Auto enthusiasts camp up their cars

By |2018-01-15T23:33:52-05:00October 5th, 2006|Guides|

Even after Chris McKain’s Grand Cherokee was vandalized twice, he still kept his rainbow boa, a rainbow air freshener and a rainbow Star of David in the vehicle.
“I want the world to know that I am not afraid,” said McKain, 19, of Ypsilanti.
It’s the dog tag with a red ribbon and a Swahili symbol representing strength that he cherishes most, though. “It gives me hope for all my HIV-positive friends and for the cure, knowing that with the strength of the community we can get through anything,” he said.
While many gay people enjoy accessorizing, cars deserve to make a statement, too, said Wyll Lewis, owner of American Pop in Ferndale.
“It’s an expression of individuality,” he said.
And Lewis knows best when it come to transforming an old clunker into a snazzy club car.
“Sometimes cars have great engines in them and sometimes they’re traveling pieces of crap,” Lewis said. “I’ve decoupaged leopard wrapping paper on the side of one of those early ’80s ‘Brady Bunch’-kind of station wagons.”
The car makeover enthusiast lended a hand to a competitor in an Ann Arbor car-decorating club who was seeking ’70s goodies. With a disco light in the back widow, disco balls and a small round mirror (complete with sugar and straws to make it look like a cocaine mirror), the competitor won.
Lewis has also chosen specific stylish themes for four of his automobiles. One of his ’70s vehicles is decked out with old auto magazines, a ’70s-styled picnic basket, orange plastic traveling cups and a Panasonic round radio that hangs on a chain from the rearview mirror. The jungle-themed car boosts leopard pillows and another one has flames on the sides and skulls in the back, modeled after a Hot Wheel.
There’s also a mysteriously decorated van he uses for hauling retro goods to his shop. “It’s incognito,” he said. “I don’t want people to say, ‘Hey, that’s the guy from American Pop.'”
Even though car enthusiast Drew Dorian doesn’t have a specific theme for his Nissan Ultima, he has a little friend he’s kept next to him since he bought his first vehicle. Dorian’s pal, though, doesn’t talk – or quack – while he’s driving. He’s a stuffed duck.
“This is gonna sound silly, but I keep him in my car and when I’m driving through traffic in town I grab him and rub his belly and he’s my good luck charm and he gets me through traffic lights,” laughed Dorian, 21, of Ypsilanti.
While the possibilities of auto accessories are endless, Lewis said fuzzy dice, Star Wars and Beetlejuice action figures (for use on dashboards) and ’50s stuffed animals fly off the shelves. The hula girl, who sways in her grass skirt to the car’s vibrations, remains a popular favorite at the store.
Lewis also sells a Rosie the Riveter bobblehead that says “We can do it” on the figure’s base. “I’ve seen them in some dykemobiles around here,” he said.
American Pop also carries vintage camper decorations, including thermoses, old-fashioned picnic gear and rock band bumper stickers.
Some auto aficionados who own classic cars, like Lewis, display magazines on the seat that feature the same vehicle they drive in. Turn up the Gloria Gayner, let the hula girl (or guy) do its thing, and cruise in ’70s style.
“It makes it look like one big time warp,” Lewis said.

About the Author:

Chris Azzopardi
As editor of Q Syndicate, the international LGBTQ wire service, Chris Azzopardi has interviewed a multitude of superstars, including Cher, Meryl Streep, Mariah Carey and Beyoncé. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, GQ, Vanity Fair and Billboard. Reach him via Twitter @chrisazzopardi.