(02/25/11) - If you enjoy custom cars and hot rods, you'll find them this weekend at Autorama in Detroit.
It's a perfect place to promote Back to the Bricks in Flint, which attracts tens of thousands of cool cars to Saginaw Street every August.
As Karen Gatlin reports, one of the cars in the "Bricks" display at Autorama is making its public debut.
It's not been an easy process restoring this 1970 Buick GSX. Rewind to January 2010. That's the day the body came off the frame and we asked Roberta Vasilow if it would be ready for last year's Back to the Bricks.
"You betcha," Roberta said at that time
You know what they say about the best-laid plans - they often go astray.
The GSX didn't make it to the bricks in August 2010. As Steve Caruso of Caruso Performance and Restoration tackled the unexpected problems, a new scenario emerged.
"I wasn't expecting to put it in Autorama. It was not my goal. We expected to make a nice car out of it, a nice driver, something she could be proud of. But we didn't quite expect to go the Autorama route. Then it started getting nicer and nicer," Caruso said.
So Autorama became the new deadline. The front fender would be one of the last parts to go on, until Steve discovered it didn't fit. Just days before the car was due at Cobo Center, the fender was off for an adjustment.
"What they had to do was cut it here and spread it out a little bit and reweld it. You can feel the weld underneath. But whenever you do anything to it, you have to rechrome it. So you have to strip all the old chrome off, go through the dipping process and buffing process. These guys really worked a miracle for us to get it this fast. I had zero hope that they were going to do it," Caruso said.
This Flint-built Buick GSX is the 14th of 678 that came off the line in 1970.
When Roberta bought this car 15 years ago, it looked nothing like it does now. "The hood was painted all black across. It didn't have the yellow and red in the middle. And the stripe was wrong. The stripe was cut off and went all the way to the end of the fender. I believe the car had been crashed," Vasilow pointed out.
Ask her what she likes best, and Roberta mentions not only the stripes. "The first time I saw the air cleaner this morning, I went 'wow.' That just sets off the engine compartment even more than it already was."
The chrome is just awesome.
The tires are reproductions from original molds. The wheels are original, as are the center caps. They sorted through a box of 60 to find four good ones. The lug nuts are like the originals. The attention to detail is apparent as you walk around the car.
The car even has a 1970 plate. When Roberta spotted the letters GSX, she knew it was perfect.
When it comes to paint, they went through four different batches before they were able to match the original Saturn Yellow. "The big problem with the paint is there's no lead in the paint anymore, and that was where you got a lot of the different colors because of the lead. With no lead, it's very hard to get the color the way it used to be," Vasilow said.
This time, the car is done by the deadline and ready to join the Back to the Bricks display at Autorama.
How important is Autorama to promoting back to the bricks? "It's huge. We were there last year handing out cards to people with the advertisement, and the interesting thing is there's still people who don't know about it. So that's why we continue to do it. It's good exposure for Flint and it's good exposure now for Genesee County and all of Michigan," Vasilow said.
A caravan of Back to the Bricks supporters will tour the state of Michigan in June to promote the August event. The trip will be called the Michigan Mitten Tour, and you can join, whether or not you have a specialty car.
Registration details are on the Back to the Bricks website.
The August event continues to expand. There will be a "tune-up" week August 9-13, with car cruises in five different Genesee County communities.
That will be followed by the official Back to the Bricks event August 16-20.
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