nation back in the day. I suppose that was thanks in part to an available 390-cubic-inch/375-hp V8. Ford also was well represented by a nice second-gen Ranchero—perhaps a 1962? The big surprise is how small these are: If the specs at Ehow.com are to be believed, this model is just over 181 inches long, which is only about 2.6 inches longer than a 2012 Ford Focus sedan. Seeing this, I’m definitely ready for the return of the compact pickup.
And check out that “üBER LöW” Mercedes. This is a homologation special, created by M-B so it could run a version of the 190e in DTM events in Germany. The “2.3 16″ on the back of the car refers to the 16-valve, 2.3-liter turbocharged Cosworth I4 under its hood, capable of 185 horses/174 lb.-ft. of torque. The result wasn’t all that fast, but it was an excellent early example of a modern-day high-performance Euro sport sedan. More impressive was the PR stunt M-B pulled to promote the durability of that engine: Running a trio of them around the 12.5-kilometer circle that is the Nardo test track for a bit over 200 hours, with two covering 50,000 kilometers (it’s Europe!) at an average speed of 247 km/h. Or so I’ve read. And you know what Meat Loaf says: “Two out of three ain’t bad.”
Also on hand were gems like a C5 LS1 Corvette that had been “enhanced” by local tuning shop Livernois Motorsports, a 1972 Challenger rocking a 340-cubic-inch V8, a couple of massive Ford Galaxie 500′s, including a convertible, and, of course, a super-sharp ’57 Chevy Bel Air.
I hear they’ve got these kinds of events all over the country now, with some drawing so many people and cars that they actively discourage further publicity for the ventures. Others are trying to leverage the shows for charity purposes and whatnot. As for the one I went to in Detroit, it wasn’t the biggest event I’ve ever been to, but there was a good, positive vibe and it did attract a fairly disparate range of vehicles and owners.
My advice is to keep your eyes peeled for get-togethers of this sort in your city, since they’re definitely worth getting up early on a Saturday morning for—just be careful who you tell about them.