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Locals gear up for Autorama

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published February 17, 2012

 Jeff Lonskey of St. Clair Shores will bring this black 1961 Corvette to the 2012 Detroit Autorama in memory of his late wife, Nancy.

Jeff Lonskey of St. Clair Shores will bring this black 1961 Corvette to the 2012 Detroit Autorama in memory of his late wife, Nancy.

Photo provided by Jeff Lonskey

It’s a love of all things cars that drives them to work for hours to improve and restore classic vehicles.

And it’s that love that draws spectators from near and far to check out Meguiar’s Detroit Autorama, “America’s Greatest Hot Rod Show.” This is the 60th anniversary of the annual event, which will be held Feb. 24-26 at Cobo Center in Detroit.

The more than 1,000 exhibits of hot rods, custom cars, trucks, vans and motorcycles include those improved by St. Clair Shores gearheads like Jeff Lonskey.

Lonskey decided to bring his black 1961 Chevrolet Corvette Roadster to the 2012 Autorama as a tribute to his late wife, Nancy, whom he was married to for 40 years.

“I had a car, a similar car, a 1960 Corvette, in the Autorama in 1967. Through the years, I’ve had many Corvettes, and I happened to come across a ’61. I bought this car in 2006,” he said.

Nancy Lonskey died two years ago, but she drove Corvettes throughout her life and was very involved in Lonskey’s work with classic cars.

“She was involved with me back in ’67 when I had my other Corvette,” he said. “One of the things she wanted me to do was make sure I finished that car. And I did. The car came out exceptionally nice, and people were bugging me to put it in the show, and I said, ‘Why not?’”

Brian Hansen of St. Clair Shores will have his 1997 Chevrolet Camaro Z28, a “tribute” Pace Car, at the show.

“I purchased the car at the Woodward Dream Cruise in 2001,” he said. “I fell off my chair when I saw them go by. I ran across Woodward.”

The car is the 30th anniversary edition of the Z28 Camaro, and all of those models were painted the same — white with orange stripes, just like that year’s pace car.

“It was actually the official Pace Car of the Brickyard 400 in 1996,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to buy one of them cars.”

General Motors still owns all three of the “official” Pace Cars for that year, but Hansen found decals on eBay and other accessories that have made his car a fine “tribute” to the vehicle.

He said he’s always dreamed of taking a car to Autorama, which he describes as a “nice long weekend with the buddies.”

“I’m excited,” he continued. “I put the car away in late October. I knew what was
coming.”

Autorama includes more than just cars, too. There will be celebrity appearances from people like Rey Mysterio of the WWE, Deena “The Blast” Nicole from “Jersey Shore” on MTV, and Zendaya Coleman — who plays Rockey Blue on “Shake It Up” on the Disney Channel.

But cars are the focus, and this year there will also be an array of hot rods and custom vehicles as part of the WRIF’s Kid Rock Collection, which include four vehicles owned by the Detroit rocker.

St. Clair Shores resident Eric Lafata will bring his 1940 Ford Coupe to the show, along with several other vehicles that have been restored by his business, Lafata Auto Body in Roseville.

“We do a lot of classic cars at our shop and just decided it’d be beneficial to bring a bunch of the cars that we’ve done and show them what we’ve done,” he said.

Lafata worked on the vehicle for three years. It was his father’s, but “he gave it to me last year (when) he was unable to drive.”

The coupe has been completely restored with a rebuilt motor and custom “viper red paint.”

“My dad’s always wanted to have a car in there, so I figured this year we’d kind of do it big,” said Lafata, who has been working on classic cars for about a decade. “It’s just the love of the sport, seeing them all done.”

Meguiar’s Detroit Autorama is open from noon to 10 p.m. Feb. 24, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Feb. 25 and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Feb. 26. Tickets are $18 for adults and $5 for children 6-12 years old. Children 5 years and younger are free. Discount tickets are available at O’Reilly Auto Parts stores.

For more information and times for celebrity appearances, visit www.autorama.com or call (248) 373-1700.