Vehicross – Part 3 [final]

In January 2014 I left University of Cincinnati after spending 10 years to join College for Creative Studies (CCS), a college in Detroit, Michigan. It is third State for my Vehicross to move to after New Hampshire and Ohio.

CCS has 13 undergraduate departments and 4 graduate departments. It is globally known for transportation design and has other undergraduate art and design programs that have been very successful. The postgraduate courses include Color & Materials Design (the only color, materials, and finish design program in the United States), Integrated Design (a strategic combination of industrial design, service design, and design strategy), Interaction Design, and Transportation Design.

Look for more about CCS here.

First snow day in Detroit. Just next day I arrived!

Located in the southeastern tip of the State of Michigan, Detroit is relatively less snowbound than elsewhere in the state. Lake Michigan’s water vapor meets a cold wind from Canada, sprinkling a lot of snow and there is not much left by the time snow arrives in Detroit. However when I arrived Detroit in January 2014, there was a lot of snow. The very morning after my arrival, we had a heavy snow so the college had to be closed, and so was the next day.

At the Vinsetta Garage, a restaurant converted from an old auto repair shop.

When I arrived, the city remained covered with snow because the economy crisis that struck Detroit had not yet recovered. There were a number of snowy days in that winter. Although I moved to Detroit, my family still remained in Cincinnati. So I drove between Detroit and Cincinnati, which takes about eight hours round trip, every weekend for about 18 months.

The I-75 highway connecting Detroit and Cincinnati is probably the longest north-south Interstate highway, which runs from the northern end of Michigan to the southern tip of Florida. The total length is 2875 kilometers, which is about seven times the length of the longest highway in Korea. If you are unfamiliar to the Interstate highway system, odd numbered ones run north-south while even numbered ones run east-west.

On a heavy snow day, the front of the Vehicross was completely covered with snow on the way to Cincinnati. The snow piled up and frozen and fell like a waffle when arrived.

CCS is located in Midtown, close to downtown Detroit. Located just in front of CCS Ford Campus is the Detroit Institute of Arts Museum or DIA, the sixth largest art museum in the United States. DIA has extensive art collections in more than 100 exhibition rooms and wide range collections from antique Egyptian to contemporary art. The level of collection of Korean art is also quite exquisite. There are art galleries and museums in the area, and the former GM headquarter building and former GM technical center also located here. The former GM Technical Center which was a home for GM design and engineering departments is now CCS Taubman Education Center. All design programs and graduate programs as well as a junior and high school are housed here.

At beautiful Ford Campus at CCS

Detroit has a long prosperous history and there are many wonderful buildings. But many of them became vacant due to the economical difficulties. As the prices of these vacant buildings went down, people began to move back and move in. Many downtown and midtown buildings are being remodeled in line with the new rise of Detroit, and rapidly converted into hip restaurants and cafes. In May 2017, new streetcar called Q-Line connecting downtown and Midtown where CCS is will begin operation, and it is expected that the city will become vibrant again.

Detroit is, as known to the world, where the American industry was born. As an example, Detroit’s most important road, Woodward Avenue, is the first pavement road in the United States. Lots of American things came from here including Motown Music and made what American culture is today. There are many more to say about this gorgeous city.

However, little over 10 years ago, the automobile industry tended to bankrupt and many companies and people left the city and the region. The city went bankrupt as a consequence. Then the city has been recovering at a fairly rapid rate since about three years ago, and the industry and economy are growing at a remarkable rate. In 2016, UNESCO announced Detroit as the City of Design as the first one in the category in the United States.

At Antietam, a new hip restaurant converted from an old commercial business

New businesses came to Detroit. Shinola, for example, was founded in Detroit six years ago and has been gathering attention as a new icon of Made in USA. Shinola produces quality watches, bicycles and leather goods and is located in the Taubman Center of CCS. Detroit is becoming a reborn city that has keywords such as design, innovation, technology, and of courses strong industry.

