By Dan Brochstein
Each Spring, the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology honors the best and brightest automotive designers the U.S. has to offer with its Eyes On Design car show. Two hundred cars are judged by current and retired automotive designers at the invitation-only event, and members of the design community are inducted into the group’s Hall of Fame. This year Chris Bangle was named the 2012 Lifetime Achievement award winner, while Ed Welburn, V.P. of Global Design at GM, acted as the Honorary Chairman.
Two cars in particular caught my eye. First, was the 1966 Ford GT40 owned by Jim Kinsler of fuel injection system fame. Only the red exterior of this car has had any attention; the interior is as it was, and all the better for its originality. This is in stark contrast to the Superformance GT40 recreation sitting nearby. With its full roll cage, blue-and-orange livery, and an anal-retentive attention to detail, the Superformance drew the most attention. However, the knowledgeable members of the crowd found themselves drawn to the patina, period correctness and authenticity of Kinsler’s original. Oh, and Kinsler drives his car whenever possible. The Editor has spotted it a number of times on Michigan's roads, usually in fleeting glances.
The second car of note was a 1954 Ford Monte Carlo bodied by the French firm, Facel. Owner Howard (Buck) Drayton Mook II, a retired Ford designer, is the fourth owner of the car which he bought in 1967 from another Ford designer. “In the late ‘40’s, after the war, Henry Ford II sent a few Ford chassis to Italy, one of which went to Pininfarina,” he says. “Well, the Italian school of design that he liked so much didn’t go over well back in Dearborn — not enough flash and chrome.”
Fast forward a few years, and Ford of France, in search of a unique coupe for its lineup, contracted with Facel to build a vehicle similar to the Pininfarina design HF II liked so much. Introduced in 1951 as the Ford Comette, its name was changed in 1954 to Monet Carlo. The flathead V8-powered coupe is compact and very pretty, and was once owned by a famous Ford, Henry Ford II, though he didn’t keep the car for long. “By that time,” says Buck, “the then-new Lincoln model had overhead valve V8s and… well, Henry was a big guy.” Enough said.
Buck, who stored the car in his mother’s garage during his tour of duty in Vietnam, wanted the car ready to show at Ford’s centennial celebration in 2003. However, the restoration took longer than anticipated — seven years. Bowling ball-sized rust holes were discovered when the insulation was removed, and the exterior beltline was rotted. With no replacement body panels available, he turned to craftsmen experienced with an English wheel to hand-craft the parts. Their work is superb, and so is the rest of the car