Cars, city share spotlight as auto show opens to public

James David Dickson

Detroit — Calvin Calloway’s job at the North American International Auto Show is as thankless as it as essential: wiping down display vehicles to keep them pristinely shiny for the auto-viewing public.

Miss Michigan, Heather Kendrick, waves to the crowd during the Parade of Cars Sunday at the North American International Auto Show.

Just minutes into an eight-hour shift Sunday afternoon, the 53-year-old worker had already lost count of how many vehicles he’d dusted. The object of Calloway’s attention, that moment, was a light blue GAC GS8 320, with a changing-by-the-second group of admirers taking their turns evaluating.

“It’s non-stop, man,” Calloway said.

He was kept busy as about 112,000 people visited the show on Saturday during its first public day. The weather remained above freezing during the weekend.

Show organizers expected about 800,000 to attend the show for the week. The first two days of the show attracted 218,516 people during the opening weekend, according to show organizers.

The one no-no for auto show guests is bringing food or drink into the vehicles, Calloway said, which eliminates opportunities for spills.

When wiping down a vehicle, Calloway targets obvious fingerprints and smudges on the windows, the paint job, the lights, “exactly where a person would touch.”

Two or three times during a wipedown, he takes a step back, partly to evaluate his work, but partly because he knows auto show visitors like to see a man get into his assignment.

“Show them that you appreciate the details,” he said with a laugh.

The weather cooperated on Sunday, remaining above the freezing point for much of the day. But Nahme Han’s circumstances were less cooperative. She wore a walking boot, the result of an ankle rolled while camping two days after Christmas. But crowd size and convenience made a wheelchair, steered by her husband and two sons, the better option.

Han, 50, has been in town for a week from Los Angeles, visiting son Ty Gilhuli, a 22-year-old University of Michigan senior, in Ann Arbor.

“I’d never go to the auto show back home,” but being in southeast Michigan for the auto show was too unique an opportunity to pass on.

She’s been struck by the “affordability” of Detroit.

“I see the investment in downtown,” Han said. “Eastern Market is phenomenal. I think it’s a great place.”

As for the auto offerings themselves, Han said she was impressed by a Toyota with a virtual assistant, as well as the trend toward matte-style paint on the vehicles.

Steve Ronsheim, 75, sees the auto show through a different lens than most. Ronsheim, of Columbus, Indiana, is president of The Christopher Stephen Corp. and was interviewed as heevaluated a 10-speed AISIN transmission his company assembled.

“I see things here that we’ve put together,” Ronsheim said. “It’s good to see the finished product.”

In his 40 years in the auto industry a lot has changed, he said.

Looking again at the 10-speed, Ronsheim said, “In my day, it was a 3-speed power glide.” Growing up on a farm, a boy of about 10, his mother let him drive the family’s 1933 Chevy — without supervision.

Detroit, host city for the auto show, and its host venue, the Cobo Center, have also changed in the “seven or eight” years since he last visited either.

“It’s beautiful; it’s changed a lot,” Ronsheim said. “Looks like Detroit is kind of making a comeback.”

If you go

What: The North American International Auto Show

When: Through Jan. 28

Where: Cobo Center in downtown Detroit


■9 a.m.- 10 p.m.Sunday to Jan. 27. No admittance after 9 p.m.

■Sunday, Jan. 28, 9 a.m.-7 p.m. No admittance after 6 p.m.


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■Adults: $14 per person

■Seniors: $7 (65 and older)

■Children: $7 (7-12 years old; 6 and under free with a parent or guardian)

Every child in a school group must have a ticket to enter the show.

For more information visit for more information.