In front of Shinola’s Midtown store

Shinola produces products that are somewhat ‘old-fashioned’ to some peoples eyes. But their design is so popular among many people and their products, with high quality, appeal to the Americans. Their headquarter is housed in Taubman Center at CCS. Shinola expands their portfolio to LP players, audio and other lifestyle products. Tom Kartsotis, the founder of the original Fossil watch, wanted to found his new business in Detroit partly because he was able to move into the CCS building. Shinola has actively supported the creation of CCS’s Fashion Accessories Design program.

Ready to go on a trip to somewhere at Detroit airport

Detroit, as one of the hubs of Delta Air Lines, is so convenient place as it has many direct flights. It is very helpful for me as I make frequent overseas flights.

After making it through a flood on I-75

There was a lot of snow in my first winter of Detroit. And then a lot of heavy rains that summer. One heavy rainy day on the way home from work, several cars had already flooded and stopped on I-75 passing under the other road. I persisted and kept passing the area with the water level to the outside mirror. It felt as if I was swimming with just my neck above the water. It was very scary.

It is best to avoid driving in deep water. But when you have to, never hesitate or stop in the middle. After passing through the flood hat day, I had to repair the starter motor which had been submerged.

As I have been meeting someone with a Vehicross at other cities, I happened to meet another one in Detroit. She is a CCS illustration student who inherited the car from her father.

About two and a half years later, in 2016, I ran into an unlucky incident. The engine hood was popped up as I was driving on I-275 to work and the windshield glass was smashed all of sudden. Of course, the engine hood is also completely crumpled, too. Then I remembered that I had not completely closed the engine hood after checking something in the engine compartment last night. Too late. Fortunately, there were no cars before and after me, and I was driving in the last lane. Otherwise it could have been a major accident.

A worst day for my Vehicross

I got the windshield glass replaced in two days, but two days later, the center panel of the engine hood fell off as I was on a highway again. The car now looks helpless.

Finding Vehicross replacement parts, especially body parts, is very difficult. The parts are quite expensive even if you are lucky to find one. Getting parts in same color is even more of a challenge. I ended up going to Cleveland after searching online for a few days and bought a gray engine hood. I considered painting it with silver to match my car. But eventually decided to wrapped it with a black carbon fiber textured film. Unlike other wrap films, carbon fiber textured films do not have good stretchability, so it was impossible for me (as it was my first time wrapping a car, too) to wrap all the way to very curvy front end of the engine hood with a single film. So had to cut the film near the front and finish with additional film.

The fiberglass center panel which was originally black gray. I wrapped in silver carbon fiber film to keep the contrast with the engine hood. But when it was all done, I found that everything – the engine hood, radiator grille, and bumper – are all black and made the car tasteless.

The wrapping is all done. But the car looks as if it lost its attraction

Eventually I decided to paint the radiator grille with chrome yellow, which is my favorite color (and also is the main identity color for CCS). I also removed two vertical stainless steel bars in the grille, one of the visible styling features of the Vehicross.

After the grille is painted in yellow. Two rear brake pads are being replaced, too.

When I replaced the bumper amber turn signal lamp with white ones, the radiator grille stood out and became the main front accent. Removing the stainless steel bar also created a much simpler and bolder image. I should have gotten rid of this stainless steel bar long ago!

At a near by high school parking lot on a foggy day. Everything is in gray except the yellow grille, reminding me of the red coat in Schindler’s List or the red coat lady in Matrix.

Unintended replacement of the engine hood and windshield glass, and lack of luck to get the engine hood of the same color, led me to do an unplanned face lift. As a result, a head turner turned into a real head turner. I cannot ignore those turning heads and eyes of drivers when they pass by me on the road.

This car is now about 18 years old and it has an awful gas mileage since when it was new. I had to deal with more troubles the car is getting noisier as it gets older. Some have been trying to convince me to by a new car, and I have been seriously watching Cadillac ELR or XT5.

However, I am hesitating to give up on this car after spending so much time and effort on it. And I feel it is renewed and refreshed. So I am now thinking that I should keep it for another 10 years or so. It may give me a reasonable amount of time to see if a car with timeless freshness becomes a real timelessness car. We will see.

At CCS Ford Campus with a new look

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