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Local gearheads muscle into Autorama

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published February 16, 2011

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TROY — For Troy resident and car guy Pierre Chrest, it’s not about the time or money he spends fixing up cars and motorcycles.

He’s worked on the champagne-colored 1963-1/2 Ford Galaxie Fastback he’ll show at Autorama on and off for eight years.

Chrest, 65, has worked on cars and motorcycles since the ‘60s.

“I like anything mechanical,” he said. “I like to mess around with stuff.”

He belongs to the Holy Cross Classic Cruisers Car Club based at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Warren, and his Galaxie can be seen in the Woodward Dream Cruise on YouTube.

He said it’s the last car he’ll work on, and it’s special to him because his wife, Shari, now deceased, liked it.

“I may do another bike, but no more cars,” he said.

He said he loves Autorama because it’s a chance to see the workmanship that goes into the rods.

“When somebody builds something nice, you have to appreciate it,” he said.

Troy resident Jimmy O’Connell agrees. He will show his metallic-green 1971 Olds Cutlass Supreme 442 convertible at the show.

“Autorama is a great show,” O’Connell said. “It’s the longest-running hot rod show in America. People come from all over the country. The biggest names in car design show their cars. It’s a great opportunity we have here in Detroit to show cars off.”

O’Connell, 54, and his son Tim started work on the car in 2002, finished it in 2003 and have been showing it ever since. O’Connell has worked on cars since he was 16. The convertible started its life as a Budget Rent-a-Car in Hawaii.

O’Connell explained that the body style and engine have never been altered, only the paint, which he said can appear to change from green to brown to red.

It’s one of the muscle cars manufactured in the “heyday of muscle cars, between ’68 and ’72.”

“The cars didn’t need much out of the factory to make them a race car,” he said. “That’s why I like a model that comes from that time.”

He belongs to the Motor City Rockets Oldsmobile Car Club of America and is a regular at cruise nights in the area, including Tuesday evenings at Kim’s Restaurant in Troy.

“There’s lots of custom cars in Troy,” he said.

The 59th annual Meguiars Autorama, presented by O’Reilly’s Auto Parts, will rev into Cobo Center in Detroit Feb. 25-27. Danny White, author of “The Last Rock ‘n Roll Show,” will be on hand. Andy Hillstrand of Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch,” Debby Ryan from Disney Channel’s “Suite Life on Deck,” Shawn Michaels from WWE Wrestling and hot rod legend Pete Chapouris are among the celebrities who will make special appearances at the show. The Twistin Tarantulas and the Swingin Demons will perform at the event.

Famous rods on display include KITT from “Knight Rider,” the “Starsky & Hutch” Torino, the General Lee from “The Dukes of Hazzard,” the sheriff’s car from “The Andy Griffith Show,” Ecto-1 from the “Ghostbusters,” the MonkeeMobile and the Green Hornet’s Black Beauty.

The cost is $18 for adults, $5 for children ages 6 to 12 and free for children younger than 5. Discount tickets are available at O’Reilly’s Auto Parts. For information, call (248) 373-1700 or visit www.autorama.com.

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