Vintage Motors News

Welcome to the Home Page of Vintage Motors USA,  a car club started in the state of Michigan in 2012. Here we see what we did in 2019.

The members of this club really enjoy cars & trucks made in the USA! These include antique, fully restored vehicles as well as modified/hot rods; custom vehicles; and "special interest" vehicles!

Our home page is intended to provide an ongoing chronicle of news, events, and other items of interest to members. In fact we encourage members and others to send items of potential interest to our WebMaster.

 

Note: We are updating the Classified Ads page in this website. To add something email our WebMaster.

 

Wheels Car Show Coming Soon!

Folks this car show organized by VM members and friends should be a lot of fun! Note there is no charge & free food!

 

 

DeWitt’s Shop Tour by Van Nazarian

When I visited DeWitt’s Radiator’s last Fall, I inquired about the possibility of Vintage Motors being invited in for a tour of the production facilities. The Office Manager, Milva Birckelbaw, said it would be possible sometime in early 2019. Contacting Tom DeWitt in early February, we set it up for Saturday, April 27th, allowing time for any members returning home to MI from Florida. I had no idea what DeWitt’s operations like, but I did know that DeWitt’s made a quality product here… in the USA. Today almost all radiators come from China… with issues.

Tom greeted us at the side entrance, welcoming a group of about 16  people, eager to learn about automotive radiators, and we spent about 20 minutes with introductions and general information.

 

 
Left: Tom DeWtt and the team from VMUSA! Right: Tom DeWitt explains the operation to us.

Tom started the official tour by giving us some of his background with cars, starting at age 17. It wasn’t until 1984, when he purchased a 1963 Corvette that his radiator career officially started . His Sting Ray had a radiator problem, and GM had stopped making the aluminum radiator for Corvettes.

Tom reached out to the Harrison Div. to learn all about the Corvette Aluminum radiator. Many, many phone calls and meetings later, Tom felt he could start making the Sting Ray radiator himself. Research provided knowledge of how it was done and the equipment needed to do it. Many iterations later Tom was on-his-way.

 

 
Left: Hand assembly operation. Right: The assembly "belt".

The Tour started by Tom showing a radiator core and the hand assembly operation that he had previously farmed out to Livernois Engineering. We moved along to an early machine designed to automate some of the tube manufacturing and core assembly. The critical part of the assembly is the “brazing” of the components to form the leak-free core. Tom then moved us along to a long machine with a conveyor belt the did many operations automatically. It was like a very long pizza oven. 

The basic core, banded to hold all the pieces in place, entered the “oven” at one end, where the product was cleaned, flux spread on the complete assembly and then “brazed” in an Argon cloud, as it moved along the belt. The completed core, ready for final assembly, exited at the end of the belt. By the way, Tom had purchased this “oven” before he had this building, so it was operating in his barn at home before moving it to this building.

The tour covered the manufacture of all the components, including the tubes and on to the final assembly. Tanks are robotically Tig welded to the cores. DeWitt’s also makes copper/brass radiators for classics, but the Corvette radiator is unique, with special manufacturing concerns.

 
A copper/brass radiator made by DeWitt's.

Testing for leaks goes through a special process, which exposes the smallest leak the eye cannot see. Tom explained problems with today’s radiators and his R&D in that area to solve current cooling problems. We watched a new machine being developed, automatically assemble a core, from a roll of strip aluminum.

The Tour lasted two hours, and everyone left with a new appreciation of the radiator, and what it does…

For more photos and a video of the event click here!

 

The 2019 Detroit Autorama

The Detroit Autorama is considered America's Greatest Hot Rod Show. It is a showcase of custom cars and hot rods held each year at Cobo Hall in Detroit. Typically 30-50,000 visitors attend the show which has over 500 displays (cars, equipment, etc.). This year the show ran from March 1 to March 3 and, with a student pass, I was able to attend early on Friday, March 1.
The first Detroit Autorama was held at the University of Detroit Memorial Building on January 31 and February 1, 1953. It featured only 40 cars, and was hosted by members of the recently created Michigan Hot Rod Association (MHRA). Subsequently, the Michigan State Fairgrounds Coliseum was home to Autorama from 1954 until the event was moved to Cobo Center in 1961. Throughout the 1980s and 90s, the Autorama continued to grow into one of the most prestigious car shows in the country.

