Cars Add Sparkle to This Cool Michigan Town

Don Sherman

Belleville, Michigan, located midway between Hagerty’s Ann Arbor editorial offices and Detroit Metro Airport, is aptly named. Some 4000 residents—including this writer—enjoy a magnificent lake, fine restaurants, exotic street art, and a cordial vibe. But Belleville’s most compelling attraction are summer Monday evenings, when two long blocks of Main Street are restricted to classics, customs, hot rods, homebuilts, and the occasional motorcycle.

In that regard, Belleville’s not so different from countless other little downtowns across the country: You know it’s summer when the classics make their weekly gathering.

An estimated 300 cars showed up at this year’s first meet—everything from a chopped ’34 Ford street rod to a pair of Tesla Cybertrucks—to celebrate the joys of motoring before an admiring crowd.

Although civilian traffic isn’t blocked from Main until 5 p.m., the star cars begin gathering in prime spots by three. Event host Egan’s Pub sells portable food and adult beverages. A farmer’s market offers fresh beef, fruit, vegetables, eggs, and honey. A DJ plays a distinctly ’60s soundtrack.

I spoke to a half-dozen car owners, and while domestic brands dominate the turnout, there is the odd import invader.

John Koelber has seized the same parking spot every Monday night for more than a dozen years since he purchased his ’32 Ford coupe, which features a fiberglass Outlaw Performance body riding atop a Fat Man rectangular-steel tube frame. He’s especially proud of the 383-cid Chevy V-8 poking out of the hood with its 871 Weiand supercharger fueled by a Holley Demon 775 carburetor. To ease steering effort, Koelber added an electric power-assist unit that mounts out of sight, under the dash.

This pristine ’67 Corvette 427 coupe has had the same owner for 32 years, and he’s piloted it for 5000 of its 80,000 total miles. The only modification to the Vette was upgrading to a five-speed manual transmission with an overdrive top gear, which is better suited for highway cruising.

We last encountered Sonny and Rose Ann Hall’s ’49 Mercury lead sled three years ago. Sonny chopped the top 3.5 inches, dropped the ride height, installed Buick side chrome, and gave his pride and joy a custom grille and a magnificent paint job. Not especially interested in speed or acceleration, he’s happy with the 454-cid Chevy big-block under the hood, which produces an estimated 300 horsepower.

With American Motors rides fewer and farther between these days, Ron Goodnough’s 1970 AMX salutes that manufacturer with a striking red-white-and-blue exterior. He noted that the paint job was applied by his father over the original lime green metallic. “My late pop Pete Goodnough was an AMC employee who helped design the AMX3 prototype,” he told me. “The first mid-engined sports car designed by any American company. Only seven such cars were ever made.” 

Ron’s two-seat AMX two-seater is equipped with five-spoke American Racing aluminum wheels and BFG Radial T/A rubber. The hood has aggressive scoops, and the side sills are decorated with faux exhaust piping, while the growl from the 360-cid V-8 underhood trumpets out the back.

Dave Remus, a proud Hagerty member for 20 years, loves his 1965 Mercury Comet Caliente. We love the fact that a version of the 302-cid Ford V-8 that came from the factory remains loud and proud under the hood. As Remus explained it: “A quarter-inch stroke and a 0.030-inch over-bore have raised the displacement to 331 cubic inches. I’m guessing it makes at least 450 hp in its current state of tune.”

There’s a fresh C4 automatic transmission under the floor to make best use of the small-block’s 6500-rpm redline. Except for additional instruments and fresh carpeting, the interior is all original. According to Remus, the cheater slicks fitted to the rear axle are street legal.

Belleville MI Car Show
Don Sherman

Dawn and Jeff King brought their 2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible to Monday night’s gathering. It looks brand new and has been well cared for during each and every one of the 17,000 miles on its odometer. A turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine drives the front wheels. The factory Linen Gold Pearl paint job and stock chromed nine-spoke wheels are to die for.

Belleville has done a fantastic job making its prime downtown streets an ideal place to enjoy a major chunk of what makes small-town summers so great. While my suggestion that adding a side street for sanctioned smokey burnouts has thus far been ignored, there’s always hope in this special corner of Michigan.


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    The alligators on top of buildings in Belleville grow especially large, too, I see. Neat little town and some very cool rides out there!

    The article states that vehicles are restricted to classics, customs, hot rods, homebuilts and the occasional motorcycle. It then goes on to say there were two Tesla Cybertrucks. How do they fit in? I get disappointed when I go to a classic car rollin and I see a bunch of newer Corvettes, Camaros, Mustangs etc. taking up a lot of the prime parking spots. In what definition are they classics?

    In the story of the 1970 AMX, my dads name was Keith Goodnough. He was Lead Stylist on the AMX3 project. If you can get a June 1970 Motor Trend Magazine you will find an article on the AMX3 inside. Kevin, I agree totally, anything under 25 years old should stay home.

    Vey nice! I like the Comet and AMX the best, but they’re all cool in their own right (except the brand new Teslas).

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