I can’t believe its January already.
That means it’s time for me to pack up my winter clothes and head out to the Motor City for the biggest auto show of the season – Detroit – The North American International Auto Show.
The Super Bowl of auto shows.
It’s in the Motor City…
It’s where auto manufacturers unveil their latest hardware.
And it’s where the public gets to see it all up close and in person.
If you don’t know…
It’s kind of a big deal.
Mercedes debuted its new E-Class.
Honda showed off it’s new Ridgeline.
Buick unveiled it’s Avista and it looks pretty sweet.
And Chevy introduced the all new Bolt EV.
There’s a whole lotta stuff going on here in D-Town.
But for me the NAIAS isn’t just about the cars.
It’s about reconnecting with friends…
And making new ones.
The first two days of the show are Press Days and I’m hanging out next to the new Hyper Blue Gen Six Camaro.
When I turn around, who do I see lurking behind me?
Al Oppenheiser – the Chief Vehicle Engineer for the Camaro, and he says: “Hi Jeff.”
I’m in shock.
Al knows my name.
The last time I saw him was in LA at a Camaro gathering just before the LA Auto Show.
After some chit chat he tells me he had his 2014 Z28 – serial number 001 – out over the weekend to get some exercise.
I asked him what he was up to next and he said he had to catch a flight that afternoon to Yuma, Arizona.
“What’re you doing in Yuma?”
“Testing.” He said with a wry smile.
His silence was deafening.
“1LE? Z28?? ZL1???” I pressed.
“Keep hope alive Jeff.” He responded as he was whisked away to do some interviews.
After chatting with Al it was time for lunch and I was planning to meet up with Jessi Combs.
Years ago at SEMA my buddy Billy-D introduced me to Jessi.
I knew of her from watching Xtreme 4×4 on Spike-TV.
And she’s super-hot.
Since I met her she’s gone big-time.
She’s hosting “The List – 1001 Car Things to do Before You Die.”
She’s scored a second place in-class finish in the Baja 1000.
And… She broke the women’s land speed record clocking in an official run of 398 mph – #fastestwomanonearth.
Yeah.. She’s pretty awesome.
I saw on Instagram that she was gonna be in Detroit during the Auto Show so I texted her…
She’s pretty busy so I didn’t expect a response.
But I got one.
It turns out she was gonna be hosting at AutoBlog.com the first couple days of the show.
As I was walking by to lunch, there she was up on the AutoBlog stage in all of her blonde glory.
She was busy working and she didn’t even see me.
Or so I thought.
I got some lunch and went back by the AutoBlog stage, but she was gone.
I texted her: “When’re you coming back?”
Her response: “Now.”
Moments later I see a flash of blonde hair all wrapped up in a scarf & winter jacket and I’m greeted by a huge hug.
She’s been super busy and I couldn’t be happier for her.
She tells me her goals for the next couple years, and lemme tell ya, they’re feats few men would ever attempt.
Let’s just say 2017 will be the 50th anniversary of the Baja 1000 and she wants to be Ivan “Ironaman” Stewart – the only person so far to win overall (including motorcycles) while driving a four wheel vehicle solo in the Baja 1000.
Yeah… She’s pretty awesome!
After lunch, back in the display, I went over to talk to a guy standing next to one of our cutaway engines.
When I asked what he was doing, he gave me a look like – Are you serious?
It turns out he’s part of GM CEO Mary Barra’s security.
He points to my left and she’s standing 15 feet away from us doing an interview.
I didn’t even notice…
I asked him if he thought it would be possible for me to get my picture taken with her.
He said: “She’s pretty cool. But you should go over and ask the woman with the red necklace. She’ll let you know if it’s possible.”
I thanked him and went over to introduce myself to the woman with the red necklace.
After telling her my story, she told me to hang tight and we’d get it done after she finished her interview.
When she was finished, the woman in the red necklace went over to Mary Barra, they said a few words and walked over to me.
She said hi, shook my hand and asked where I’d like to take a picture.
I suggested in front of the new 2016 Camaro.
It turns out she’s a big fan of the new Camaro.
After the picture she turned to me, shook my hand again and said: “I want to thank you for all that you do.”
I was shocked.
The CEO of General Motors was thanking me?!?
She’s a class act.
A little later I got a text from my buddy Dan Miller who’s a master interior guy.
He texted me telling me to check out the VLF Force 1.
What the heck is a VLF Force 1?
Dan told me it’s a partnership between Gilbert Villareal – a huge manufacturer, Bob Lutz – past GM CEO and Henrik Fisker – of Fisker Auto Design.
They got together and came up with the Force 1.
They’re building 50 cars at $300k with an 850hp Viper V10.
And Dan did the interior.
His text said to talk to Ray, Gabe, Gilbert or Henrik Fisker.
Yeah, sure, I’ll just go right up and ask for Henrik Fisker.
Come on Dan!
When I looked up VLF I discovered they’d be unveiling the Force 1 on Tuesday at 10:05am.
So the next morning I waited until about 11am to head over to check out the Force 1 unveiling.
I figured it wouldn’t be so crowded.
But I was wrong.
It was a mad-house.
The Force 1 looks like something Darth Vader should be driving.
It’s sinister in its bare metal silver.
I asked around and found Gabe.
I told him I was a friend of Dan Miller.
He said Dan’s a magician when it comes to car interiors, and Henrik wouldn’t have anyone else do the interior of the Force 1.
Now that’s high praise indeed!
The interior is beautiful.
Tan, brown suede and leather and it’s even got two built in bottle holders for Champagne.
Pretty slick Dan buddy!
When I got back from VLF I texted Elana Scherr – she’s a staff editor at Hot Rod Magazine.
I know her from reading Hot Rod Magazine the Hot Rod Power Tour.
She reached out to me after she saw my pictures of The Drive Home cars and asked if I had any behind the scenes stories and pictures I could share with her.
Heck yeah I did!
I emailed her a link to my blog about it and sent her a bunch of pictures to peruse.
Here’s a link to her story: http://www.hotrod.com/events/1601-what-were-looking-forward-to-at-the-2016-detroit-auto-show/
We ended up running into each other next to the Corvette ZO6 C7R edition.
She asked me if I had seen the cars from The Drive Home at the show.
And I was embarrassed to tell her that I hadn’t.
I had to track ‘em down and make sure they hadn’t been washed.
Elana had to get back to work.
So did I.
As I’m sitting in the Corvette ZO6 C7R Edition talking to someone, I see out of the corner of my eye someone walk past that looks like Corvette royalty.
I hopped out and yell: “Ken?”
He stopped, turned around and said: “Hi Jeff.”
It was Ken Lingenfelter of Lingenfelter Performance.
This is the guy who takes a new ZO6 and decides 650hp isn’t enough.
He has his performance wizards poke, prod and massage the ZO6’s LT4 to over 850hp.
He’s also got a massive collection of cars – Corvettes, Hot Rods and exotics like a Bugatti Veyron, Enzo & La Ferrari.
The guys got good taste.
He’s got a couple of his cars at The Robb Report display – a 67 427 Tri-Power Corvette formerly owned by Nicholas Cage and his VP of Operations – Mike Copeland’s daily driver – a blue ZO6 with over 850hp.
It was great catching up with him.
I’m looking forward to seeing him on the Hot Rod Power Tour in June.
He’s a super nice guy.
He even gave me his card with his personal cell-phone number on it and told me to call him when I wanted to check out his collection.
It was time for me to go home, I was exhausted, but I had still had to look for the LeMay cars.
Elana said they were in the media center, but I had to do some searching to find them.
I found the 57 Nomad hidden away, off to the side in the media center, almost like it was banished to the corner.
But it was still wearing its road-grime like a badge of honor, and that made me very happy.
The North American International Auto Show has been a whirlwind for me so far and it’s only been press and industry days.
I can’t wait to see how crazy it’s gonna get when it opens to the public.
I’ll be sure to keep you posted.