Clinton Township resident John Marecki’s tuxedo black 1967 Chevrolet Chevelle shines in the outdoors.

Clinton Township resident John Marecki’s tuxedo black 1967 Chevrolet Chevelle shines in the outdoors.

Photo provided by John Marecki


Clinton Township well-represented at Autorama

By: Andy Kozlowski, Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published February 26, 2019

 Clinton Township resident J.R. Luksik’s highly modified 1982 Honda CBX motorcycle will be on display.

Clinton Township resident J.R. Luksik’s highly modified 1982 Honda CBX motorcycle will be on display.

Photo provided by J.R. Luksik

 Along with a 1957 Buick Special, Clinton Township couple Ken and Michelle Defer also have a camping display for their 18-foot-long 1953 Rodelite trailer.

Along with a 1957 Buick Special, Clinton Township couple Ken and Michelle Defer also have a camping display for their 18-foot-long 1953 Rodelite trailer.

Photo provided by Ken and Michelle Defer

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Classic cars and Clinton Township have become synonymous.

Just ask residents Ken and Michelle Defer, who own a two-tone 1957 Buick Special comprising a 1966 Buick 425 Nailhead motor, three carburetors and 1957 Packard taillights.

Ken said he was 19 when he first purchased, and then restored, the vehicle. When his son was born in 1985, the car became second fiddle. Three decades later, he is “re-restoring” it.

The husband and wife also own a 1953 Rodelite travel trailer, sizing up at 18 feet, 8 inches. It was built in Dearborn, has all-new wood and aluminum paneling, and is customized with wide white tires and tinted windows.

“It looks old, like a hot rod, but it’s been set up for modern camping,” Ken said, adding that the display will include tiki torches and artificial grass.

When he was a kid, his father took him to Autorama. Now, after years of working on other entrants’ vehicles, he and his son are going.

“It’s about time I do something for myself,” Ken said. “This car’s been sitting around forever, and I’m too busy doing everyone else’s cars but not mine. … It’s a father-son kind of thing. My father was around when I bought the car. My father has passed. Having a car to build with my son, especially that car, is pretty cool.”

Greg Csernai is another Clinton Township resident with an affinity for cars.

He owns a metallic blue 1967 Ford Mustang, which he purchased in California after he saw it in a field while he was in town for his grandfather’s funeral. He has owned the vehicle for 38 years, rebuilding the engine four years ago and switching to E85 for more power.

“I drive it all over the place,” said Csernai, who owns Great Lakes Customs in Mount Clemens.

He has been attending Autorama for decades, saying it’s a time when car owners unite due to their interests.

It’s not all cars, though, as evident by what Clinton Township resident J.R. Luksik is bringing to Cobo Center this year. He owns two Honda CBX motorcycles, which were only made between 1979 and 1982.

“We had the economic downturn and I had to sell off the expensive stuff and keep the bikes,” said Luksik, who works on cycles in his at-home garage. “It was a hobby and became a business. It’s actually fun for me to work on bikes.”

One is a black inline 6-cylinder cycle, of which he noted is kind of rare. It has six carburetors and six exhaust pipes — “an engineering marvel as far I’m concerned,” he said. The other is a highly customized bike, doused in viper red and built from the ground up.

A former Honda employee, it’s the only brand he works on because of construction and accessibility. He can still get parts from several nearby dealers. He has owned 11 of these 6-cylinder bikes and is currently in the process of building another one with modern turbo and sequential fuel injection technology.

“It’s the crowds, it’s the people, it’s the people appreciating what you do and want to talk about it,” he said on why he enjoys going back to the event annually. “The variety of cars we get to see — and as a judge, I enjoy looking at them when the public isn’t there, and I can get ideas for other projects.”

John Marecki, also a township resident, has owned a tuxedo black-colored 1967 Chevrolet Chevelle for nearly three years. After selling a 1972 Oldsmobile years ago, he found the Chevelle online and made the purchase in Goodrich.

Marecki, whose family has always identified with the car culture, said a lot of things were wrong with the Chevelle and that he had to “de-bug” it to “make it faster and more reliable.”

Some of the vehicle’s specs include a 369 engine block, a Turbo 350 transmission with a 2,800 stall converter, a 10-bolt Posi rear end, a Hellwig front sway bar, a black vinyl top and red vinyl interior.

Marecki, his wife and their 5-year-old son regularly travel in the car — especially on weekend nights on Woodward Avenue during the summer.

He said that during the early 1990s, his father was a regular at Autorama with his 1957 Chevy. There are old photos of the vehicle displayed in his garage, with Marecki saying, “It’s always been a dream of mine to get a car worthy of getting into Autorama.”

After putting in work described as “challenging, but fun,” 2019 marks Marecki’s first personal foray into the event.

“Just the different styles of cars — there’s everything from all originally restored muscle cars, to the most extreme radical hot rods,” he said. “There’s something for everyone there.”

 

So much to see
Rather than highlight industry trends, like the North American International Auto Show, Autorama focuses on vehicles no longer on the market.

The number of vehicles on hand is a spectacle.

“I think that the challenge to us, always, is to keep topping ourselves,” said Linda Ashley, spokesperson for Autorama.

There will be an exhibit featuring Carl Casper, renowned in the hot rod world, including one of his most iconic creations, the Batmobile from “Batman Returns,” as well as his famous “Young American” dragster, and the Empress — a custom 1951 Chevy that was his teenage car and won Best in Show at the first Autorama in the early ’60s. He will be at the show meeting fans and signing autographs for all three days.

There will be celebrity appearances by WWE superstar Seth Rollins 6-8 p.m. March 1; Tony Stewart, of NASCAR fame, noon-2 p.m. March 2; Dave Kindig, of Kindig It Designs and Velocity TV’s “Bitchin’ Rides,” 4-8 p.m. March 2; the Hanson Brothers, from the movie “Slap Shot,” 1-4 p.m. March 3; and Horny Mike and the Roadshow Rig, from the History Channel’s “Counting Cars,” all weekend.

This year’s event will also feature a new event called the Lowrider Invitational — a special exhibit of 14 low-rider vehicles.

“It’s one of the fastest-growing segments of the custom car enthusiast world, with cars from across the region,” Ashley said. “It’s really about the hydraulics of the car, how they go up and down. They shake; they often have murals on them; and they have huge batteries. The thrill of the builders is to be as creative as possible.”

While the low-riders won’t be running inside Cobo Center itself, they will be configured in different positions so guests can see how they operate, and there will be videos showing them in action.

“I just think what’s most exciting about Autorama is the creativity of everyone there, ranging from some of the most well-known builders in the country to Michiganders who are putting together, with their own heart and soul, these cars from their own garages. Each is a work of art, and nothing like you’d see in a normal car. I like to call it ‘Hot Wheels: Grown Up.’

“It’s just so much fun to see the cars up close and personal, and to talk to the builders who are so proud of their work,” Ashley said. “It’s a wonderful way to see there can be an artist in each of us, expressing ourselves — in this case, through cars.”

Show hours for Autorama are from noon to 10 p.m. Friday, March 1; from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, March 2; and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, March 3. Admission at the gate costs $21 for adults, $8 for children ages 6-12, and is free for children ages 5 and younger. Discount tickets are available at O’Reilly Auto Parts at a rate of $19 for adults and $7 for children ages 6-12.

For more information, visit autorama.com.

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