Car Culture: Jet-age family haulers star in show

Melissa Preddy
Car Culture

Summertime and station wagons just seem to go together. Even people whose family trips took place in roomier minivans and SUVs likely feel a pang of nostalgia for the mythical Brady Bunch-style trek to the Grand Canyon or Disney World.

There’s something intrepid, earnest and valiant about the look of the low-slung wagons that the cushy 21st-century utility vehicles just can’t match.

If you agree, there’s a treat in store for you this Sunday at the Packard Proving Grounds in Shelby Township, when the annual Cars ’R’ Stars classic vehicle show spotlights jet-age station wagons among many other vintage vehicles.

Dubbed “Fins and Family Haulers,” the exhibit will feature wagons from Packards to AMC Pacers. And in a special treat for fans of the retro drama “Mad Men,” the show will include Betty Draper/Henry Francis’ red and wood-paneled 1968 Ford Country Squire.

The eye-catcher that appeared in the later seasons of the hit retro show is now owned by Chris Yaw of Bloomfield Township. He found it on a California Craigslist site while searching for a family vehicle with some character and pizazz.

“It had no rust and that was my main criteria,” said Yaw, who bought it in April from a business that rents vehicles to film and TV production companies. The car has a white interior and is powered by a 390 V-8 with only 80,000 miles on the odometer. “It draws a lot of attention — driving home we were on the receiving end of a lot of smiles,” Yaw said. “It’s the kind of car that brings back good memories for people.”

Yaw gets stopped by so many strangers that he printed up a brochure with basic facts about “Betty,” as the Yaws have dubbed the wagon. And while it’s currently up on an auction site with a lot of other “Mad Men” memorabilia, Yaw doesn’t expect it to fetch the asking price and he’s not too sad about that. “I think we’ll be driving it for a long time,” he said.

Hear more about Betty and her cross-country trip from Yaw at the Cars ’R’ Stars show on Sunday. The Episcopal priest will be arriving at the Packard Proving Grounds after Sunday services at his Southfield church.

Admission to Cars ’R’ Stars is $5 (kids under 12 free). The Packard Proving Grounds (themselves a bit of automotive history) are on Van Dyke south of 23 Mile. Gates will open at 8 a.m. on June 12 and close at 3 p.m.

Now in its seventh year, the expo aims to honor the vehicles that starred in our collective history and pop culture, and to provide a venue for admiring the aesthetics and craftsmanship of bygone eras. That includes modes of transport beyond the motor vehicle; this year’s entrants also include a display of historic bicycles and the restored Miss America X race boat from 1932.

Other vintage vehicle collections, a swap meet, music, food, ice cream and a corral of for-sale cars round out the day. For more information, visit

Cars & Coffee resumes

Sunday’s expo is just one of many auto-related activities on the docket this spring and summer. If super-high-performance is more your speed, the Cars & Coffee meetups are taking place again this summer at Lingenfelter Performance Engineering, in Wixom at I-96 and Beck Road.

These informal “show and tell” gatherings will take place each Saturday through Aug. 27, from 8-10 a.m. In addition to communing with fellow auto mavens (all welcome, from classics and customs to street vehicles), it’s an opportunity to do good: The hosts urge attendees to bring non-perishable food items which will be donated to Gleaner’s Community Food Bank. The goal this year is for Cars & Coffee to generate the equivalent of 50,000 meals for hungry neighbors.

Updates on specific weekend activities, promotions and entertainment will be posted on the Lingenfelter Facebook page and

Other mark-your-calendar events:

June 17-19, Eyes on Design 2016: This multi-site fundraiser includes events ranging from a black tie gala at the Grosse Pointe War Memorial to a champagne brunch at the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House to a private tour of the Lingenfelter Collection in Brighton.

Proceeds benefit the Henry Ford Health System’s Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology. For schedule and reservation information, visit

July 29-31 Concourse d’Elegance of America: Pay homage to more classic cars at this weekend of elegant events, climaxing in the car show at grounds of the Inn at St. John’s in Plymouth on July 31. A number of other activities from touring to auction previews precede the show. For complete information visit

And if all of the above whets your appetite, find more regional car gatherings, races and cruises at, a compendium of auto-related activities in our region. Happy driving!

Melissa Preddy is a Michigan-based freelance writer. Reach her via