The setting is familiar: a wonderfully manicured field full of classic cars on the grounds of an opulent historic estate. Folding chairs have been set up in the shade so that owners can sit near their cars, and a fancy outdoor brunch has been set up for the well-heeled. Photographers and judges roam among the vehicles, interviewing the owners who are vying for top honors in the various classes. Definitely an automotive concours.

But something’s off. There’s an AMC Eagle parked next to a Chrysler Turbine Car, a pristine 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Calais sharing the field with a GM EV1 and a 1928 REO Speedwagon grain truck, and if I’m not mistaken, the Pierce Arrows are outnumbered by Ford Pintos. What’s more, several of the judges appear to be blind, if the red and white canes they carry are any indicator. Welcome to the 2015 edition of the Eyes on Design car show in Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan.

Now in its 29th year, Eyes on Design takes to the grounds of the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House with a carefully chosen, extremely eclectic assortment of vehicles. Rather than concentrating on the classics-with-a-capital-C, Eyes on Design brings in vehicles based on aesthetic merit, with a focus on styling good and bad, and the trends that have helped to shape the industry since the beginning. As a result, the field of 250 cars represents a mix like no other. A car doesn’t have to be a recognized collectible to share the spotlight at this show.

Eyes on Design benefits the Henry Ford Health System’s Department of Opthalmology, and adds a unique twist to the typical show-car judging system. The show brings in a number of vision-impaired vehicle judges in addition to the standard automotive experts. The white-gloved special judges choose cars based on tactile styling merits, treating the cars as three-dimensional sculptures.

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This year’s main theme was "House Style," as the show turned its attention to the unique styles imparted to various manufacturers by the design studios. Comprehensive collections of cars showed off the evolution of the signature styles exhibited by several manufacturers from the 1940s through the 1970s, highlighting the work of lead designers like Harley Earl, Raymond Loewy, Virgil Exner and others. Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, Studebaker, Pininfarina, Jaguar and AMC were all featured.

This is one of the events I look forward to every year. Check out the gallery of cars that made me smile, and get a feeling for Eyes on Design’s unique approach to the car as art.

Emmy Jackson
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