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Collector Larry Smith's cars in EyesOn Design spotlight

A few of Smith's unusual classic cars join the field of 300 in Grosse Pointe Shores Sunday

Jenny King
Special to The Detroit News

EyesOn Design is honoring classic car collector Larry Smith of Oakland County with its 2017 Preserving the Vision Award this weekend in Grosse Pointe Shores.

In keeping with the celebration of automotive design, Smith is bringing three of his cars to join the field of over 300 vehicles at the Edsel and Eleanor Ford home for Sunday’s EyesOn Design Automotive Design Exhibition.

A 1967 Cadillac Eldorado with painted roof, a 1972 Ferrari Dino “Senape” and a 1922 Lincoln will make the trip across town, but Smith’s carefully chosen family of vehicles features everything from an early Ford racer to Alfa Romeos, Porsches, Corvettes, Fords, a Graham Sharknose, an endless Pontiac Bonneville from the 1960s that may have been built for John DeLorean, and an always intriguing Stout Scarab.

There is no theme to the collection. It represents what he likes, he says.

Sometimes a nose job works. Other times, as with this 1939 Graham Sharknose, it fails to start a trend. Larry Smith says he loves the many art deco features of the Graham.

Smith, who founded Autometric Collision, the chain of body repair shops, has converted several of his cars into street rods. One that escaped conversion is the recently purchased 1967 Eldorado with painted top. The coupe is unusual because most ‘67s had vinyl tops --  a delete option, he says. A buyer would pay more for a painted top.

The Eldorado, which will be at EyesOn Design on Sunday, “had been pampered by the previous owner, but just sat for the last two years,”  Smith says. Getting it in shape turned out to be  “tons of work.”

Smith located the Stout Scarab in Paris. He says Stout built for individuals including Harvey Firestone and William Wrigley, apparently never intending to mass produce the rear-engine car.

The 1939 Graham Sharknose in the collection has a more modest provenance. Smith bought it in 1989 from a farmer in Indiana, based on a couple of Polaroid photos. It was far from the showroom condition it how enjoys. Plain and boxy, with the prominent nose, it has many art deco touches that redeem it in Smith’s eyes.

Noting multiple similarities among older cars and between old and newer models, Smith says designers typically shun the idea of copying. Instead, he says, they say they are “influenced” by the work of others.

The 2017 EyesOn Design benefits Henry Ford Health System’s Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology vision research. The 30th annual event will focus on vehicles representing era-defining body styles and the interplay of design and how vehicles will be used.

Sunday’s automotive Design Exhibition takes place from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House, 1100 Lakeshore Road, Grosse Pointe Shores. Tickets are $25.

On Saturday, EyesOn Design conducts a tour of the Lingenfelter Collection, 7819 Lochlin Drive in Brighton.  The private collection of Ken and Kristen Lingenfelter includes more than 200 distinctive cars. Suggested donation: $15.

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