The Society of Automotive Historians

Leland Chapter, Detroit

Leland Chapter, Detroit has over 45 active members.  While many of the chapter members are from the automotive industry, all are welcome.  Chapter activities focus on the automotive heritage of the Detroit area and events often feature local automotive personalities and historic sites.   Engaging students and young enthusiasts is a priority of the chapter mission of researching, recording and presenting automotive history.

Chapter Contacts

Brian Baker, President            

Mary Elton, Secretary/Treasurer      



Chapter News

Kevin Fleck will present a lecture entitled Early Automotive Standardization – Cole Motor Company on Sunday, January 19, 2020 at 3:00 at the Gilmore Car Museum, as part of the Museum’s Winter Lecture Series.  Per the Gilmore lecture announcement, the auto industry had many manufactures and many suppliers with thousands of ways of doing things.  Kevin’s lecture will cover the origins of standardization and specifically focus on the Cole Motor Car Company that trademarked the term “standardized car” in 1913.  Cole went on to work with a who’s who in the automotive industry and organized the million dollar standardization conference that same year to drive increased standards for the industry.  (1/20)

Terry Boyce has two articles in the August, 2019 issue of Collectible Automobile.  “Into Thin Air: The 1939-40 LaSalle Story” covers the 1939-1940 Cadillac LaSalle’s in detail, including the reasons for the demise of the LaSalle at end of the 1940 model year.  “Bill Robinson: Dedicated to Design” is a lengthy and candid interview with the Chrysler designer who began his career at Briggs and followed his 27 year tenure at Chrysler by teaching at the Center for Creative Studies for 22 years.  (5/19)

Other recent articles from Terry are “1949 Ford, the Car That Saved a Company” in the March/April, 2019 issue of Michigan History, which traces the development of this new model and the post war roles played by the Whiz Kids at Ford Motor Company.  Also, “1961-64 Chevrolet: A Jet Smooth World of Worth” is in the June, 2019 issue of Collectible Automobile, which covers the full size 1961-1964 Chevrolets in detail.  (4/19)

Kevin Fleck and his son Ben Burnham-Fleck participated in the Gilmore Car Museum Pre-1942 Driving Tour and Showcase on May 17th and 18th by organizing the Cole Car Meetup 2019.  Nine Cole Motor Company automobiles participated during this 110th anniversary year of the company, including the only 1909 Cole High Wheeler known to exist.  Also in attendance was SAH stalwart LeRoy Cole.  Kevin has an article about the Cole and the gathering in the Spring issue of the Gilmore Car Museum magazine, The Industry Standard.  For a report on the Cole Car Meet up 2019, with several photos, visit   (5/19)

Charlie Henry announced that his award wining 2017 book KAR-KRAFT, Race Cars, Prototypes and Muscle Cars of Ford’s Special Vehicle Activities Program (Car Tech, ISBN 978-1-61325-286-4) is now in its third printing.  (4/19)

Roger Meiners gave a presentation at the SAE World Congress (WCX), held at the Cobo Center April 9-11, 2019.  Roger’s subject was the history of McLaren Engines, Inc., the Livonia, MI company that built engines for the McLaren Can-Am and Indy cars and served as McLaren team headquarters beginning in 1970. The company has evolved into a powertrain engineering resource for OEM’s and is today known as McLaren Engineering, a subsidiary of Canadian-based Linamar Corporation.  (4/19)

Rich Ray was one of four guest curators of the Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild special exhibit at the Gilmore Car Museum, in the Heritage Center Annex.  The exhibit opened April 6, 2019 and ran until October, 2019.  Featured were approximately 113 Craftsman’s models, built from the 1930’s to the late 1960’s, which had been loaned by some 50 exhibitors.  After competing in the Guild program, the students went on to careers in everything from automobile design to rocket science.  This was likely the largest display of Craftsman’s models ever presented.  Rich has an article about the exhibit and the Guild in the Spring issue of the Gilmore Car Museum magazine, The Industry Standard, and three of his Craftman’s models were in the exhibit.  (4/19 & 8/19)



Oldsmobile by Design:  December 9, 2019 at the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum

Leland Chapter, Detroit co-sponsored a panel discussion on Oldsmobile design at the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum in Lansing on December 9th.  Chapter President Brian Baker was the moderator.  Panelists Dennis Burke, Glen Durmisevich, John Perkins and Richard Ruzzin shared their drawings and remembrances of working on the Oldsmobile Toronado.


