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Feature

Start Your Engines!

July 30, 2015
August is prime time for cool cars and the people who collect them.
By Allan Nahajewski | Photos by Brett Mountain

Is Woodward still the epicenter of world car culture? Many would say yes.

“Metro Detroit has the largest concentration of classic cars in the world by far,” says Brad Oleshansky of Birmingham.

He should know. Oleshansky traveled to car culture cities worldwide to search for ideas on how he could turn his passion for cars into a business. From his travels came a vision — a car condo community where collectors can gather with fellow enthusiasts. After years of planning, the dream is coming true. In June, more than 200 car enthusiasts, along with city, county and state officials, gathered at the 87-acre site of a former General Motors facility on Woodward and South Boulevard in Pontiac to celebrate the groundbreaking of M1 Concourse.

Designed to be a dreamland for collectors, M1 Concourse will include a 1.5-mile performance track, a car-themed shopping village and more than 260 car condos (aka private garages) that collectors can customize.

Phase One will open next spring with the performance track and the first 80 car condos, all of which have already been sold. Phase Two went on sale in July and includes 57 additional private garages ranging in size from 600 square feet to 2,400 square feet each. Other phases of the project will be developed over the next few years.

Car collectors are full of stories about their hobby. We’ve caught up with a few who you may see on Woodward this month in their prized possessions.

Ron Hausmann of Bloomfield Hills owns the world’s largest private collection of Kissel cars.

“I started collecting Kissels because I was born in the farm country in Wisconsin where they were made,” he says. “They were big beautiful cars that nobody there could afford so most were shipped to Hollywood. If you were a silent movie star in the 1920s, you owned a Kissel.”

Kissels were made in Hartford, Wis., from 1907 to 1931. Hausmann has six. Only the Kissel Museum has more. The cars have wood frames and aluminum bodies.

“They’re hard to get. You have to wait until somebody dies to buy one.”

Hausmann recently retired after 44 years with the Walbridge construction company.

“As an engineer, I love using my brain and hands, and classic car high-end restoration does both — and it keeps me out of my wife’s hair now that I’m retired. I’ve moved from part-time to full-time restoration. I take them apart every nut and bolt, then put them back together.”

Hausmann had a 1927 Chevy in high school. “My first car — I still have it,” he says.

He says his children and grandchildren love his cars. They live across the country, but many come in for the Dream Cruise. In this year’s cruise, he plans on driving his award-winning 1923 Kissel Speedster convertible, but with the top up.

“It looks better that way,” he said.

Marc Trahan of Oakland Township has more time to spend on his cars these days. He recently retired as executive vice president of quality for Audi and Volkswagen.

“When I was working, I’d spend part of one day on the weekend on my cars,” he says. “I do all the work myself — engine rebuilds, upholstery, wiring, technical work — everything but the body work. Now I spend about 30 hours a week tinkering with my cars, which is quite fine, I think.”

One of his prized possessions is a 1991 Ferrari Testarossa.

“I’ve had it for three years,” he says. “I have six or seven other cars. I lose track. I’ve always loved Italian cars. This one is iconic, and it drives real nice. Two years ago, we took it to Virginia and back — nine hours each way — for a national Ferrari meet.”

His collection includes a 1974 Lamborghini Espada, 1979 Ferrari 308 GT4, 2007 Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder, 1983 Porsche 911SC, 1970 MGB GT, 2000 Audi TT and a 2009 Audi S5.

His first car: a 1962 Chevy BelAir.

His favorite car memories: “Overnight drives with my Lamborghini buddies. On one trip, we drove the backroads to Kalamazoo, stayed overnight, then went to the Gilmore Museum, which is quite a sight. It’s a wonderful car collection and has awesome barns — some of them were taken apart across the states and recreated — and even an old-time diner.”

Kurt Daehnert of Orchard Lake owns a company that builds e-commerce websites for high-end retailers. He also owns a 2010 Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder with a Batman logo on the door.

“I was the Dark Knight for Halloween last year,” he explains. “I didn’t have time to take the logo off, and I went to a car show, and all the kids loved it.”

Daehnert’s car is the first of its kind to be delivered to the United States. “It was sent to a dealership in Seattle, where the first owner paid way over sticker for it because he wanted the very first one,” he says. “I bought it from a dealership in Scottsdale, Ariz. It only has 7,500 miles on it.

“I just love cars,” he says. “My dad worked at GM for 40 years. I’ve had a lot of Trans Ams and Camaros. My college car was a Z28 with a 411 posi — probably the worst college car you could ever have — not good in snowstorms. I was addicted to horsepower.”

He says he’s ready for the M1 Concourse experience. His collection includes a high-performance golf cart with a Viper paint job and chrome rims. The cart can go 50 mph.

Bruce Becker of Oakland Township attended the M1 Concourse groundbreaking in a 2016 Ferrari F12 Berlinetta with 200 miles on it. At the Dream Cruise, you’ll find him in a blue 1962 Chevy with a split window.

His first car was a 1948 Chevy. “I paid $84 for it,” he recalls.

He owned his own company, but has since retired. He thinks he has about 20 cars, but he’s quit counting. His collection includes a 2015 Porsche 918, a 2014 Nissan GT-R, a 2015 Lamborghini and a Jaguar F-150.

“I buy them to drive them, not to look at them,” he says. “I get them from all over the country. It’s always interesting when you get to talking about cars with people.”

Eitel Dahm, president and CEO of the Eitel Dahm Motor Group, brought his 2015 Porsche 918 Spyder to the M1 Concourse groundbreaking. It was built this year and is one of only 250 of its kind in the country.

He owns a Porsche dealership in Eastpointe, a Mini dealership in Southfield, and BMW and Audi dealerships in Rochester Hills.

His first car: a mid-1950s BMW Isetta. He began his career as an auto mechanic in Hamburg, Germany, learning how to fix Opels.

He is buying a 1,200-square-foot car condo at M1 Concourse to house his current collection, which includes BMWs and Mercedes cars in addition to his Porsche. “I’ve always had a passion for Porsche,” he says.

Dan Markey of Rochester is a certified public accountant. You could also call him a certified car enthusiast. He has a photo album of the 80 cars he has owned, including his first, a 1967 Impala.

“My father funded the first one,” he says. “He wanted something big and safe.”

These days, he owns a 1999 Pontiac Trans Am 30th Anniversary Edition. His wife owns a 1969 Trans Am.

His favorite car memory is a trip to the Ubly (Mich.) Dragway with family and friends. “We ran four of my cars, sometimes one against the other,” he says.

“My collection seemed to grow as the garage space increased,” he jokes. “I love to acquire them and find it hard to part with them.”

Markey already knows how he will be spending this year’s Dream Cruise.

“On Friday, we’ll be parked at Pasquale’s — ground zero — inhaling all the exhaust fumes. On Saturday, we’ll attend multiple events in Birmingham and Royal Oak. The Dream Cruise is the ultimate experience for those who love cars like I do. And the M1 Concourse will take the Dream Cruise to another level by offering the ability to enjoy our passion year-round in a country club atmosphere.” NS

Get The App:

Want to be in the know about all the events for Dream Cruise Weekend? Download the official Woodward Dream Cruise app for Apple and Android at www.woodwarddreamcruise.com, where you can also find a list of events, restaurants, hotels and photo galleries from past Cruises.

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