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Car Show Provides Financial Backing For Blindness Cure Conference

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GROSSE POINTE PARK — Car buffs around metro Detroit are gearing up for “EyesOn Design,” the annual classic and antique car show to be held Sunday, June 17 at the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House, 1100 Lake Shore Road in Grosse Pointe Shores.

The event benefits the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology in Grosse Pointe Park, providing funding for its two conferences, both held every other year — one on vision and cars, “The Eye And The Auto,” and one on providing artificial sight to the blind, “The Eye And The Chip.”

The last “Eye And The Auto” was held Sept. 12-14, 2011 at General Motors headquarters in Detroit. “The Eye And The Chip” conference will be held this coming Sept. 9-11 at the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center in Detroit.

Ophthalmologist Philip C. Hessburg, president of the DIO, remains convinced that some day, technology will provide restored sight to the blind.

“Right now we can take somebody who is totally blind and give them very poor vision,” Hessburg said. “Would that be good enough for (you)? No, you want to read and drive and do a whole lot of things. But if you’re coming home from Afghanistan with both your eyes blown out, you bet it’s better than being blind.”

And, Hessburg said, the technology just keeps getting better and better. “Yes, we will get there,” he said. The model is cochlear implants, which provided a poor substitute for hearing when they were first introduced in the 1980s, but which today provide hearing so precise that their users can distinguish who is speaking without seeing a face.

More than 100 artificial vision experts from around the globe are expected to converge on Detroit in September for the conference. And for many of them of limited means, the proceeds of the EyesOn Design car show provides funds their trip.

The conference is still seeking both sponsors and presenters from the fields of medicine and vision science and engineering. More information is available at www.eyeson.org.

Hessburg founded the institute 40 years ago. Fifteen years later, in 1988, he came up with the idea of a fundraising auto show with DIO board member Al Ricca, a commercial builder. Hessburg discussed the idea with auto dealer Jim Falvey, and got more help from a DIO volunteer who read for recordings for the blind, Merrie Lynn Ruzzin, who discussed the matter with her husband Dick, who happened to be a designer for Cadillac.

Eventually, Chuck Jordan, then vice president of design at General Motors, Jack Telnack, vice president of design at Ford Motor Co., and Tom Gale, vice president of design at Chrysler, all backed the show, originally called Eyes On The Classics. Later, it would expand to include foreign cars.

This year, the selection of cars on display will be spectacular. Like, for instance, the 1930 Packard Roadster owned by 102-year-old Margaret Dunning, who still drives it, and which won its first perfect score at a Classic Car Club of America show — in 1949.

Classifications of cars on display include Wooden It Be Great?, a selection fo cars with wood sides; Collector’s Circle; Classics, from the mid-1920s to World War II; Circles of Silver, a selection of silver vehicles in honor of the EyesOn Design show’s silver anniversary; Icons of Design – America’s Greatest Hits, postwar to early ’70s cars with pop culture impact; Popularity Contest, a selection of low-cost, high-volume cars from 1949 to 1970; Back to the Future, modern cars that use the past as design inspiration; Designer’s Circle, non-judged collector cars owned by designers; Pony Cars; Tuners; Maximum Muscle Cars; Deuces Wild, celebrating the 80th anniversary of the legendary ’32 Ford; and a Shelby Snake Pit, celebrating 50 years of Shelby powered automobiles.

And the show won’t be limited to cars. There will also be a special display of vintage hydroplanes from Detroit’s 108-year history of boat racing, and displays of motorcycles.

The show anticipates 210 to 220 cars on display, 10 to 12 hydroplanes and 25 to 30 motorcycles.

EyesOn Design show weekend begins the Vision Honored Black Tie Dinner Friday, June 15 at 6:30 p.m. at the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club, 788 Lake Shore Road in Grosse Pointe Shores.

The dinner will present EyesOn Design Awards for concept vehicle to the Lexus LC-LT and for production vehicle to the 2013 Ford Fusion. And Chris Bangle, the Wisconsin-born former chief of design for BMW, will receive EyesOn’s Lifetime Design Achievement award. The award is selected by top car designers who have previously won the honor.

Tickets for Vision Honored are $150; call (313) 824-4710 for more information.

The weekend continues with Eve of Eyes at Stahls Automotive Foundation, Saturday, June 16 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 56516 North Bay Drive in Chesterfield Township. Tickets are $15 per person, or $20 for a ticket for both the Stahls and the Sunday show. The event features a look at the Stahls Automotive Museum, one of the great vehicle collections in the country.

Father’s Day dawns with a Private Eyes Brunch from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Edsel & Eleanor Ford House, at $75 per person, $35 for children or $500 for a table of eight.

And EyesOn Design itself will be held Father’s Day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Ford House. Admission is $20 per person at the gate, with children 12 and under free with an adult.

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