December 7, 2019:  End of the Year Gathering at the Automotive Hall of Fame

Leland Chapter, Detroit held it’s annual end of the year gathering, this year at the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, MI at 12:30 PM on Saturday, December 7th.  AHF President Sarah Cook kindly made the hall auditorium available for this chapter event.  Chapter President Brian Baker reviewed chapter activities over the past year in a slide presentation.  Following Brian, motor sports author George Levy spoke about the recently released film Ford v Ferrari.  Levy’s presentation, “Ford v Enzo,” compared the movie character portrayals to the actual personalities involved in this historic motor racing duel.


October 28, 2019: An Evening with Ted West at M1 Concourse in Pontiac, MI

Leland Chapter, Detroit was treated to an evening with long-time automotive magazine writer Ted West. Ted was our guest at the M1 Concourse garage in Pontiac, Michigan.
Ted regaled us with his first-hand memories of the racing scene in the 1960’s and 70’s.  As a writer for several magazines, he was assigned to cover the great Can Am endurance races and F1 battles across the world.
Ted told the stories behind his racing novel CLOSING SPEED, which was set at the peak of the Porsche 917 and Ferrari battles.  His book captures the time and the people during one of the golden ages of auto racing.
A fun evening hosted by our friends at M1 Concourse.
Ted West and Brian Baker at M1 Concourse


August 24, 2019:  Book Talk and Memorabilia Swap & Exchange

Leland Chapter, Detroit met at the First United Methodist Church in Royal Oak on Saturday afternoon, August 24th.  Some 20 members and guests heard a talk by Brian Baker about George Levy’s new book F1 Mavericks: The Men and Machines that Revolutionized Formula 1 Racing. 

A memorabilia swap & exchange took place before and after, with attendees shifting their surplus books and paper memorabilia from one household to another.


April 14, 2019:  Gathering at the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn

Leland Chapter, Detroit members visited the Automotive Hall of Fame (AHF) in Dearborn, MI, on Sunday, April 14th.  They were joined by students from the College for Creative Studies and students from the Lawrence Technological University, under the invitation of Leland Chapter President Brian Baker.  AHF Director Sarah Cook welcomed the 60 attendees; discussion focused on the functions of the AHF and outreach to younger generations.


December 15, 2018:  End of Year Gathering and Corvette Design Celebration

Leland Chapter, Detroit met on Saturday, December 15th at the Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum, 100 E. Cross St., Ypsilanti, MI 48197.

After a brief chapter business meeting, President Brian Baker started the afternoon off with a tribute to GM designer and design educator Bill Porter, who was in the audience.   Author Jerry Burton then gave a presentation on his 2002  book Zora Arkus-Duntov, the Legend Behind Corvette.  Jerry’s detailed talk was followed by a lively, informative and very entertaining panel discussion and Q&A session by former Corvette designers Jon Albert, John Schinella, Kip Wasenko and Ben Salvadore.  

Over 65 enthusiasts were in attendance to witness automotive history, live.  For additional coverage of this event, read Pat Bisson’s article on page 7 of SAH Journal #295

(l-r) GM Designers Ben Salvatore, John Schinella and Kip Wasenko.
Author and Corvette Hall of Famer Jerry Burton.


June 8, 2018:  Women in Design, a Conversation and Discussion

The EyesOn Design Lecture Series of the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology and the Leland Chapter, Detroit of the Society of Automotive Historians co-hosted a panel discussion featuring author Constance Smith and designer MaryEllen Green and on Friday, June 8 in the Peacock Room of the Fisher Building in downtown Detroit.

Hosted by Leland Chapter President Brian Baker, and moderated by Elizabeth Wetzel, GM Director of Design User Experience, the forty attendees were treated to an exceptional ninety minute panel discussion, conversation and question & answer session.

Constance Smith is the author of the recently published book, Damsels in Design, which features MaryEllen among many other women designers of the era.  A graduate of the Pratt Institute in New York, Smith was recruited by GM’s Charles “Chuck” Jordan.  Her comprehensive automotive design and engineering experience included work in safety, advanced electronics and airbag implementation.    Smith’s 2018 book Damsels in Design may come to be regarded as a benchmark in bringing the history of women in the automotive industry to light.  Her book focuses on twenty women who were active in automotive design from 1939 to 1959 and presents their stories, frustrations and accomplishments, as well as their post-automotive design work and personal achievements in the arts.  The staggering number of period images Smith collected for this book is a masterful accomplishment in itself.

