A 1958 Cadillac Fleetwood Sixty Special will be displayed along with other luxury vehicles from the 1950s and 1960s during EyesOn Design.

A 1958 Cadillac Fleetwood Sixty Special will be displayed along with other luxury vehicles from the 1950s and 1960s during EyesOn Design.

Photo provided by the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology

EyesOn Design to take attendees on international vehicle design journey

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published June 11, 2019

GROSSE POINTE SHORES — Before it became a famous men’s magazine, did you know that Playboy was actually Playboy Motor Corp.?

Cars from the failed automaker — which was in existence from 1947 to 1949 — are among the unique vehicles that will be on view during EyesOn Design, a car show that takes place on Father’s Day — June 16 — from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the grounds of the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores. Although the Playboy vehicle — designed to be a family’s second car — never took off, a company employee suggested the name to a young Hugh Hefner, and the rest, as they say, is history. Three Playboy cars will be shown for the first time in metro Detroit.

The 32nd annual EyesOn Design is a fundraiser for the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology, a Grosse Pointe Park-based nonprofit. Organizers say attendees will see an estimated 200 to 300 vehicles that reflect the theme of design around the world, a theme also captured in artist Jim Dietz’s 2019 poster.

Vehicles will include luxury models from the 1950s and 1960s, such as the 1959 Jaguar Mark IX and the 1958 Cadillac Fleetwood Sixty Special, and exotic international sports cars from the 1970s and 1980s, such as the 1974 Lamborghini Espada and the 1979 Lotus Esprit S2.

And the vehicles aren’t limited to cars. EyesOn Design Chair Kathy Lightbody said there will also be “Gentleman’s Racers, these beautiful wooden boats.”

There will even be a vintage ice cream truck that was discovered abandoned in a field and was restored, Lightbody said. She said the truck’s owner now travels to events and hands out ice cream. While supplies last, Lightbody said EyesOn Design attendees will be able to get complimentary ice cream from the truck.

“(EyesOn Design) is uniquely wrapped around the design of vehicles rather than the provenance or who owned the vehicle before or how well it’s been restored,” said Dr. Philip C. Hessburg, medical director of the DIO and senior staff ophthalmologist in the Henry Ford Health System Department of Ophthalmology.

The emphasis on design, and the fact that all of the judges are vehicle designers, make this car show different from others, he said. It has also “become one of the most important car shows in the United States,” said Hessburg, noting that USA Today has ranked it in the top five car shows in the country and the top car show in Michigan.

“I think most people in Grosse Pointe don’t really realize how important it’s become,” he said. “It’s much better known internationally than it’s known (locally).”

Lightbody said this year’s show will demonstrate the “universality of design and how one country’s design influences another,” with vehicles from different countries from a single model year displayed opposite one another “so people can see the similarities and differences.”

Attendees can get close to the vehicles — which aren’t roped off, unlike many other car shows — and hear stories from the owners.

An optional brunch during EyesOn Design will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 16, at a cost of $85 per adult and $25 per child younger than 12. Brunch tickets include admission to EyesOn Design. Hessburg said tickets were still available at press time.

There will be activities for children — including a chance to create a travel journal in a booth set up by the Detroit Institute of Arts. Attendees will receive a free color program with photos of most of the vehicles on display.

Prior to EyesOn Design, former Ferrari designer Leonardo Fioravanti will be honored with the 2019 Lifetime Design Achievement Award during a black-tie dinner from 6:30 to 11 p.m. June 14 in the ballroom of the MGM Grand Detroit, 777 Third Street. This event is open to the public, and at press time, tickets — at $195 per person — were still available.

EyesOn Design supports worthy endeavors. The DIO — the research arm of Henry Ford Health System’s Department of Ophthalmology — provides assistance, devices and programs to the blind and visually impaired in southeast Michigan, and conducts international research congresses. The research congresses, which have brought leading scientists from around the world together to brainstorm and collaborate, have made strides in recent years in the area of artificial vision, which could one day restore sight to the blind.

The DIO runs “the largest support groups in the United States for people who are blind or going blind,” Hessburg said. “Just like support groups for people with breast cancer, these are very important.”

Conducted over the last 20 years, the annual research congresses — The Eye and The Chip, about artificial vision, and The Eye, The Brain and The Auto — take place on alternate years. The rise of autonomous vehicles in recent years can be traced, at least in part, to the latter congress.

“It’s the most important congress in the Henry Ford Health System, and the car show plays a very important role in supporting that,” Hessburg said.

The Edsel and Eleanor Ford House is located at 1100 Lake Shore Road in Grosse Pointe Shores, between Vernier and Nine Mile roads. For tickets to the brunch or the black-tie dinner, call the DIO at (313) 824-4710 or email JDARA1@hfhs.org. Admission to the car show is available at the door and costs $25 for adults and is free for children ages 12 and younger when accompanied by an adult; active-duty military members with identification will be admitted for free.

For more information, visit www.eyesondesign.org.