The Detroit area is fortunate to host—under normal circumstances—two top-shelf car shows every year. There’s the Concours of America, one of the premier car events in the United States, which is held in late summer and ranks alongside the concours of Amelia Island and Pebble Beach. A few weeks earlier (typically on every Father’s Day), the car design community puts on the EyesOn Design show (EOD), benefitting the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology. Because the cars on display are judged on styling, not on 100-point perfection, and because the show is very much an insider event, EOD is a particularly special car show and boasts vehicles that you’re not likely to see at a more formal concours d’elegance. The location adds to the show’s mystique; it’s held at the Eleanor and Edsel Ford estate, just north of Grosse Pointe, Michigan, on the shore of Lake St. Clair.
Attending EOD is family tradition for many who live in or near the Motor City. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual Father’s Day car show was suspended until next year. However, the show’s organizers were determined to find a health-conscious solution to commemorate the occasion, and so the EyesOn Design Sunday Drive was born.
Local enthusiasts submitted their cars and trucks and about 200 were selected to drive onto the estate grounds and up the driveway to the Ford house, a Tudor mansion built by Henry Ford’s son and daughter-in-law in 1927 packed with authentic artifacts brought over the sea from England. While most of the cars were in show condition, the event parameter required them to be operable (though I suspect some of the cars may have first been trailered to nearby parking lots).
However, this one-owner, original-condition 1969 Shelby GT500 Mustang driven by the same guy who bought it new was no trailer queen. The car had just enough patina to witness to its unrestored condition, but apart from burning a little oil, it was in beautiful shape. It would be an automotive crime to restore it beyond installing a new set of piston rings.
The cars (and one pickup truck) ran the gamut of the automotive world—domestic and foreign, vintage and modern. The oldest car that I can recall was a 1916 Ford Model T, while the newest was a shiny black 2020 C8 Corvette. Someone on the selection committee must have liked red Thunderbirds, though, since there were crimson T-Birds in a variety of vintages.
Serendipitously, I was able to grab a photo of two of the most reviled cars ever made, an Edsel and an AMC Pacer, passing each other on the long drive next to the lagoon adjacent to Gaukler Point, the estate’s location.
As the cars circled the drive in front of the house, they were reviewed by a judging panel of leading automotive designers that included Ralph Gilles from FCA, Mike Simcoe of GM, Joel Piaskowski of Ford, Larry Erickson of Magna, and Glen Durmisevich, Design and Theme Director for EyesOn Design.
Face masks were required for staff, volunteers, and media, and cute lawn signs encouraged social distancing, but the only people that I saw getting out of their car was a family whose early Mustang started to overheat, which they pushed to a side lot. Some drivers, passengers, and even one 1926 Model T Coupe wore face masks.
The criteria for judging was a bit different than those at a typical EOD show, with the judges tasked with selecting the 16 “most interesting” vehicles. Those 15 cars and one truck are now listed at the EyesOn Design website, where the public can select one winning vehicle that will be honored at next year’s show. It’s hard to argue with the semifinalists, but I am surprised that the bright yellow Reliant Scimitar didn’t strike the judges as interesting enough. How many Reliant Scimitars could there be in North America?
Most of the folks who brought their cars or trucks also brought along spouses, kids or grandkids, maintaining the family flavor of the annual Father’s Day event.
Hagerty was among a very small number of media outlets on hand to record the event. Since members of the general public could not attend the event on the estate grounds, we captured as many rides as possible below for your socially-distanced enjoyment. Let us know your favorite!