 

 
Left: Ridler Award winner: Cadmad, based upon a 1959 Cadillac! Right: A beautifully restored 1958 Buick Caballero.

The show is promoted by Championship Auto Shows Incorporated (CASI) and hosted by the Michigan Hot Rod Association (MHRA). Autorama's "best in show" award is the Don Ridler Memorial Award, named after Don Ridler, a former Michigan State Football Player, Lawrence Tech Athletic Director, and Autorama's first promoter from 1956-1963. It was awarded for the first time at the 12th annual Autorama in 1964, and has been awarded every year since. Since 1970, the Ridler Award recipient has been selected out of a pre-determined group of cars, known as "The Great 8", sponsored by Pirelli Tires. The criteria to win the Ridler is to be the "most outstanding from among the cars being shown for the first time". It must also have "limited media exposure" prior to the event, and must be "minimally operable", which requires it to "start, stop, move forward and backward under its own power, turn left and right and stop using the brake pedal" (ahh so my cars are eligible!)

A 1929 Model A Hot Rod being built by students at Washtenaw Community College.

The main floor of Cobo Center has over 700,000 square feet, more than 10 football fields. During the Detroit Autorama, that real estate is covered with vehicles, vendors, and attractions. But show doesn't stop there. Take the elevator down to the basement and you enter another exhibition area, known for three days as Autorama Extreme. This subterranean show-within-a-show started in 2005 and is where you will find vintage (or vintage-styled) hot rods, rat rods, customs, drag cars, and cruisers. Most of them are low- to mid-budget, owner-built, and have long histories. In many cases, they have been preserved, rather than restored—as evidenced by their weather-worn paint and people-worn upholstery. In virtually every case, the imagination, build quality, and coolness factor is impressive. In addition to the traditional vehicles, Autorama Extreme features live bands, tradition-oriented vendors, and two popular attractions: the Vinsetta Garage Miss Autorama pinup girl contest and Gene Winfield's Chop Shop.

 

 
Left: A beautiful 1954 Studebaker Commander. Right: Now this is a long Corvette

I saw virtually every type of modern high-priced custom as well as “classic” hot rods. The car builders ranged from high-end shops to high school students! During my visit I spotted two Studebakers in the show: a 40’s truck (upstairs) and aa 50’s car (downstairs)! The video below captures some of the 2019 show. For more photos of Autorama, please see Van Nazarian’s beautiful work, some of which are in this article.



2019 Detroit Auto Show Video

Merry Christmas ! Happy New Year!

Fifty-one VMUSA members and guests attended the annual Christmas Dinner on December 15, 2018, at G. Subu’s Leather Bottle. The holiday spirit was flowing as we enjoyed a fine sit-down meal and the company of good friends. With the music of Donna G Plus One in the background, it was a great opportunity to catch up, enjoy some laughs and share memories.

 

 

Fifty-one Club Members and Guests Attended Our Gala!

 

Joan Johnson treated the guests to a Christmas challenge — name that cookie!  It didn’t matter if you answered or not because the real prize was a random drawing.  With the prizes being lottery tickets, the lucky winners had a second chance to win. If one of our winners goes on a spending spree, we’ll know they got a lucky ticket!

 

 

L: Joan presents a Christmas challeng! R: Cheryl & Joan bring delicious deserts to guests!

 

The guests received a raffle ticket at the door and held them tight as the numbers were drawn by our emcee, Brian Saylor. Up for grabs were poinsettias, Christmas decor, VMUSA tool bags, framed photographs, candy, popcorn and more. Many thanks to those that donated items for prizes - Cheryl Sauer, Joan Johnson, and Van Nazarian!

 

 

L: Brian was an outstanding MC! R: Phil is presented the Dick Monroe Memorial Award by Jim!

Phil Lyon, a founding member of our club, received the Dick Monroe Memorial Award. That award is given to a club member who has contributed significantly to VMUSA. Jim Goff and Larry Miller presented the award to Phil. Congratulations Phil!

Too soon it was time to call it a night and head out.  There were smiling faces they hauled their prize loot home!  Many thanks to this year’s Christmas Elves - Ellen Danes, Joan and Gene Johnson, Cheryl Sauer, Mike Fontana and Van Nazarian for another successful Christmas Party! For more photos and a video click here

Stay tuned — 2019 promises to be another great year for VMUSA!