Ever Wonder What Classic Cars GM Designers and Employees Drive?
This car show provides the answer—and they're not all from the General.
Each year prior to the Woodward Dream Cruise, there's an exclusive car show held at General Motors' Warren tech center for the company's design team (although a few other disciplines sneak in). Not surprisingly, the majority of cars in attendance are from GM brands, but there's plenty of classics from other automotive spheres, too. After showing off to their colleagues, the owners form a parade—complete with police escort—and drive to a park along Woodward Avenue. Here, the public can admire the cars as part of a larger Dream Cruise show.
We expected a lot of Corvettes and were not disappointed. There were not one but two 1963 Sting Rays (in the days when it was two words) with their gorgeous hood and spine that runs down the roof to split the rear window. Only the '63, the first year of C2, has the split window. Read on to see what else we saw at the 2019 iteration of GM's own Dream Cruise show:
1963 Corvette Sting Ray
It took former industry analyst and current GM exec extraordinaire Jim Hall almost seven years to find the right '63 because he wanted enough amenities so he could drive it a lot. Thus there was a need for power brakes and steering, air conditioning, an FM radio, and an automatic transmission at his wife's request. His black '63 has the base 250-hp, 327-cubic-inch V-8 and two-speed Powerglide transmission.
1959 Corvette Stingray
Retired design supervisor Ray Miller bought his 1959 Corvette Stingray when he was only 13, using $500 saved up from working at his dad's gas station, the bowling alley, and cutting lawns. He restored it himself, including paint, and shows it with the hood up to display the red and white engine covers he fashioned over the LS1 motor. The car has had its engine, transmission, brakes, and suspension updated because Miller likes to drive it—a lot—and even takes it to nearby Milan, Michigan, for a little drag racing. He says with the car's Camaro drivetrain he has clocked the quarter-mile at the dragway at 11.9 seconds at 118 mph. Miller used to work in the metal shop building show cars and concepts, and also helped craft cars for the Transformer movies and restore the one-millionth Corvette that was damaged when a sinkhole opened inside the National Corvette Museum in 2014. When he retired in 2017, he treated himself to a '17 Z06. In a couple years, he will look at adding a mid-engine Corvette to his garage.
1978 25th Anniversary Corvette
Among the polished and pristine Corvettes was a 1978 25th anniversary edition with nothing but track on its mind—fitting since the Corvette was chosen to pace the Indy 500 that year. It has a roll cage, metal racing seats, and fender-exit exhaust. For 1978, Chevy rolled out a redesigned body with fastback styling, improved rear visibility, and anniversary badging, albeit without the flares and riveted style of this one. Inside, you'll find brown basketweave material adorning the center console.
1983 Lotus Esprit
Then there is the black 1983 Lotus Esprit that designer Brian Janik got in 1994 when he was 23. He finally got it on the road a year ago because, well, life gets in the way sometimes. It was the previous owner's winter beater car and was a basket case that needed love and time before he could get it roadworthy again. He had the 2.2-liter turbocharged engine rebuilt and a combination of necessity and curiosity led to most other pieces coming off at some point. He also painted it black—he was tired of Ferrari comments when it was red.
1957 VW Dune Buggy
Gerald Broughton is a relative newcomer to GM and brought his 1957 VW Dune Buggy with a peace sign sticker on the back. He grew up with buggies and still loves them as a grown man's go-kart. The orange buggy has a VW frame and El Lobo fiberglass body with original paint, and a 1600-cc engine with a four-speed manual transmission. He is also building a 1964 Meyers Manx.
1974 Honda Civic
A fun car that takes many down memory lane: a 1974 Honda Civic. Kevin Malak is only the second owner, and the car is essentially the same as when it left the factory, just a little cleaned up. The wonderful plaid seat inserts are almost immaculate. It has a 58-hp 1.2-liter engine and four-speed manual transmission.
1972 Austin Mini
Similarly sized is Adam Bernard's 1972 Austin Mini. Bernard, who works in corporate intelligence, also has a 1963 Buick Riviera, but he brought the mini Mini this year to mark the brand's 60th anniversary. The front-drive car with a transverse front engine has a 1293-cc, 80-hp engine and four-speed transmission. It's only 10 feet long, and weighs about 1,500 pounds. Viewed from outside, the four-wheel independent suspension didn't seem to deliver a smooth ride on the parade—blame the short wheelbase, perhaps, or the larger wheels, which are 12s instead of the regular 10s—but it looked great doing it.
Other vehicles on display included some stunning Chevy SSRs, a lifted K5 Blazer, a dark and menacing 1990 Nissan Skyline GT-R, 1973 VW Thing, and a number of Camaro, Impala, Cutlass, Chevelle, Corvair, El Camino, Biscayne, LeSabre, and GTO cars, as well as other blasts from the past. Check out more photos from the show here: