Detroit: “The D”

My flight landed a little after 5am.
The first thing I always do when I fly into DTW is go all the way down to Gate 78 for some Chic-Fil-A.
But they didn’t open until 6am…
I couldn’t wait until 6am!
I had places to be and things to do.
I picked up my bag, got my rental car and I drove straight up to where Woodward and Old Woodward meet.
I had heard “IT” was gonna be there.
Then, just before my flight, I saw Hagerty Insurance had posted a picture of “it” on Instagram.
“IT” was there!!!!
“It” is Camaro Number 1.
Built in May of 1966, it’s serial #100001 1967 Camaro.
It was sitting in a glass box in the middle of a strip of grass where Woodward and Old Woodward Avenue meet.
But when I got there it had a car cover on it and the glass box was all covered in morning dew.
There were two security guards on duty watching it.
They told me it wasn’t going to be uncovered until the press conference at 11am…
That was in four hours.
I couldn’t wait four hours.
I had to go see some friends at the Milford Proving Grounds.
When I drove up I wasn’t sure exactly where to go, so I pulled up next to a yellow ZO6 waiting in line and asked the guy if I was in the right area.
He pointed and told me to go into the parking lot over there.
Then I asked him what was up with his ZO6.
“It’s a 2018” He said.
“Well, it’s a 2016 chassis with some upgrades.”
“Like what kinda upgrades?” I asked.
“Sorry, but I can’t talk about future products.”
“You’re killing me!!! That’s MY line.”
He smiled and drove away.
After I checked in they put a long red sticker over both of the lenses on my iPhone so I couldn’t take any pictures.
Then my buddy picked me up at the reception area and led me away.
The first thing I saw, parked next to his old Silverado work truck was a ZL1 Camaro all covered in camouflage.
“What’s that?!?”
This was the first of many times he’d reply: “I don’t know what you’re talking about Jeff. I don’t see anything.”
The Milford Proving Grounds opened in 1924 and is the first dedicated automobile testing facility in the world.
It’s got hills, valleys, winding roads, straightaways and a hi-speed 4.5-mile circular test track that was closed for repaving.
It’s designed to develop vehicles so GM can make ‘em better and stronger.
They say that every mile driven at the MPG is the same as five miles in the real world.
I got to see the infamous “Black Lake” in person.
It’s officially called the VDTA = “Vehicle Dynamics Test Area” but it nicknamed “Black Lake.”
It’s a 67-acre pad of black asphalt.
As the story goes birds have been known to try to land on the “lake” of asphalt.
Milford was pretty awesome.
I saw some incredible things that day at the Milford Proving Grounds, but since my buddy likes it there and wants to keep his job, I can’t tell you anything about it.
The next day I got up early to go to the Lansing assembly plant where they build the new Camaros.
They were giving tours of the assembly plant where the new Generation Six Camaros are being built.
I had to go and check it out.
On the bus ride over to the plant they told us we’d be on the “honor system.”
We were to keep our cell-phones in our pockets and there were no pictures allowed.
When we walked into the assembly plant it was at the point in the build process just after the bodies had been painted.
The Camaro bodies get painted upstairs before they’re brought down on a conveyor.
The doors are removed so the assembly-line workers can have full access to the interiors.
I was amazed at it all.
I learned that the dash goes in in one piece.
The convertible top is attached to the car and then plugged in and tested to make sure it works before it continues its way on down the assembly line.
I stood there and watched in awe how a real state-of-the-art assembly line works.
And I got to see some new Camaros being born.
I saw ‘em getting started and move under their own power for the very first time!
It was pretty cool.
After the assembly plant I went back over to the parking lot where they were having a celebration of the Camaro.
I said hi to the Camaro’s Chief Vehicle Engineer – Al Oppenheiser – who won’t lend me his keys anymore.
I hung out with Adam Barry while he was talking to a couple who drove all the way out from Colorado Springs in their Gen5 ZL1.
And I ran into Kristen Lingenfelter, who recognized me from the Hot Rod Power Tour.
I told her I had just talked to her husband Ken on the phone.
He had invited me to come over and see his car collection and I was about to be on my way.
The Lingenfelter Collection is off the beaten path in an industrial area.
But man oh man does he have some heavy metal!!
As I walked in I was greeted by a row of red Ferraris.
…an FF, F12, 288 GTO, F-40, Enzo and finally a La Ferrari.
Across from the Ferraris were more exotics: a Bugatti Veyron, Lamborghini Reventon, and a Ford GT.
Lingenfelter is known for Corvettes, and he didn’t disappoint.
The Lingenfelter Collection is rife with Corvettes of every generation.
There was a 1953 Corvette – serial #24 of the original 300 and it’s got a McCulloch Supercharger under the hood.
One of Two built, and the only one known to exist today.
Check out the “Supercharged” script just above the Corvette emblem.
The 1954 Duntov “Test Mule.”
It’s the first Corvette to be powered by a small-block V8.
It’s the Corvette that Smokey Yunick drove to 163mph at GM’s Arizona Proving Grounds in 1955!
…And it’s still got Smokey’s helmet in the passenger seat.
So Cool.
So many Corvettes.
First Gen’s.
Second Gen’s.
Third Gen’s
So many Corvettes…
So little time.
And then the Calloways…
Supercharged Calloways.
Turbocharged Calloways.
Calloway Speedsters.
Calloway Roadsters.
I’ve never seen so many Calloway Corvettes together in one place in my whole life.
And it’s not just exotics and GM cars – Ken is a car-guy in the truest sense.
He’s got some sweet hot rod wagons
…and even a nasty little AMC Gremlin with a factory 401 under the hood.
Ken is a super nice guy and a gracious host.
After touring his collection, he invited me to see his shop where they work their magic and build the cars.
But I couldn’t…
I had planned to pick up my buddy CB at the airport and take him over to the M1 Concourse for Roadkill Nights.
They were shutting down a section of Woodward Avenue for the first time ever…
For drag racing!!!!
CB and I showed up and ran into our buddy Mike Copeland and his lovely wife.
Mike is the genius behind Diversified Creations.
He’s the guy that built General Mayhem for the Roadkill drag race against Gas Monkey Garage for the Discovery show “Fast ‘n Loud.”
Mike brought out his 1974 Maverick to drag race.
It was the 4th car he ever owned.
He drove it home from the dealer and immediately tore it apart to make it into a hot rod.
A hot rod Maverick – that’s the kinda guy Mike is.
After he got married, in 1976, he sold it because he couldn’t afford the payment.
It had 2500 miles on it…
35 years later he saw it on Craigslist and snatched back it up.
It only had 4900 miles on it when he bought it back.
Once back in the family Mike dropped in a 408 Cleveland with a dual-quads on a hi-rise tunnel ram intake and he redid the entire thing with the exception of some very special welds on the inside of the engine compartment.
Back when Mike was hot rodding the car his father welded the shock tower plates so they could install the headers.
His father welded ‘em up with a torch and coat-hanger and Mike left the welds there in honor of his father.
Pretty cool, huh.
thumb_img_1114_1024CB had to stick around for a production meeting, so I went back to the hotel.
When I drove into the parking lot I saw a car all jacked up with parts laying everywhere underneath it and two guys laying under it working.
I walked by and said: “Because Roadkill.”
And Frieburger and Finnegan popped their head out from under the car and said: “Hi Jeff.”
I had no idea it was them.
They were actually thrashing to get the car ready for the drag race the next day.
The next day it took us over an hour to get into the M1 Concourse.
They had shut down Woodward Avenue and there was no real way around it.
CB and I finally made it in after the Police took pity on us and opened up a special lane for us to get in.
Roadkill Nights drag racing on Woodward was the things dreams are made of.
They shut down Woodward Avenue for the first time ever and there were hundreds of cars waiting to tear it up down the eighth-mile.
While CB was working I made my way into the Dodge hospitality trailer to enjoy a little air conditioning.
I was standing at a table watching the drag races on one of the TV’s they had set up, when walks the Gas monkey himself: Richard Rawlings.
He was a super nice guy.
After watching cars drag racing, watching cars drifting, seeing all the cars parked on display and seeing some friends, I was exhausted.
And I was working the Woodward Dream Cruise for Chevrolet early the next morning so I said my goodbyes to CB and I was off.
I’ll tell you all about Woodward on my next installment.
So stay tuned.

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