Attention Readers: We're Back
C&G Newspapers is pleased to have resumed publication. For the time being, our papers will publish on a biweekly basis as we work toward our return to weekly papers. In between issues, and anytime, continue to find local news on our website and look for us on Facebook and Twitter.
 Greg O’Connell’s 1965 Dodge Coronet adorns a street at dusk. He’s planning to bring the car to Autorama, which will be held Feb. 28-March 1 at the TCF Center, formerly Cobo Center.

Greg O’Connell’s 1965 Dodge Coronet adorns a street at dusk. He’s planning to bring the car to Autorama, which will be held Feb. 28-March 1 at the TCF Center, formerly Cobo Center.

Photo provided by Greg O’Connell


Fraser, Clinton Township car enthusiasts rev their engines

By: Kristyne E. Demske, Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published February 26, 2020

 O’Connell completed a two-year restoration of the vehicle.

O’Connell completed a two-year restoration of the vehicle.

Photo provided by Greg O’Connell

 This 1972 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, owned by Fraser resident Jeff Phillips, packs a punch. He’ll be showing it off at Autorama in Detroit.

This 1972 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, owned by Fraser resident Jeff Phillips, packs a punch. He’ll be showing it off at Autorama in Detroit.

Photo provided by Jeff Phillips

 Phillips grew up with an affinity for the Chrysler brand, and owns other models.

Phillips grew up with an affinity for the Chrysler brand, and owns other models.

Photo provided by Jeff Phillips

Advertisement

FRASER/CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Looking for movie stars, both human and vehicle?

With a chance to see the Ford GT40 and P330 Ferrari used in the Oscar-winning “Ford v Ferrari”; Cody Walker, from “Furious 7”; wrestling legend Ric Flair; and more than 800 of the best and most outrageous custom hot rods, cars, trucks and motorcycles from across the country and around the world, the 68th annual Meguiar’s Detroit Autorama has something for every enthusiast.

“We’ve been doing the show since 1953,” said Butch Patrico, the co-chair of Autorama for the past 30 years and president of the Michigan Hot Rod Association. “It’s one of the most prestigious hot rod and custom car shows in the country.”

This year, the show will highlight the most significant hot rods of the 20th century, a group of five vehicles that have never been seen together at one time on this side of the country: Ed “Big Daddy” Roth’s Outlaw and Beatnik Bandit, Tommy Ivo’s 1925 T Bucket, Bob McGee’s 1932 Ford Roadster, and Norm Grabowski’s Kookie T Bucket, which cruised into fame on the TV show “77 Sunset Strip.”

Jeff Phillips, 55, of Fraser, is a repeat Autorama attendee. This year, he will be showing off his bronze 1972 Chevrolet Monte Carlo.

It is basically a stock model with some internal work done, he said, but “you wouldn’t know” anything was modified.

The car’s history dates back to different owners and locations. It once belonged to an owner in Flushing, before it was sold about 30 years ago to a guy in Canton. Phillips bought it from the Canton owner and has owned it for about six months.

An injury forced him to relinquish his Harley Davidson-riding days, so he got help from friends and located this new ride. At press time, he said he hadn’t even driven it yet.

Cars are a lifestyle for him and the people he’s known throughout his life. A 1983 Warren Cousino High School graduate, he and his buddies are self-described “motor heads” who grew up in garages, cleaning cars and building motors.

“It’s a unique culture,” Phillips said. “(My friends are) all down-to-earth, hard-working people who share a common interest. It’s a lot of fun.”

He enjoys Autorama because it’s full of like-minded folks who can converse about similar interests. He also gets new ideas for projects or detailing, making things his own.

Greg O’Connell, 58, of Clinton Township, grew up with a father who owned a trucking company and did most of his business with Chrysler. He’s bringing his black 1965 Dodge Coronet to Autorama this year.

“That was always a body style — it was one of my favorite body styles,” said O’Connell, who owns numerous Chrysler models. “(It was) a one-year only car. … From a very young age, I always liked my Chryslers.”

Originally a white car, he modified the paint. He replaced the 440 motor with a 588 hemi, with a Hilborn fuel injection system. He spent two solid years completing a “nut and bolt” restoration.

Now, it has a custom interior, electronic custom digital gauges and LED lights all the way around — along with “Steelie” rears and American Racing front wheels.

The car, purchased in 2016 with the intention of making his own style of a 1963 Dodge 330, was purchased in Westland. It was, as he described, a California car at one point, but had made its rounds around the country.

He said Autorama is successful because of comradery and interaction, and in the winter car enthusiasts “get the itch for it.” For him, it’s not about getting a trophy, but about developing relationships with knowledgeable people in the industry.

“You learn from some of the experts out there,” O’Connell said. “I bring my car in because I like to compete with it and make my car better, make myself better. …There’s a story behind every car; it’s sometimes not about the car. It’s about the people who got the car.”

The 2020 Autorama will be held at the TCF Center, 1 Washington Blvd., noon-10 p.m. Feb. 28, 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Feb. 29 and 10 a.m.-7 p.m. March 1.

Tickets for the 2020 Detroit Autorama cost $21 for adults, $8 for children ages 6-12, and are free for children 5 and younger at the gate. Discount tickets are available at O’Reilly Auto Parts for $19 and $7. For more information, visit www.autorama.com or call (248) 373-1700.

Advertisement