2, 2012 at 8:32 am
Simmons may be blind, but he is able to modify his Mustang. (Larry Edsall /
Special to The
Marcus Simmons was just a youngster when he started modifying cars.
first was a 1:25th scale model of a Jaguar
XK-E. Simmons upholstered the seats, replaced the six-cylinder engine with a
he turned 21, Simmons bought his first new
a 1965 Ford Mustang, which he quickly turned into "a 6,000-rpm hole-shot
street racer," and with which he temporarily lost his driving privileges
as the points piled up on his license.
Simmons turned his automotive interests to more accepted avenues. Despite his
increasing disabilities, he took classes at two community colleges and
graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering from
built cylinder heads at the
one point, he built an entire car from the ground up — and for three years
in a row that car won its class at
at age 68, Marcus Simmons continues to work on cars, doing everything from
souped-up engine installations to new brake lines to building complete wiring
harnesses from scratch.
Simmons has been pretty much blind since not long after he modified that
started to lose his hearing in grade school, and attended the
was diagnosed with Usher syndrome and retinitis pigmentosa. He hasn't driven a
car since the early 1980s — well, he did make one spin around the block when
he moved to
he worked at the GM Tech Center, he'd have to take four buses from the west
side of Detroit to get to work each day, which is one reason he and his wife
moved to Southfield, where he could take one 12 Mile bus back and forth.
in the early 1970s, Simmons and some friends formed a car club, the Motown
Automotive Professionals. More recently, he has kept the name but modified the
mission: Motown Automotive Professionals is a 501(C)(3) nonprofit (www.map-n.org)
that wants to open a school to train young men and women to be automotive
society was able to give me breaks along the way, I'd like to help
others," Simmons said. "There are lots of kids in school who like
cars. I want to give them the breaks I had."
often speaks to school groups. Once he convinces students that "a blind
person can build a car," he reminds them that "everyone has some
disadvantage, but if I can do it, so can you."
he now "rides shotgun" instead of driving, Simmons often takes his
souped-up and immaculately maintained — he is a stickler for precision and
details — 1970 Mustang to local car shows.
not last weekend. Last weekend, he stayed home to rewire the turn signals on a
friend's 1949 Cadillac