Car Enthusiasts Keep Engines Revving in West Michigan

GR Auto Gallery has a public showroom filled with classics.

The sleek vehicles showcased at Cars & Coffee Grand Rapids (C&CGR) exude a panache that unfetters spectators’ imaginations.

It’s easy to understand why. Rare exotics, custom show cars, motor sport and race vehicles, European and specialty vehicles work in tandem to make C&CGR one of the top nine automotive events in Michigan, according to the website, Best Things In Michigan.

Variety truly is the spice of life when it pertains to these high-end rides, said C&CGR founder Andy Siradakis.

“We get a range of everything,” Siradakis said of the 80 to 130 cars owners exhibit monthly on Saturdays during the warm months at the Downtown Market, 435 Ionia Ave SW. “We have pure collector cars, race cars, exhibition concept cars that have toured the world circuit, rare cars, pre production vehicles.”

The owners who display their four-wheel machines, which can cost in the six-figure range (think Mclarens, Ferraris and Porsches, among others) find it a richly rewarding experience swapping stories and interacting with the public.

“They are people who take pride in something that’s unique and different,” said Siradakis. “That’s why we’ve really been successful. We’ve brought in groups in each category.”

2011 Ferrari 458 owner Blair Crawley enjoys the reaction he sees on people’s faces when they fix their eyes on his hot ride, which can sell for $360,000, depending on the car’s options.

“It’s just fun to watch and see the excitement in people’s eyes when they see all the types of vehicles from different companies,” said Crawley. “People my age (63) are probably thinking back on the fun times they had when they were a teenager.”

2012 Mercedes-AMG C63 Black Series owner Matthew Short takes pleasure in the camaraderie among car enthusiasts.

“As for mine, it’s rare, one of 75 or so in the United States, and one of only six in red,” said Short. “I am truly dedicated to AMG as an active owner, and I do the C&C events to see existing friends and to make new ones as well. I believe a car should reflect its owner to a degree, and give the viewer some insight into their character.”

Some contend there’s a generational gap among millennials, said to be more interested in public transportation or healthier options to get around like bicycling or walking. Siradakis isn’t as convinced that’s the case.

“It’s a different mindset,” he said. “What might be cool to millennials might be different for a GenXer or past generations, or a blending of the two. You have people from a younger generation who want the modern conveniences but want the look of a classic car. Some never had the opportunity to see a car in person and this gives them an opportunity to see the cars up close and personal.”

Siradakis, a member of the automobile aftermarket organizations Specialty Equipment Market Association and International Show Car Association, is also a designer and builder, meaning his work includes restoring classic car frames, tuning exotics such as Ferraris, Porsches, Lamborghinis and Mclarens, and designing and producing custom components such as aerodynamic body parts that are sold to vehicle owners throughout the United States.

It’s the kind of job that affords him the opportunity to rub shoulders with the famous.

“One of my favorites and one that has become a close friend is four-time Grammy award winner and drummer Alex Gonzales from the Latin rock group Mana,” said Siradaiks. “I designed and built a custom Ferrari F430 and a Porsche 911 Twin turbo.

“I’ve also built cars for Tony Kanaan, F1 racecar driver, Dario Franchitti, F1 race car driver, and for the Kardashian’s to use on their reality television show,” added Siradakis. “Plus Carlos Arroyo, NBA basketball player, Will i am, and several other influential clients.”

Those who yearn to own a piece of nostalgia may find what they’re looking for when they catch a glimpse at the rows of gleaming cars and trucks for sale at GR Auto Gallery’s 54,000-square foot indoor showroom at 4722 50th St. SE.

Its extensive inventory of 275 vehicles makes it easy to envisage rumbling in a 1929 Ford Model A, turning heads in a cherry-red ’57 Ford Thunderbird, or cruising downtown in a 1942 V-12 Lincoln Zephyr. GR Auto Gallery also has two more locations in Traverse City and Metro Detroit and collectively the business sells annually around 1,000 cars and trucks.

1929 Ford Model A Roadster on display at GR Auto Gallery.
1929 Ford Model A Roadster on display at GR Auto Gallery.

“We have a lot of knowledgeable people who know a lot about classic cars,” said Ian Olive, GR Auto Gallery’s brand marketing awareness ambassador.

“I know a lot about ‘70s and ‘80s European cars. Our consignment manager is an expert on 1950s cars, Model As and Model Ts. We do sell everything but we like older cars.

Even so, what often get conversations flowing are those cars and trucks from another era, said Olive.

“Nowhere else are you going to find a classic showroom that has for sale a dozen Model Ts, and you’re not going to find anything that has a showroom of Model As.

“The car culture in Grand Rapids is exploding.”

*Photos courtesy of GR Auto Gallery

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