Bloomfield Hills, MI – June 2017 – Cranbrook Art Museum & Saarinen House

The Cranbrook Academy of Art was founded in the 1920s by George Booth, who asked renown Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen to design the campus and buildings. Eventually the campus was expanded to include both boys and girls schools, a Science Museum as well as the Art Museum.

The Saarinen House has been restored to it’s 1930s look, and the museum offers tours, which we attended. The house itself (in my opinion) was somewhat disappointing as it did not give the ‘wow’ feeling that I often have when going into other famous homes, such as many of the Frank Lloyd Wright homes of the same period. Instead it seems more ‘practical’ and commonplace, in a 1930s art deco way.

The grounds of the campus are very nice, with gardens scattered about, along with numerous sculptures and fountains. The museum was somewhat smallish, but had some interesting artifacts including the chair collection.

 

The Art Museum

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Gardens and Fountains

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The interior of the Art Museum

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Saarinen House

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Brighton, MI – June 2017 – Lingenfelter Collection

As part of the weekend long ‘Eyes on Design’ car show the Lingenfelter Collection had an open house. Owned by Ken Lingenfelter, who runs a business that specializes in engineering high performance automobile modifications.

The collection included a number of Ferrari’s, a Bugatti, and numerous Corvettes. It was held in their garage in an industrial park in far suburban Detroit.

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Grosse Pointe, MI – May 2017 – Great Lakes Boating Festival

Grosse Pointe, Michigan is an interest place. Situated along Lake St Clair about 10 miles from downtown Detroit, it is clearly old money with numerous mansions located along Lake Shore Drive, while just a mile or so away is the desolation that impacted much of the city of Detroit.

Grosse Pointe is actually 5 different towns, GP Park, GP Farms, GP Shores, GP Woods and the town of Grosse Pointe. The center piece of the area is the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club, and it’s 187 foot high steeple.

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Each year the GP Yacht Club hosts the Great Lakes Boating Festival. It was billed to have vintage boats (there were 3 that I could find), a couple of classic cars, music (a bad Jimmy Buffet cover guy), and other activities, we found only a few booths of people peddling insurance, a couple home improvements, and a few nautical vendors.

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The Yacht Club’s dock area however was much better. There appeared to be a couple of hundred boats docked there, and this was where the best views were.

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A cadet ship, the Pride of Michigan, was docked to offer tours.

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The cadets all appeared to be high school age, or younger.

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There were numerous large yachts throughout the marina.

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Almost every dock had a view of the steeple.

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The sailing events were well attended.

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Just down Lakeshore was a learn to sail event that from the shore looked like they were dodging the large Great Lakes ore boats.

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Grosse Pointe, MI – May 2017 – Edsel and Eleanor Ford House

Edsel Ford was the only child of Henry Ford, and as such had plenty of money to build his mansion however he pleased. He and his wife Eleanor chose the vernacular architecture of the Cotswolds, in England. This included sandstone walls, slate roof with reducing sized shingles, and an amazing collection of old materials collected and brought over from England, including paneling, flooring and windows.

The home is located in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, a small community about 10 miles from downtown Detroit.

The house is filled with art, much of which is now reproductions that represent the originals that once hung in the home, but are now in the Detroit Museum of Art, donated by the Ford’s.

As you arrive at the gatehouse you can’t help but notice the massive doors.

 

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The house is 32,000 square feet, but with the various roof lines and wings to the building, it does not feel oppressive.

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Situated along Lake St Clair, on this day it was home to what felt like 1000 Canadian Geese, which is appropriate since Canada is just across the lake.

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A large lawn faces east from the home to the lake.

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The grounds cover 87 acres, much of which is nicely landscaped, although not overdone.

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The pool and pool house are detached from the main house by a couple of hundred yards.

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The gardens are minimalist, but well kept, as noted by the persistent groundskeepers who kept getting in the photos.

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Detroit and Beyond – August 2016 – A Weekend of Spectacular Automobiles

 

Sometimes it seems we get on a theme for a period of time, and I realize we often find events with wheels, but the third weekend in August was the best weekend of automobiles we have had. The main event of the weekend was to go to Detroit for the Woodward Dream Cruise. We had been to this a few years earlier passing through, but this year I wanted to spend the day checking out the events.

We left Columbus before dawn, arriving in downtown Detroit by 9 AM. Most of the cruise takes place in suburban Oakland County, but I had read that the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant had an event the day of the cruise. The Piquette Avenue Plant is a museum in the second home of Ford, and is known as the birthplace of the Model T. It is the oldest automobile factory building in the world open to the public, and has been open as a museum since 2001. On this day they were going to have a cruise of classic cars up Woodward through the city to Oakland County.

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As I drove up in my Audi S5 to the front of the factory the attendant said ‘are you cruising with us today’? When I commented that I thought it was for classic cars, he said mine was easily cool enough to come along, which of course brought a smile to my face. But still initially we parked in a vacant lot across the street (being inner city Detroit there are many vacant lots), crossed the street where we signed in, and followed a lady inside to see the factory. Little did I realize we were going to start out on a freight elevator, the same elevator that took finished Model T’s out a hundred years earlier!

