Classic on Gratiot shows off students skills

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

Roseville — With the sounds of engines revving in the background, hundreds attended Classics on Gratiot on Saturday to gaze at old cars and support a nonprofit high school club.

Proceeds from t-shirt sales and donations are going toward Roseville High School's DRIVE One , a student organization that promotes the education of teens in vocational skills and trades that restoring cars.

"That's unreal," said Paul Tregembo Sr., a retired automotive teacher at Roseville High School who continues to teach in the DRIVE One program with his son. "We're lucky, blessed if you wish, to have enough people help us out."

The event held by the Roseville Heritage Foundation and sponsored by local businesses occurred at 25 locations along the four-mile stretch between 10 Mile and 14 Mile roads. Activities included stationary car shows, inflatibles for children, live music and sidewalk sales.

The foundation's vice president, Greg Evennou, said the event was "pretty successful" and continued to grow throughout the day. There isn't a total yet on the amount raised for the high school club.

"Roseville, I think, their time is coming," Evennou said of the turnout.

For the past three years, the heritage foundation had held a cruise down Gratiot Avenue but turned the event into multiple stationary car shows because of high expenses and poor turnout, said Judith Warren-Wright, co-founder and secretary of the foundation.

Roseville’s Classics on Gratiot not a cruise

Many classic car owners, however, said they just appreciated the opportunity to show off their vehicles and the opportunity to reminisce about old times.

Ron Wright said he came to Classics on Gratiot for the warm weather. He brought his 1972 Plymouth Duster with him.

His friend, Joan Karazia, said she's a fan of classics, too.

"I was raised in the '60s," Karazia said. "It brings back history."

And Gordy Suer of Shelby Township said he likes the fact that he can work on his '55 Chevy Bellaire and other classics unlike some newer vehicles.

Although the students in the DRIVE One program don't remember the days of classic cars, they said they are passionate about working on them and newer automobiles.

The Roseville Heritage Foundation presented its Classics on Gratiot award to the students' rebuilt '76 Cobra Coop, their most recent project.

"These kids are young and to have that initiative at 14, 15 years old is phenomenal," Warren-Wright said.

For the past four years, the DRIVE One program has taught students from 12 school districts in Macomb County vocational skills that they can use.

"There's not many types of programs like this left," Tregembo said. "You're teaching them skills that they can use to get a job and support their families. You can't go wrong with that."

Beginning with only three students, Roseville's DRIVE One now accommodates 127 students Tuesday and Thursday evenings. They learn how to take apart cars, build them anew and race them. So far, they have built four cars and had two on display Saturday.

Evan Leder is finishing his junior year at Roseville and has participated in DRIVE One for 21/2years.

"I like to build my car expertise, and working on classics is phenomenal," Leder said. "It's a whole new world, new experience."

His father, Greg Leder, said the program has turned his son into not knowing what he wanted to do with his life to being interested in going to college to study automotives.

"They really inspire these kids a lot," Greg Leder said. "I've never seen a program inspire so much."