MaryEllen Green was a member of Harley Earl’s GM Styling group in the early 1950’s.  Her father was a successful automobile dealer and distributor, so Green stemmed from automotive roots, which she considered to be a significant advantage in her early career.  At GM she worked on concept cars, show cars and special projects.  From GM Green moved to Sunberg-Ferar design, where she was loaned to Dick Teague’s design department at Packard to design the seats and interior panels for the 1955 Packard Caribbean.  Green is one of the women featured in Part I of Smith’s book. 

The late Margaret “Peggy” Sauer, one of the women featured in Part III of Smith’s book, joined GM Styling in 1955 in the Oldsmobile studio.  She later worked in the Cadillac and Buick studios before joining Raymond Loewy’s Avanti Team.  Her Oldsmobile concept car credits include the Mona Lisa, the Chantreuse, the Carousel and the Rendezvous.  Sauer’s long time close friend, Julie Sabit, and Sabit’s nephew Doug Didia, a former GM Design studio artist from the Detroit area, had several examples of Sauer’s original automotive design artwork on display for the event.  Sabit is the custodian of Sauer’s estate and archive.

Crain Communications, Automotive News and Autoweek to the likes of us, generously provided the “Women in Design” banner for this event.  The Peacock Room, a Fisher Building retail space period renovation, was graciously made available for the event by shop owner Rachel Lutz.

Congratulations to the Leland Chapter, and to EyesOn Design of the Detroit Institute of Ophthalmology,  in partnering to support this exceptional event.  

To learn more about EyesOn Design, visit

Additional coverage of this event will be found on pages 4-5 of SAH Journal #293

(l-r) Elizabeth Wetzel, Brian Baker, Constance Smith and MaryEllen Green.


December 19, 2017:  Gathering at Linamar McLaren Engineering in Livonia

Twenty Seven enthusiasts were in attendance for a late afternoon/early evening presentation by George Levy on the Can-Am Race Series and on his 2016 book, Can-Am 50th Anniversary,  with photos by famed racing photographer Pete Biro.

Motor sports author George Levy.


“Can-Am 50th Anniversary” was a Gold Medalist in the Motor Sports category of the 2017 International Automotive Media Awards.


A memorable gathering at Linamar McLaren Engineering.

Photos courtesy of Brian Baker and Mary & Bob Elton.


June 17, 2017:  Meeting and Durant-Dort Factory One Tour

The  Leland Chapter, Detroit held a successful gathering, building tour and business meeting at the Durant-Dort Factory One building in Flint, Michigan on Saturday, June 17, 2017.  Hosted by Factory One Operations Manager Kevin Kirbitz and his staff, over thirty chapter members and their guests were in attendance.   Kevin gave the group a tour of the renovated and re-purposed Durant-Dort Factory One building and the renovated Durant-Dort Offices building across the street, which houses extensive displays of artifacts and photos.  Greg Miller, Director of University Archives at Kettering University, gave a tour of the University archives now housed in the second story of the Factory One building.  These two buildings were the original facilities of what was later to become General Motors.  

Following lunch, organized by Leland Chapter Secretary/Treasurer Victoria Mobley, Kevin Kirbitz gave a presentation on the history of the immediate area and the Durant, Dort and GM presence in Flint.  A chapter business meeting followed, with the momentous occasion of long-serving Leland Chapter President John “Top Hat” Jendza III handing over the reins (or, tiller/steering wheel) to his successor Brian Baker.  Following the business meeting, retired GM Designer Bill Porter entertained attendees with his reminisces of his career at GM. 

A special thanks to Victoria Mobley, Top Hat, Brian Baker, Kevin Kirbitz and Greg Miller for making this event a success.

Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild models in the Kettering University Archives at Factory One.


Historical Society of Michigan

The Leland Chapter, Detroit is a member of the Historical Society of Michigan (HSM). Many of our members have been key note speakers at events for the HSM. 


Jack C. Miller recipient of the 2015 SAH Friends of Automotive History