August 16, 2012 at 8:47 am

Chevy heaven

Classic car collection is primed for the Cruise

Christopher Gorski shows off two favorites from his car collection: a 1979 Corvette, left, and a 1966 Corvair, his most recent acquisition. (Charles V. Tines / The Detroit News)

Christopher Gorski will be flashing his beige, pinstriped 1979 Corvette at the Woodward Dream Cruise this weekend. And he's working feverishly with a toothbrush to make his newly acquired '66 Corvair ready for prime time.

Gorski, 42, is a Chevy guy. His dad owned a '59 Corvette when Chris was a boy, but that car was sold to raise cash for an addition to the family home. Now it's Chris making the additions — more Chevys to a classic collection that now numbers five.

Besides the Vette and the Corvair, there's the '69 C10 pickup truck and the '79 LUV (light utility vehicle) pickup, produced in Japan by Isuzu and imported and "rebadged" by GM. The collection also includes a '79 step van, though that one serves as a mobile store front from which Gorski sells T-shirts at fairs and festivals.

The Corvair, his latest acquisition, didn't exactly arrive in show condition.

"It had been sitting in a garage in Birmingham for 22 years," he says. "The interior was covered with mold, it had four flat tires and the brakes were shot. I've been slowly cleaning the interior with a toothbrush, removing mold from the seats, ragtop and door wells."

Restoration of the Corvair's rear-mounted engine was done by a friend.

"It's a beautiful car, with an Aztec-gold finish and matching interior," says Gorski. "You don't see that many Corvairs around. I wasn't even looking for this one. Chevys just seem to come to me. You know how some people will find a stray dog on the street and take it home? I'm that way with stray cars."

His pedigree prize, however, is the '79 Corvette, which belonged to a relative and also sat neglected in a garage for years.

"The '79 was the all-time bestselling Corvette," says Gorski. "It has that really sexy shape. The engine is a 190 horsepower V8 — it was produced during the '70s gasoline crunch — so it's not the fastest Vette. But it's dazzlingly beautiful. There's been a huge resurgence in this body style. I've had it at the Cruise before, and people always comment on its cool looks."

Not all of Gorski's cars are Chevys. His personal run-about is a 1999 BMW Z3, a little silver two-seater with a red interior he bought used 10 years ago.

"The funny thing is, when I bought the BMW I was looking to replace a pickup truck. Actually, I was thinking station wagon. People tell me I should sell it, that I'm a Chevy guy. But I'm not selling that car."

Neither will he be driving it at the Cruise, which he says is a special showplace for older cars.

"The Cruise brings together all these people with all this pride in their classic vehicles," Gorski says. "The Cruise cars are art statements. It's a day to express who we are as Detroiters — to show off your car."

Lawrence B. Johnson is a cultural writer and critic.