Detroiter Charles Lewis has been going to the auto show “since there was an auto show.”
Ask Lewis if he’ll go again in 2016 and he’ll tell you, straight-faced, “at least, eight times.”
With such enthusiasm, it’s no wonder Lewis was front and center Friday morning when Opportunity Detroit welcomed three classic, Detroit-manufactured vehicles downtown as part of “The Drive Home,” a 2,400-mile trip to help kick off next week’s North American International Auto Show (NAIAS). A short walk from his 21st floor apartment building, Lewis strolled, camera phone in hand, to Campus Martius where the cars were parked and displayed after their journey from Tacoma, Wash.
“I love cars,” says Lewis. “It says a lot about Detroit that they were able to make the long trip back here.”
“The Drive Home” began Dec. 27 in Tacoma, home of LeMay – America’s Car Museum, with a team driving a 1957 Chevrolet Nomad, a 1961 Chrysler 300G coupe, and a 1966 Ford Mustang, all owned by LeMay, through dozens of cities. The trip, organizers say, proved the Big Three-produced cars were not only durable and in road-ready condition, but symbolized the tenacity of Detroit.
“By bringing together the vision of a road trip in the dead of winter, they thought we were crazy,” says Lisa Dancsok, vice president of Opportunity Detroit, sponsor of the Campus Martius event. “Well, it turned out we were crazy … like a fox. It shows the resilience we have in this city, and it shows that our cars are classic.”
The three vehicles were briefly showcased at Campus Martius before being moved into a nearby tent where ornately carved muscle car ice replicas adorned the entrance. The Nomad, 300G and Mustang will be moved to Hall E in Cobo to be displayed as part of NAIAS next week.
Early in the day the cars were accompanied by about 20 other vehicles in a caravan down Woodward Avenue from the suburbs to Cadillac Square, following a “Cars and Coffee” promo event at Lincoln of Troy dealership.
“We were excited about bringing a little of bit of the enthusiasm to the central city,” Dancsok said of the Woodward caravan.
She was joined at Campus Martius by NAIAS Executive Director Rod Alberts, NAIAS Chairman Paul Sabatini, and David Madeira, LeMay CEO, who all praised Detroit.
“I couldn’t be more excited than to bring these cars back home to the Motor City,” Madeira says.
Valerie O’Shea, a LeMay staff member who drove the Nomad, and Bill Hall, a Hemmings Motor News reporter, who drove the 300G, both said the trip was memorable. They especially like their downtime moments when they cruised the city, passed the Motown Museum and visited landmarks like Eastern Market.
“We were all looking forward to this moment when we’d arrive here in Cadillac Square,” Hall says. “It’s about returning greatness to Detroit.”
Photo credit: Paul Engstrom