Brandon Phillips’ blue 1965 Shelby Cobra replica and Nick Arnone’s metallic green 1992 Pontiac Firebird are classic cars that the two Sterling Heights residents and friends hoped to take to this year’s now-canceled Detroit Autorama.

Brandon Phillips’ blue 1965 Shelby Cobra replica and Nick Arnone’s metallic green 1992 Pontiac Firebird are classic cars that the two Sterling Heights residents and friends hoped to take to this year’s now-canceled Detroit Autorama.

Photo provided by Brandon Phillips


Classic car owners look ahead after COVID stalls Autorama

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published April 28, 2021

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STERLING HEIGHTS — Sterling Heights resident Brandon Phillips looked forward to presenting his Shelby Cobra at his first classic car event of the year at the end of April. It would’ve been his 2 1/2-year-old son’s first big car show. Plus, there’s the experience of hanging out with friends and simply seeing people.

But the prospects of a 2021 Detroit Autorama took a sharp U-turn when organizers canceled its April 30-May 2 run at Detroit’s TCF Center due to Michigan’s high COVID-19 caseloads.

Phillips said it didn’t surprise him that Autorama was canceled, though the lateness of the cancellation did.

“It’s only a week and a half away,” he said. “A lot of people put a lot into preparing to get ready. … It all just stinks, period. When I went five or six years ago, I had a blast. It was a great time, and I was looking forward to that again.”

Show organizers had originally said they planned to arrange aisles for social distancing and would require face masks, but on April 20, they announced their change of heart, adding that they look forward to presenting Autorama in 2022. In a statement, Autorama producer Peter Toundas said they wanted to bring back fun, not possibly endanger anyone’s health.

“We sense and comprehend the level of discomfort on everyone’s part in bringing a large quantity of people into TCF Center under these circumstances,” he said.

Phillips is not alone among local classic car enthusiasts eager to celebrate their passion. His friend, Sterling Heights resident Nick Arnone, owns a metallic green 1992 Pontiac Firebird, modified with a bit of after-market suspension work.

Arnone said he has used his time, since the pandemic and up until now, making some additional changes.

“Basically, we’re always looking to do something new to our cars,” he said. “Right now, I’m putting a six speed in it and trying to get it done in the next week.”

Arnone explained that he has been interested in cars as part of growing up in his family.

“My brother is into cars; my dad is into cars,” he explained. “My brother has a ’68 Camaro. We finished his car this year.”

Arnone said he had been looking forward to getting the car ready in time for Autorama, but since the show was canceled, it leaves people like him “more time to do stuff to our cars.” He added that he hopes to take his Firebird to Waterford Hills Road Racing in Clarkston for some track days.

Phillips, meanwhile, owns a 1965 Shelby Cobra replica that is blue with pearl white stripes. He explained some of the adjustments he made to the vehicle since he originally acquired it around 13 years ago.

“Just souping up the motor, trans, rear end, brakes and suspension — keeping it kind of close to the original theme of the car, because the car is already cool to begin with,” he said.

While he has continued to customize the Cobra throughout 2020 and beyond, he explained that the COVID-19-related disruptions have challenged him in one particular way: “It takes forever to get parts.” But despite the pandemic, he said he still took the car to some outdoor summer car shows and went cruising last year while wearing masks and taking other precautions.

Learn more about Detroit Autorama by visiting Autorama.com.

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