On June 17, car lovers felt nostalgic during the 24th annual Eastpointe Cruisin’ Gratiot. A special lane was set up for classic car cruisers to drive the avenue between Eight Mile and 10 Mile roads.

On June 17, car lovers felt nostalgic during the 24th annual Eastpointe Cruisin’ Gratiot. A special lane was set up for classic car cruisers to drive the avenue between Eight Mile and 10 Mile roads.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

Honk your horns for Eastpointe Cruisin’ Gratiot

By: Maria Allard | Roseville-Eastpointe Eastsider | Published June 23, 2023


EASTPOINTE — The golden age of the automobile drove into the city June 17 for the 24th annual Eastpointe Cruisin’ Gratiot.

Horns honked, spectators watched in delight and nostalgia surfaced as classic car owners cruised the avenue. Eastpointe Cruisin’ Gratiot officially kicked off at 1 p.m. with a VIP parade of local dignitaries, who rode around Gratiot Avenue in convertibles waving to the crowd.

This year’s grand marshal was the Eastpointe Public Safety Department. The official cruise began at 1:30 p.m. Cruisers could purchase a pass to ride in the special “cruise lane” closest to the median.

In the late morning, the opening ceremony was held in the Eastpointe High School parking lot, where there also was a car show. Classic, hot rod and muscle car owners brought their Dusters, Corvettes, Bel Airs, Mustangs, Trans Ams and more. Kids could get their faces painted, and Rick “Shifty” Gaines made his trademark balloon animals.

Laura Matte, of Clinton Township, was one of the VIP passengers. Her brother drove her around the avenue in a 1971 black Corvette Stingray convertible.

“(The car) has hit 35 (mph),” Matte said. “I know to hang on.”

Matte, a regular at local car shows, wore one of her signature poodle skirts. She finds them at local resale shops, online and at Screamers Costumes in Clinton Township. When she puts on one of her skirts, Matte feels “happy, sunshine, having fun, there are no problems.”

Because of her distinguished ’50s style, Matte is known as “Miss Poodle Skirt of Michigan.” She started attending car shows in the 1990s when her parents bought a 1962 Chevy Impala.

“I look forward to this,” she said. “The excitement, the people, the cars.”

Kay Dee, of Atlanta, Georgia, stopped by the car show with family members.

“My dad brought us out to look at the vehicles,” she said.

While the car show was smaller than the ones she’s used to in Atlanta, she still saw “some beauties. I’m very impressed.”

Twin brothers William and John Richardson, of Warren, brought their 1958 Chevy Biscayne to the car show. Also with them was John’s wife, Deborah Richardson.

“I got a key, and he’s got a key. We just had it painted in February,” John, 70, said of the  black-and-silver model. “We come here every year. It’s nostalgic.”

“The best thing is walking around and talking to people about their cars,” Deborah, 67, said. “I just talked to a guy about his Nova. That was nice.”

“I got this car way back in ’98. It came from Kansas and I picked it up in Bay City. This is the second year I’ve had it on the road. It’s only got 6,000 miles on it,” William said. “I rebuilt the engine. It was a 283 engine and now it’s a 327 engine.”

In his late teens, William owned a 1958 Biscayne.

“That was my first car,” said William, who purchased it from his Aunt Sally. “I got $50 from my mom and dad when I graduated from Warren Woods High School in 1970. I was a young kid and drove the heck out of it.”

John said the car always attracts attention from people.

“They’re all mostly friendly. Even the police will pull up and talk,” he said. “I like sitting on the passenger side while he’s driving. My official job is to wave when they wave to me.” 


‘I sold the car in 1967 to raise money for our wedding’
Wanted: A 1963 Pontiac Grand Prix to restore. Call Ron in Harper Woods.

That was just part of the classified advertisement Harper Woods resident Ron Andras placed in a local newspaper in 2005.

Andras was in luck.

“A guy called from Saginaw, Michigan. He saw my ad,” Andras said while attending the car show. “I didn’t know him.”

The caller had found the vehicle Andras was looking for; it was inside a barn. After paying $750 to have the car hauled via trailer to him, plus a $4,000 finder’s fee to the caller, the Grand Prix now belonged to Andras. This marks the second time Andras, who turns 81 in July, has owned a ’63 Pontiac Grand Prix.

“I had one back in 1965 when I was 23 years old,” Andras said. “I bought it at Burke Pontiac at Six Mile and Gratiot in Detroit. “My wife and I came from large families. I sold the car in 1967 to raise money for our wedding.”

When attending car shows, Andras is not interested in winning plaques or trophies.

“What I do enjoy are the conversations with people and how I found the car and restored it,” Andras said.

Clinton Township resident Lou Comaianni likes to restore cars. His latest project was a 1964 Ford Econoline van he brought to the EHS car show.

“I found it in New York online and had it shipped to Michigan,” he said of the mat-black-and-pearl-red van. “I D.J. on the side. I needed a vehicle that would be old school and retro, and that would carry a lot of equipment. I got a classic car and it’s functional.”

In honor of Michigan’s winter and summer seasons, the 60-year-old keeps a surfboard and a toboggan on the roof of the van.

“It gets a lot of looks. It’s been a lot of fun. I go to any car show I can get to,” Comaianni said. “It’s like a little school bus. It’s got a big steering wheel. You can make a U-turn on a dime.”

Comaianni is forever talking to other car owners when at cruises and shows.

“We exchange ideas on upgraded motors, wheels, tires, exhaust,” he said.

The EHS car show certainly brought back memories for the 1979 Osborn High School graduate.

“I grew up at Six Mile (Road) and Gratiot (Avenue),” Comaianni said. “We cruised looking for girls, going to eat. That’s what high school kids did.”