August 17, 2012 at 6:42 am

Car artist applies personal touch

GM retiree's custom designs are powered by his personality

Dream Cruise profile: Gary Zaborowski
Dream Cruise profile: Gary Zaborowski: Zaborowski owns a 1956 Chevy Bel Air and a 1932 Ford coupe.

Riverview — Gary "Boogie Man" Zaborowski considers himself somewhat of an artist. But instead of sculptures or oil paintings, his forte is cars.

Zaborowski, a Woodward Dream Cruiser who decided to open up his garage for his custom auto designs, has at least one new piece of drivable art on display every year at AutoRama at Cobo Center.

"It's what I live for," said Zaborowski, a 64-year-old retiree who worked for General Motors for 35 years. "Everyone can go out and buy one, but these cars are an extension of me. So it's my personality, my look and it's got my attitude.

"Some people are into completely original restored cars, where numbers match and everything. To me, that's just like a carbon copy. I want to be the originator."

In his GM days, Zaborowski would lead cruises by saying, "Let's boogie." So they gave him the nickname.

Zaborowski's basement is plastered with drawings of cars the world has never seen, alongside a number of trophies for design and car shows. He looks at classic cars and imagines how they would have been designed if they were done today.

He religiously applies that philosophy to his current two vehicles: a 1956 Chevrolet and a 1932 Ford.

Both vehicles are equipped with computer-operated LS2 engines, originally made by GM for the 2005 Corvette. Zaborowski modified or removed protruding bumpers, exhaust pipes and door handles to conform the cars to his sleek method of styling.

"I like my cars to look like they are cutting through the air, so all the lines would go the way that the wind would blow. I like things to look aerodynamic."

The scoops on the side of the '32 Ford, which follow the hood and fender, are a testament to his style.

Zaborowski also works on cars for other cruisers and car enthusiasts.

He told one of his most special memories: He sold a '37 Chevy pickup truck to man in Texas, whose wife recently died.

"Hopefully, I filled in a void in his life," Zaborowski said. "He called me from Texas; he's having a great time with the truck. He's taken five or six awards this summer, so that's a good feeling."

Zaborowski, who owned the Chevy pickup for 14 years, recalls one of his favorite Dream Cruise memories in that vehicle. About five years ago, just two weeks prior to the Cruise, he was struck by a driver who ran a red light. Most people would consider that an early end to the Cruise, but not Zaborowski. He worked nonstop on the truck to have it not only in the Cruise, but at GM's display on 13 Mile and Woodward as well.

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Gary “Boogie Man” Zaborowski with one of his Corvette engine-fitted cars: a 1932 Ford hot rod with scoops on the side. / Charles V. Tines / The Detroit News