Eyes On Design 2018: Great cars, good cause

27 June 2018 | by Bill Barranco

The annual Father’s Day Eyes on Design show took place recently at the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores Michigan, and was a great success, both in terms of the quality of the vehicles and the funds raised.

The show benefits the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology (DIO) which is committed to assisting and educating the visually impaired, helping them to maintain independence and dignity, while learning how to live a satisfying and productive life in a sighted world. The elegant and illuminating trophies are composed of optical crystal of great purity with a very high index of refraction that help to illustrate the connection between vision and the appreciation of the beauty of exceptional vehicle design.

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Vehicles are judged and awards are presented, not on restoration quality or originality, but rather design impact and quality. Chief Show Judge Glen Durmisevich, also Chief Designer of Navistar International, is responsible for each of the EOD event’s themes as well as orchestrating and leading over 70 judges from design studios in Michigan, the US and internationally. He explained: “It is important to choose a theme that can include every category of vehicle, including trucks, military vehicles and motorcycles as well as production and concept cars.” This year’s theme was ‘Design Inspiration and Influences’. 

Over 20 different categories of vehicles were judged. Of those, perhaps the most famous category of the EOD fund raiser events is the Bridgestone Design Visionaries Award. Led by Brian Baker of Autoarcheology, a group of visually impaired and nearly blind participants literally ‘felt the design’ of the famous 1936 Stout Scarab. Obviously inspired from aircraft of the 1930s, even those without any vision impairment are consistently stunned by the presence, the stance and the design details of this rear-engined predecessor to ’80s minivan architecture.

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However, they ultimately presented their special award to the Art Deco-inspired design of the 1939 Bugatti Type 57C Stelvio, owned by Keith Crane.

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In the category ‘Jet Age: Tailfins and Afterburners’, was the famous 1959 Cadillac Cyclone Concept, as featured on this year’s event poster, and which was also an inspiration for the former GM Design Vice President Ed Welburn. Ed explained how this car was his first significant inspiration, and an influence on his decision to become a car designer. He explained how he was so impressed “by the lack of chrome, and embellishments and pure form expression of the car.”  He also explained that when he first saw the car at the 1959 New York auto show, the car had massive rear fins, that were later cut down “significantly” by Bill Mitchell after Harley Earl’s departure from GM Design.

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Other categories included ‘Outside the Box: Sculptural and Fuselage Forms’ which included a 1965 Pontiac Bonneville created under the leadership of Mitchell. Its rear deck and rear fuselage forms exaggerate the already massive length of 5654mm (222 inches).  

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In the category of ‘At Home and On the Road: Mid-Century Modernism’, the judges’ choice, by Teckla Rhoades and myself, seemed obvious when considering this 1962 Lincoln Continental owned by Gerald and Nancy Majeske since 1965. Their stories about the car, their life with it and their affection for it were fine examples of the many dedicated owners and participants in this annual fundraising event.

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A bit of history: Eyes on Design was originally conceived by Al Ricca, a board member of the DIO in 1987, then implemented and orchestrated by Merrie Lynn and her husband, former GM design executive Dick Ruzzin. Dick was able to bring the design leadership of Chuck Jordan (GM), Jack Telnack (Ford) and Tom Gale (Chrysler) together to form the first Board of Directors of the EOD. All of the success of the EOD shows, events and fundraisers since then should be credited to Dr. Philip C. Hessburg, MD, Medical Director of the DIO and long-time champion supporter of Detroit’s automotive design community. Sponsors of this years’ Father’s Day event included FCA, Calty Design Research, Bridgestone, Magna, Axalta, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan, Dassault Systemes and many others.

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