I was tooling around downtown Detroit during President’s Day weekend last month when this mildly customized, first-year Chevy Monte Carlo approached the intersection of Grand River Avenue and Bagley Street next to the Michigan Building. The green color of its custom paint job reminded me of that of Hi-C Ecto Cooler, one of my favorite soft drinks from childhood. I understand that opinions are sharply divided as to the appeal of the “donk” treatment of classic American cars. Regardless of whether you stand on the “pro” or “con” side of that debate, I think both this Monte and the Michigan Building in the background are fitting examples of adaptive reuse.
What does one do when presented with the challenge of reusing something that is decayed or wrecked beyond its original purpose? Do you scrap it or tear it down, or do you find another way to preserve some of its elements and create something beautiful and/or useful in the eyes of some? The Michigan Building was built in 1925, originally housing the Michigan Theater. Once the theater closed in the mid-70’s, the tenants in the office portion of the building at the time threatened to move out unless they were provided parking. The solution? To gut the decaying and abandoned theater and turn it into a three-story parking garage, keeping its rotted-but-original, ornate ceiling. You might have seen footage of its haunting beauty in the 2002 film “8 Mile” which starred Detroit native son Eminem.
Coincidentally, this theater was built on the site of the garage where Henry Ford had built his first automobile. Hopefully, those of us who plan to attend the Annual CC Meetup in Detroit this June will be able to see this rebuilt garage, which was transplanted to the Henry Ford Museum in nearby Dearborn. Hank’s old garage may not exactly be another example of “adaptive reuse”, as it sits in a museum complex, but applause must be given to those in charge of seeing to it that this small part of American automotive history was preserved, instead of merely demolished.
As for this Monte Carlo (with SS badges which may be real or inauthentic – who really cares?), who is to say it was not brought back to this shiny, toy-like condition and appearance after being a rotted, rusted hulk sitting up on blocks in someone’s backyard? Some were up in arms with the recent destruction of a “Dukes Of Hazzard”-styled 1969 Dodge Charger R/T that was recently jumped on a ramp in Detroit, near Cobo Center, as part of the 65th annual Autorama showcase.
Doing a bit of research, I discovered that this donor Charger was in unsalvageable condition prior to receiving enough cosmetic brushing-up (which included duct tape standing in for chrome trim) to make it look like a passably nice facsimile. (Driver Raymond Kohn is the man… you should Google the footage.) Our featured Monte Carlo appears to have at least been given the full treatment of its owner’s loving vision. Perhaps with buildings as with automobiles (and in some cases, entire cities), sometimes a complete rethink and reinvention is the key to long-term survival… in any form.
Downtown Detroit, Michigan.
Sunday, February 19, 2017.