Inside the “Inside Baseball” car-designers’ car show
Not everybody who works for GM, Ford, or FCA is a car nut. It’s not essential that the purchasing folks, legal staff, or door-hinge engineers bleed gasoline. But inside these companies’ design departments, the saturation of car nuts approaches 100 percent. GM Design fosters this fanaticism by encouraging every stylist, painter, and sculptor throughout the department to bring their babies out for a car show during the week before the Dream Cruise at its annual GM Design on Woodward show. And no, if you’re wondering, there’s no evidence of the cobbler’s children having no shoes in this crowd. We’ve got highlights.
More 2018 Woodward Dream Cruise coverage:
- Classic Ford Broncos Corralled at the 2018 Woodward Dream Cruise
- Classic Emergency Vehicles at the 2018 Woodward Dream Cruise
- Cruising with Fiat-Chrysler/SRT’s Mark Trostle
- Cruising With Ford/SVT’s Hermann Salenbauch
- Cruising With Mr. Camaro, Al Oppenheiser
1965 Chevrolet Impala Twin Turbo
Tony Churchwell, paint shop
Beneath the hood of this lovely Impala sport-roof sleeper adorned with lowly “283” engine badges beats the heart of an angry 6.2-liter LS3 Small Block being force-fed by a pair of giant Garrett turbos and intercoolers. Tony has yet to dyno this setup, but he runs consistent 10.60-second, 135-mph (217-km/h) quarter-mile times. A super cool touch: Inside the cockpit he has a Samsung tablet magnet-mounted to the dash that uses a Bluetooth connection to an OBD port dongle that gives him several screens’ worth of engine gauge information. Using switches mounted in the ashtray, he can also toggle between 10 and 18 psi of boost pressure, the latter setting serving only when running racing fuel. One of his proudest moments: Beating a Hellcat with the 10-psi setting! Now that’s an ashtray application we can endorse!
1973 Dodge Dart Sport 340 “Convertriple”
Eric Louton, group leader, studio sculptors
Eric Louton bought this rare beauty 28 years ago shortly after he joined GM. This rust-free California car shows 63,000 miles (101,389 km) on its stock 340 engine (mildly upgraded with a modern carb and intake) and has a four-speed manual transmission. That manual was an optional upgrade, and indeed this car has every available option except a rear window defroster (but who needed that in sunny California, anyway?). Architecturally, the Dart Sport was kind of a Plymouth Duster with a Dart front clip, and Eric’s has the rare fold-down rear seat and trunk compartment security panel (which encloses a space between the seatback and panel). Chrysler softly marketed this features as a “Convertriple” because of the three possible rear seat/trunk configurations. Eric has mounted a set of M-body Diplomat steelies with vintage dog dish hubcaps, but the stock rally wheels are safely stowed away.
1956 Chevrolet Bel Air
Anthony Saporita, sculptor in the Chevy studio
This almost entirely original California car has precisely the patina Anthony loves, and he intends to lovingly preserve it. The right front fender was in primer so he gave it the checker cab look himself, paying close attention to aligning the checkerboard stripe with the chrome trim on the doors (it’s these types of details that civilian customizers sometimes miss but the design community obsesses over). For now it even runs the original 265 Small Block engine and an original-style two-speed Powerglide transmission from a ’57. Anthony contemplates upgrading to a bigger engine and front disc brakes, but there’s no plan to restore or alter the exterior.
1960/63 Chevrolet K10 Apache/Blazer Frankenstein
Patrick Ingram, clay sculptor, Buick exterior studio
Patrick remembers first wanting an original first-gen Chevy C/K pickup (1960–1966) at age 14. When he finally found a decent 1960 body 19 years ago, its chassis turned out to be junk. So he jacked up the body and rolled a 1973 K Blazer chassis underneath it. Somewhere along the line the hood got swapped out for one from a 1963 model. But because designers can never completely leave things the way they found them, Ingram has been accumulating parts and has a plan to “clean up the lines a bit” style-wise. He’s also thinking of building a much lower rear-drive chassis for it, utilizing Corvette suspension pieces, and he has a 6.0-liter engine from a 2005 van that will go into it. We hope to see the finished product at a future Design on Woodward show.
1968 Pontiac Firebird 428 Royal Bobcat Tribute
Jamie Greco, sculptor, Chevy/GMC studio
Jamie was tired of all the F-body big-block love going to the COPO Camaros from Yenko and Baldwin Motion and the like, so when he found this nice original 30,000-mile (48,280-km) 1968 Firebird in Oregon, he decided to do something special with it. A resident of Royal Oak, Michigan, he has created a Royal Bobcat 428 Firebird of the sort that Ace Wilson’s Royal Pontiac of downtown Royal Oak built several of over the years (he’s only aware of two ’68s, of which just one remains). The 428 was a replacement short-block from back in the day that he found in a parts department manager’s inventory. It’s dressed with a long-branch intake manifold as found on the Ram Air cars. The paint is all original, except for the new hood (with tach!). Other cool options include tilt-wheel and factory front disc brakes. He reports that the front suspension did not require any revision to support the larger engine.
1988 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce
Jeff Perkins, exterior designer, Chevrolet trucks
This beauty is all original, no restoration. Jeff found it in Italy and has had it for 16 years. “I always loved the car,” said Jeff, who spent a few years in Italy. The simplicity of the Pininfarina design, the performance required to earn the cloverleaf badging. It has its quirks—it is Italian, after all. Some of the ergonomics aren’t right. The footwell is so small, it barely accommodates three pedals, and Jeff removes his left shoe to better fit his feet into the small space. The car has a 2.0-liter engine and a five-speed manual. It gets driven a lot in the summer and has had few problems. It does feel smaller each year as the cars around him keep getting bigger. But then, of course, he is designing pickups as his day job.
1997 Toyota Supra
Brian Geiszler, interior designer for performance cars and now GMC Acadia
Brian picked up this used Supra after high school. First order of business: add a single 67mm precision turbo to the 3.0-liter V-6 that now puts out 700 horsepower. He also swapped out the automatic transmission for a six-speed manual, and the car now runs on E85. It is his weekend warrior, and sometimes he drives it to work. Brian is excited by the return of the Supra, but it has big shoes to fill in his opinion. He hopes it’s as powerful as a Z06 Corvette or Stingray, or at least easy to modify.
1977 Jeep Wagoneer
Eric Lindow, electrician apprentice
This Wagoneer, from the AMC days, was transformed into a Ghostbusters car when original movie actor Ernie Hudson, a Detroiter, was in the city for an event in 2014 and needed appropriate wheels. Lindow, who has a company called Ghostbusters Detroit, got a smashed Wagoneer from his mom’s garage, fixed it, painted it, equipped it, and bought lights, and a fitting vehicle was in play. Hudson added his signature to the dash.
1890s high wheel bicycle
Paul Jurewicz, painter in paint shop
We don’t think we could balance on it, let alone ride it, but Paul wanted a high-wheeler since he first saw one at Greenfield Village decades ago. He added some diversity to the car show mix with this rideable replica. The 1890s European carbide light is original, but the adjustable acetylene gas has been replaced with an electric candle. The 52-inch wheel is tricky to ride with no brake and no way to reach the ground to stop with your foot. But it is not tippy, and Paul has enjoyed this ride for 40 years now and has invested in a horn to warn anyone in his way.