All ‘EyesOn’ the big screen

Movie vehicles among the specialized autos to be shown during EyesOn Design car show

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published June 10, 2014

 The 1969 Dodge Charger from the “Dukes of Hazard” TV show, also known as the “General Lee,” will be on view for attendees of EyesOn Design.

The 1969 Dodge Charger from the “Dukes of Hazard” TV show, also known as the “General Lee,” will be on view for attendees of EyesOn Design.

Photo courtesy of the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology

GROSSE POINTE SHORES — The 27th annual EyesOn Design car show is getting a Hollywood makeover this year.

In keeping with this year’s theme, “Automotive Design’s Influence on Popular Culture,” the show will feature several vehicles made famous on screens big and small, including the Whoville family sedan from the 2000 film version of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” an exact replica of the 1968 Mustang from the Steve McQueen film  “Bullitt,” the 1966 Pontiac GTO from the TV series “The Monkees,” a customized Nissan 240 SX from 2009’s “Fast & Furious IV,” and the 1969 Dodge Charger from the “Dukes of Hazard” TV show, also known as the “General Lee.”

EyesOn Design will be held on the grounds of the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House from 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Father’s Day, June 15. The event is a fundraiser for the nonprofit Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology, a division of the Henry Ford Health System’s Department of Ophthalmology.

With about 268 cars and roughly 30 motorcycles expected, this will be “one of the largest car shows we’ve ever had,” said EyesOn Design Chair Bob Ashton, of Shelby Township. Ashton, who has been involved with this event for the last 11 years, was the co-chair last year and has served on the vehicle selection committee throughout his tenure. He said the event is casual and family-friendly, and attending it has become a Father’s Day tradition for many.

“There’s 300 car shows in the United States,” said Dr. Philip C. Hessburg, medical director of the DIO, which is based in Grosse Pointe Park. “We’re the only one that looks at a car show as a design event. So, the theme comes from the (automotive) designers themselves. They know that it’s their show, and they take great pride in that.”

As a result, attendees will see everything from concept cars to classic vehicles.

“We’re interested in the automobile as an object of sculptural beauty that you enjoy with your eyes,” Hessburg said. “We are an international celebration of automotive design of the past, present and future.”

Also making EyesOn Design unique is the fact that there are no stanchions or other barriers between the vehicles and attendees, giving them a chance to take photos and see everything up close, Ashton said. Engineers, designers and owners will be present to talk about the vehicles, and he said they welcome questions from visitors. It’s not uncommon to see top automotive executives milling about, as well, Ashton said.

“It gives anybody an opportunity to rub elbows with the real movers and shakers from the automotive industry,” he said.

Hollywood isn’t the only recipient of the 2014 spotlight. EyesOn Design will also honor the 100th anniversary of Dodge and Maserati, the 50th anniversary of the Pontiac GTO and the Ford Mustang, the 50th anniversary of the 1964 New York World’s Fair and the long history of Indian Motorcycles, a company founded as a bicycle manufacturer in 1897. Vehicles will be coming from as far as California and Arizona, Ashton said. He said this year’s lineup “is probably one of the most diverse” they’ve ever had.

“I think it’s going to be our best ever,” Hessburg said. “I see the excitement of the people on the committee over (what will be on display).”

Tuners, military vehicles, stock production models, luxury coupes and many other vehicle categories will be shown, as well. A panel of blind judges — known as the Visionaries — are called on to judge a category of vehicles by touch, an event that attendees are welcome to see when it takes place around 10-11 a.m.

“Almost all of the time, they will come up with the same cars as our sighted judges for best of show,” Ashton said.

Besides vehicles, Ashton said there will be a tent with activities for kids, performances by The Jug Band, and souvenir memorabilia for sale from this year’s EyesOn Design and remaining inventory from prior years.

“There’ll be some neat collectibles for the enthusiasts out there that we’ll be offering at good prices,” he said.

In addition, Ashton said California artist Nicola Wood — who designed this year’s poster, featuring a 1936 Cadillac V16 aerodynamic coupe fastback — will be on hand signing copies of the poster for those who want to purchase one.

And the Ford House will be open for tours during EyesOn Design, although admission to house tours is separate from car show admission.

For auto enthusiasts, EyesOn Design has become an annual must-attend, but there’s more to this car show than remarkable vehicles. The DIO offers programs and services for the blind and visually impaired throughout the metro Detroit area, and each year, the DIO hosts an international congress dealing with vision, alternating between the topics of artificial vision — “The Eye and the Chip” — and the connection among the eye, the brain and automobiles. This September will mark the eighth “The Eye and the Chip” conference, Hessburg said.

“We want someday to enable blind people to recover vision,” he said.

It’s an idea that he said was spurred by the success of the cochlear implant in restoring hearing for the deaf.

“Collaboration accelerates progress,” Hessburg said. “We have brought together over 35 of the leading authorities on artificial vision from over 11 different countries.”

These academics and researchers wouldn’t normally have the funds to travel to an event like this to interact with and learn from their colleagues, he said. The congresses facilitate dialogue and joint efforts.

“What we have done is (helped) very diverse groups of people work together,” Hessburg said. “And that’s what both of the congresses are about.”

In less than two decades, “The Eye and the Chip” has led to the development of a device that gives someone who’s blind very limited vision. Hessburg said this device is rudimentary, but it has gotten approval from the FDA to be implanted in some patients on humanitarian grounds, and several dozen individuals in the United States have received these devices.

“With this device, some of these people are experiencing some life-changing advances,” said Hessburg, citing a woman who can now see the difference between a dark sofa and a light-colored rug, giving her greater mobility and freedom. “There is every promise that as these devices become more sophisticated, the level of visual performance will improve. … All over the world, better devices are (already) on the way.”

These developments are better than Hessburg imagined when he organized the first congress.

“I think it’s faster than I expected,” he said. “I think we’re further along in a decade and a half than I expected it to be when we started this work at the Institute. A lot of people (back then) thought we were a little bit cuckoo.”

It costs more than $100,000 to put on one of these congresses, including bringing in and housing the researchers, and Hessburg said EyesOn Design “helps pay for that.” The congresses are recorded so that the sessions — as well as the question-and-answer periods — can be shared with others, too.

He said EyesOn Design generally raises more than $100,000 annually, which goes toward the DIO and the congresses.

“By coming to the car show, they are helping to eventually cure blindness,” Hessburg said of attendees. “It isn’t just a car show — it’s got a purpose.”

About 5,000 visitors attend each year, on average, but Hessburg said the spacious, scenic Ford House grounds could easily accommodate twice that number.

“It is going to be a great show,” Hessburg said. “Anybody who loves cars and wants to support (these efforts) should come.”

EyesOn Design takes place rain or shine. The Ford House is located at 1100 Lake Shore, between Vernier and Nine Mile roads. Admission to EyesOn Design is $20 per person, and it is free for children ages 12 and younger accompanied by an adult. Admission is also free for active duty military personnel with identification. There is a brunch on the grounds, for which reservations are required. The cost for the Private Eyes Brunch is $75 for adults, $25 for children ages 12 and younger. For reservations or more information, call the DIO at (313) 824-4710 or visit