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Lifestyles of the (someday) rich and famous, Detroit auto show style

Tracy Samilton
Michigan Radio
David Loehr checking out a new Rolls Royce

The 2018 North American International Auto Show begins tomorrow, after Friday night's famous must-see and must-be-seen charity gala.

But the most exclusive event associated with the auto show was actually last week. It's a special show featuring ultra-luxury automobiles including the latest Aston Martins, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and Rolls Royces.

I thought about borrowing a mink stole and long white gloves to cover the show, but decided to go with business casual. I figured I couldn't even begin to compete with the wardrobes of the women attending this glittery luxury car fest, and I was right.

Do you remember that TV show, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous? That's the show where host Robin Leach let us among the hoi-polloi get a glimpse of how the very wealthy and very famous live.

Credit Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
Jaguar at The Gallery at Cobo Center, 2018 NAIAS

The Gallery show at Cobo Center is a little like that, except you can take as many selfies as you want sitting in the cars that only people with plump pocketbooks can afford to buy.

Max Muncey handles public relations for this celebration of the most exclusive car brands.
"We fly Wolfgang Puck in from Beverly Hills to make the food for guests," says Muncey. "We have Rolls Royce, and Ferrari and Bugatti and Lamborghini and many other amazing brands here on display."
Anyone can go, for the price of a $250 ticket. But Muncey says the marketing is pretty exclusive. 
"There's a list," he says.

Credit Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
Live music provided by New Classica of Detroit at The Gallery event at 2018 NAIAS

We're talking a list of people rich enough to actually buy one of these cars.  Sorry, they're not rich, they're  "highly qualified." People with American Express Centurion cards, for example. (Those are cards the company offers only if you spend $450,000  a year on your other American Express cards.)

There's also plenty of well-known Metro Detroit attorneys in the crowd, auto executives and local celebrities.  

And there are some serious shoppers among the guests. I asked one gal if she was going to buy the Masarati on display. No, she likes the Masarati she already owns better. Martina Javier says she is definitely in the market.

"Our daughter, she's like two months from being 15," says Javier. "So we are seriously thinking about having three vehicles, so yeah, we're just thinking, trying to find out what's new and what we are going to  get."

But there are also plenty of just plain gawkers and wannabes at the show. People with a special date they want to impress. Dreamers, like Travis Barda who is checking out the star of the show, the new Rolls Royce Phantom.

He says he's just "window shopping. This is pretty much a dream car for when I win the lottery I guess. It's not a car I'm going to go out and buy tomorrow."


Credit Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio
Michigan Radio
Night sky ceiling on Rolls Royce Phantom

The version of the Phantom on display is $520,000.  Of course I don't pass up what could be my only opportunity ever to sit in a Rolls Royce. I get in the back seat and my feet just sink and sink into something. I take off my shoes. If feet could die and go to heaven without the rest of you, that's what it feels like.

I urge Travis Barda's wife Amber Barda to take off her shoes in the back seat and give it a try.

"I might never want to put my shoes back on after this. This is amazing," she says. "That feels like something extinct!"  

Oh, and the ceiling on the Phantom has lights like a night sky.  Mark Davis is with Rolls Royce of Michigan.  "There's 1,340 fiber optic lights," he says, "and those are customizable so if you want to see a certain star constellation in the roof, that's a request that can be made through the bespoke department at Rolls."

The Phantom also comes with a fancy bespoke umbrella that has a special little cubby hole storage place right in the door. For those days when your chauffeur has the day off, I guess.

So after drooling all over the Phantom, now I have to tell you that you won't see it at the regular auto show.  Only 16 of the 29 cars here will be on display on the 2018 NAIAS floor.

The Rolls is on to another exclusive venue somewhere ... maybe ending up at that mansion across the bay.  You know the one, with the green light shining through the mist, and a beautiful woman named Daisy getting into the back seat.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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