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 More than 10 classic cars were parked on Jeff Betz’s driveway and front lawn, as well as some of his own in his garage.

More than 10 classic cars were parked on Jeff Betz’s driveway and front lawn, as well as some of his own in his garage.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Gearheads galvanize for summer’s first ‘garage night’ in Clinton Township

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published July 6, 2020

 Doug Krause, of Clinton Township, checks out a 1963 Dodge 330 June 18 at the home of his neighbor, Jeff Betz

Doug Krause, of Clinton Township, checks out a 1963 Dodge 330 June 18 at the home of his neighbor, Jeff Betz

Photo by Deb Jacques

 James and Debbie Usis, of Rochester Hills, stand in front of their 1967 Dodge A100.

James and Debbie Usis, of Rochester Hills, stand in front of their 1967 Dodge A100.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP — One day in 2018, a group of individuals with similar interests and a sense of old or newfound camaraderie gathered to discuss a passion they all shared: cars.

On June 18, at the home of Clinton Township resident Jeff Betz, the year’s first “garage night” brought familiar faces back together among a dozen or so vehicles that took over Betz’s driveway and front lawn on Moravian Drive.

Nearly all the attendees live in the area. Some of them Betz has known for just a few months, others for as long as 20 years. He said it’s a casual hangout for people of the same ilk, and since he hosted the final event in 2019 he decided to throw the first one this year.

“I like the idea of a local guy. … We’re not big money, and we don’t know how to do everything perfect,” Betz said. “But between everyone sitting here, someone knows how to do something. We all trade favors.”

Betz’s garage is full of history, in the form of three classic cars that he has taken to the big Autorama event in the past. This past March he took his recently restored black 1957 Chevrolet Wagon. He also has a green 1969 Chevrolet Chevelle and a white 1985 Chevrolet Corvette.

Betz, who worked as a powertrain engineer for five years at General Motors and 25 years at Chrysler, said his passion for automobiles began when he was young. He helped his father build and restore cars — notably Chevy models made between 1955-57 — when he was just 10 years old.

In his youth, when his friends were about town, Betz was “in the garage reading shop manuals, learning how things work.”

“Once you learn about a ‘56 Chevy, you know how they all work because they’re still the same, just a lot more electronic and a lot less mechanical and more diagnosis with computers,” he said.

Dan Lettshek has owned a red 1934 Roadster since 1996. He has known Betz a while, others he didn’t know at all. He and his wife, Elizabeth, also own a 1939 Chevrolet Master Deluxe Coupe.

They travel to shows annually, as local as Rochester and as far as Louisville, Kentucky. In between they attend shows in St. Ignace or Columbus, Ohio. Lettshek says he enjoys “looking at the cars. Car people are always nice.”

Greg O’Connell, of Clinton Township, met Betz at this year’s Autorama. He owns a black 1963 Dodge 330, which he’s had since about 2000. The vehicle, formerly on racetracks, had its aluminum front end removed but still has the 6-cylinder motor and other “goodies.”

O’Connell bought it around 2002 from a guy in Ohio, who he later found lives only five miles away in the Clinton Township area. The speedometer and odometer don’t work, but he estimates he put around 2,500 miles on it over all these years.

He has what he calls “a fleet” of 18 vehicles at his 18,000-square-foot building in Mount Clemens. It all started with a brand new 1993 Ford Mustang.

“It kept evolving,” he said. “Currently, I’m kind of at the end of this because I’m getting a little too old for it and I can’t keep up with it. Eighteen cars is just too many cars. I’m going to downsize, keep a few and hopefully one day retire and enjoy what these guys are doing and enjoy these kinds of things.”

While not being able to go to all the car shows this year due to cancellations related to COVID-19, he finds solace in being able to gather with like-minded individuals and talk shop — even if the conversations steer in other directions.

“I think cars are an excuse for people to get together, there’s some kind of common ground about a car. … The cars, after a while you leave those alone and don’t talk about it,” O’Connell said. “You start talking about your families, what you do for a living, where you’re going. So, it changes into a different friendship. The cars start it, but realistically, they’re on the backburner for the most part.

“That’s what it’s all about, or at least how I look at it. You get to meet a lot of nice people, and (see) a lot of nice cars and (get) a lot of ideas. And help, if you’ve got a problem with a car you can ask these guys and somebody will know somebody or something. And that’s cool.”

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