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Already mesmerized we walked out onto the old wooden floors to see a large collection of Model Ts, Model As and others displayed down the production floor. For a car guy this was like being where the telephone, radio and television were perfected, only all in 1 place! I stood there imagining what it would’ve been like full of machinery, noisy and smelly, but re-inventing the world as we now know it. In addition to the vehicles the museum did a great job of displaying photos and other artifacts explaining the production there.

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On the third level were even more cars represented, this time from various periods including a 1964 Mustang and a early 2000s reproduction GT.

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As we left the building the attendants again asked if I was coming along – of course. The parking lot was filled with American muscle, from hot rods to tricked out Mustangs, as well as a few old Model Ts, which were honored to lead the parade. The Detroit Police had been contracted to lead the parade and off we went, all these classic American with my German ‘hot rod’.

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The drive up Woodward goes through much of what most people think of Detroit, blocks upon blocks of vacant lots or burned out buildings. But we also passed a couple of really nice looking neighborhoods. As we drove everyone walking along the street would wave, shout and take pictures because very few of the cars in town would come into this area.We had as much fun as they did, taking photos of the neighborhoods, going through every red light (probably a good thing), until we reached the edge of town and joined the rest of the Woodward Cruise crowd.

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As we continued north our parade did a U turn and went through Palmer Park. As we drove it seemed more cars joined in. Once you reached Ferndale the street becomes 4 lanes each way with a huge median strip for those Michigan left turns (U turns). From this point there was a traffic jam for 10 miles, but one of the best looking traffic jams you will ever see.

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The Woodward Dream cruise has no rules about who can and can’t drive up and down the street, so you get a mix of about 70% cruisers and 30% your normally frumpy Honda just trying to go to the grocery store. The cruise is the world’s largest one-day automotive event, drawing 1.5 million people and 40,000 classic cars each year from around the globe—from as far away as New Zealand, Australia, Japan and the former Soviet Union.

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Every parking lot was having some sort of event, Chrysler had a Mopar display in a shopping center, Ford had Mustang Alley down 9 Mile Road. With the afternoon getting late and rain coming in we decided to move on, but not for home as we had more cars planned for the next day.

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Leaving Detroit through the southeastern Michigan countryside, we eventually stopped in Angola Indiana for the night, stopping briefly on some country road to stand where Michigan, Indiana and Ohio come together.

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The next morning we made our way to Auburn, Indiana, first touring the National Auto and Truck Museum. This museum is in some of the remaining production buildings of the Auburn Automobile, including the Service and New Parts Building, and the L-29 Cord Building.

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The Service and Parts building, built in 1923, was used for test – driving automobiles, factory service and distribution of parts to distributors and dealers all over the world. The L29 building was built in 1928-29 for assembly and storage before shipping, and was innovative in it’s use of skylights that opened to provide ventilation.

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Also here is an extensive toy and model cars and trucks display from the 1800s to present day. In the lower level in an extensive truck display include a custom built GM vehicle called the Futurliner,  one of 12 large dual-front wheeled display vehicles that crisscrossed the country in the early 1950’s, part of a General Motors promotion called the Parade of Progress.

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Next door is the beautiful Auburn, Cord, Dusenberg Museum. This building functioned as the Corporate offices as well as an extensive showroom, with the showroom section exceeding even the Packard Museum in Dayton for a stunning display of automotive brilliance. Never have I seen more beautiful cars in a magnificent setting.

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The upper level feature more of the 3 brands over the years. The Dusenberg’s particularly were stunning cars with their long hoods and art deco feel. The upper level also houses the design studios that were used, complete with some of the original desks and designs. This museum and these automobiles truly are works of art, highly recommended to anyone who appreciates either.

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As we made our way to our last stop of the day we passed through Fairmount, Indiana, home of James Dean. They play it up, as most towns do their famous sons or daughters, but in the end it is just a simple little town in the middle of cornfields.

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Finally we reached the small town of Alexandria, Indiana where we had an afternoon of watching go cart racing through the streets of the town. These small karts can hit speeds of 80 MPH down the 3 block long straights.

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There were a number of classes for both adults and kids, with the racing close and fast. But you can only have so much fun over two days with things with wheels, and ours came to an end, so we headed off for the 3 hour drive back to Columbus.

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Detroit – January 2016 – Return to the International Auto Show

Normally I try not to do the same thing twice but when the opportunity to go to the International Auto Show in Detroit on ‘Insider Day‘ I couldn’t resist. Thanks to a nice nephew who got the tickets from the company he works for, and the weather still holding (no snow) I made the trip up and back to Detroit on a Wednesday.

Similar to last year the parking is very expensive for Detroit, but with it being Inside Day there was no crowd, and those that were there were other ‘insiders’ or the press, which made it so much better than 2015.

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Held at Cobo Hall in downtown Detroit the level of investment in presentation by the participating companies is immense. If you attending a car show in Cleveland or Pittsburgh you are greeting with a large open hall with carpet across the entire floor, and individual desks with some stylish backgrounds, with a couple of the larger car companies (Ford, Chrysler, Chevrolet) having an elevated stage with a car on it.

In Detroit some of the companies have two level displays built, with lounges. The level of multimedia for presentation is second to none.

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Another feature of this car show are the number of  announcements of new cars, followed by those cars being on display.

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Prototypes are also always present.

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Even the models who do the presentation have a more professional style and approach.

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All in all a Insider Day at the International Auto Show was a great time.

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