If it’s spring in Oakland County, it’s cruisin’ time.
When it comes to auto shows and festivals, few places compare to Southeast Michigan, whose central role in the rise of the four-wheeled wonder changed the world. Here, aficionados from across the county motor to local events in their vintage automobiles, travelling along stretches of road that are sacred to the classic car community.
A wide array of events fill the seasonal calendar. Over 20 car cruises and meetups — many of them weekly — offer enthusiasts of all stripes the opportunity to rev their engines.
Celia Domalewski, the event’s co-chair, sees the event as something for everybody.
“It’s a great day. It’s a great family outing. It’s a lesson in history. I look at someone who has a 1955 or a ’57 and I go: ‘oh my God, that car is 60 years old!’ It doesn’t quite seem like it’s been that many years, or it’s that old, because we’ve grown up with them,” she said.
The Festival of Cars is a two-day weekend event. It shares its space with the annual Heritage Days in the Rochester Municipal Park. The Saturday show is devoted to “rods and customs,” which the Lions Club defines as vehicles made before 1993. Saturday, vehicle modifications are both welcome and expected.
You’ll find Ted Reynolds there. A born hot-rodder, Reynolds has three classics of his own: a ’63 Chevy II, a ’67 Chevy II, and a ’78 Malibu.
“And one that will be a classic,” Reynolds added: referring to his 2002 Corvette. “I’m a Chevy guy.”
Reynolds’ love of cars old and new can be traced to the earliest days of his childhood.
“I think I was seven years old, sitting on my father’s lap. He was a backyard mechanic on the weekend. For people who knew him, if they had a problem with a car they’d come to him,” he said.
During his teenage years and early twenties, Reynolds lived behind the wheel of a souped up ’56 Chevrolet.
“I’m an old street racer…pretty much put myself through school by racing,” Reynolds said.
Although his racing days are behind him, working on his cars and sharing that passion with others delivers a thrill of its own.
“They have their hearts and souls in these things and it shows,” Reynolds said of his fellow enthusiasts. “Every once and awhile, your heart jumps when they start an engine up,” Domalewski added.
If the throaty roar of hot rod engines characterize the Saturday show, the muted putter of original three and four-cylinder engines characterize the Sunday show.
“On Sunday the cars are very gentlemanly and ladylike,” Domalewski said. “A car will pull up and I’ll wonder: ‘does he have his engine on?’ They’re so quiet. It’s a different kind of an atmosphere.”
To qualify for the Sunday show, cars must be in original or restored condition — free of customization. Many of the cars that arrive for the Sunday show are quite valuable, some even topping six-figures in estimated value or actual restoration costs.
To Domalewski and the Lions Club, the value of the Festival of Cars transcends the appraisal of any given vehicle. Over 100 local businesses come together to sponsor the event each year. Their support, in the form of donations and prize giveaways, benefit the Lions’ charitable giving campaign. The Leader Dogs for the Blind is among the Lions Club’s principal beneficiaries. Through donations raised at the Festival of Cars and by event sponsors, projects like the Leader Dogs’ Canine Development Center renovation effort can kick into high gear.
The 38th Annual Festival of Cars takes place Saturday, May 20 and Sunday, May 21 at the Rochester Municipal Park. Check out our full list of other car cruises and meetups in Oakland County to keep your engines revving all throughout the summer.
For more information about the Rochester Lions Club and the Festival of Cars, you can visit their website.