Motor City madness: A cars ‘n’ coffee of concours quality

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Since Fiat Chrysler design boss Ralph Gilles was honored as Enthusiast Of The Year, and since Vipers are finished, they brought a few to show | Jim McCraw photos
Since Fiat Chrysler designer Ralph Gilles was honored as Enthusiast Of The Year, and since Vipers are finished, they brought a few | Jim McCraw photos

The Saturday morning Cars & Coffee event that normally takes place at M1 Concourse, the new luxury garage and race track complex in Pontiac, Michigan, where a GM plant used to stand, was moved to the grounds of The Inn At St. John’s on the last weekend in July because the Concours d’Elegance of America was taking over the place for the weekend and it seemed appropriate to M1, to sponsors Car and Driver and Road & Track and the other normal sponsors of the gathering. Concourse meets Concours.

You must understand that the beautiful former church and monastery is in Plymouth, Michigan, and that means that every automotive engineer, designer, technician and racer in The Motor City shows up at such gatherings with their personal cars, ready to show and tell. The entire front parking lot at St. John’s was full of cars by the kickoff at 9:00 a.m., and some of them had lined up starting at 6:30 to be sure of a place to park.

Detroit, of course, has more car weirdos per square mile than any other place on Earth, and the depth and breadth of the cars and people at St. John’s was truly amazing.

The drag racing and muscle car community brought 426 Hemis, Max Wedges, Oldsmobile 4-4-2s, Buick GNXs, and every kind of Mustang and Camaro, including a raft of new Shelbys, GT350s and GT500s, and a brand new Camaro Z/28.

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The American sports car community was represented by a raft of Ford GTs new and old, including the brand new one, a pit of Vipers, and the odd and occasional Corvette.

The British car fanciers brought Rolls-Royces, Morgans, MGs, an Aston Martin Lagonda, vintage Jaguars, and Austin Healeys.

The Teutonic crowd showed vintage Mercedes SLs, brand new GTS coupes, a huge spread of Porsches both stock and modified, a BMW i8 among the Beemers, and a VW bus.

The Italian mob showed up with Alfas, Ferraris, a new Fiat roadster, and a Martini-liveried Lancia Delta Integrale rally car that was an absolute knockout.

Sprinkle in some old Yank tanks, a few hot rods, a kustom here and there, and a handful of the real classics that would be on the St. John’s show field the next morning, free coffee and donuts, and you have one of the best Saturday car gatherings we’ve ever seen anywhere.

Photos by Jim McCraw

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Jim McCraw has been writing about cars, motorcycles, design, technology, car people and racing for 50 years, in such publications as Hot Rod Deluxe, Super Chevy, Muscle Mustangs, Road & Track, Car and Driver, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, Penthouse, Winding Road, The Mercedes-Benz Star, AutoWeek, The New York Times, and a number of European publications. He was executive editor of Motor Trend, editor of Hot Rod and Super Stock. He co-holds the record for the drive from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, to Key West, Florida, 96:22, and has run in major events such as the Mille Miglia Storica in Italy, Goodwood, the California Mille, the Colorado Grand, the New England 1000, Forza Mille, and four One Lap Of America competitions He owns a pristine Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan.

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