By Sarah Shurge – The year was 1972. Two identical twins purchased two Ford Gran Torinos from Jack Demmer Ford in Wayne. Their vehicle’s VIN numbers only one number apart. Flash forward to the year 2022, those same identical twins had a 50-year photoshoot with those same cars in front of that same dealership.
Richard Gish and Rodney Gish were 19 years old when they decided they needed to buy new cars.
“We wanted more of a sporty-muscle car, but not the Mustang. The next best thing was the Gran Torino. We liked the design of it,” said Rodney.
With a little pressure from their father and some convincing from his brother, Richard joined Rodney on a trip to Jack Demmer Ford to look at cars.
A silver Gran Torino with black bucket seats caught the eye of Richard, and a metallic green Gran Torino with ginger bucket seats caught the eye of Rodney.
Richard and Rodney ordered their cars with a manual four-speed transmission, however, both of their cars arrived off Wayne’s Ford Assembly line with an automatic instead. Their salesperson, Al Bruhowski reordered their cars with the correct transmission.
Then the twins’ second cars arrived with the correct transmission but the wrong axle ratio in them. Members at Demmer noticed the mistake and fixed it.
Richard picked up his new car the Friday before Memorial Day in 1972. Rodney’s car came in two days before that.
For the most part, both cars are stocked, aside from minor modifications to the motor. Both have their original interior still, but both exteriors have been repainted. Richard repainted his around 2003 or 2004, and Rodney repainted his shortly after in 2005.
To celebrate the 50-year anniversary of having the same cars, Rodney’s good friend Marilyn Lang booked a photoshoot for the twins.
Don Ling and his business partner and wife, Lorna, were the photographers for the shoot. Ling has been doing photography since 1987 and started Art After Dark in July 2020.
The photoshoot occurred on October 6th, 2022 in front of Jack Demmer Ford. Ling and Lorna arrived around 6 p.m. to set up. Prior to sunset, they set up their camera on a tripod, which cannot move during the entire photoshoot. Lorna operates the computer that is tethered to the camera. Her job is to trigger the camera, while Ling lights the cars.
The team must wait for total darkness, which allows a handheld light to light the car in many different ways and many different exposures. Each exposure shows a small and specific part of the car.
Ling might light a tire four different ways, or a grill work four different ways. Then all of the exposures are brought together in photoshop and like a puzzle, all of the pieces are put together for the finished product.
For Richard and Rodney’s photoshoot, Ling had the two Torinos positioned so you could see the building in the background with Jack Demmer signage. The Ford sign was also part of the background.
“We were honored that these gentlemen wanted to use Jack Demmer Ford for the photoshoot. This is a great story to tell, and they are part of our history,” said Jim Demmer, Jack Demmer Ford Vice President. “Plus, their Gran Torinos are really cool.”
The shoot started around 7:30 p.m. and finished between 8:30 and 9 p.m. Ling stated he did 150 exposures that night.
“The storyline was perfect. The twin brothers, the cars, the dealer, it really needed to be done there,” said Ling. “It was not a perfect arrangement setup, but the storyline overrode that.”
Ling explained that the warmth of the streetlights on Michigan Ave was bouncing off the building onto the cars and the constant flow of traffic going past forced the team to pause many times during the shoot.
“Part of what this process requires is as close to absolute darkness as possible. When working on Michigan Ave, the streetlights and headlights are hard to work with,” said Ling. “Most of the time I’m in a dark, controlled situation, without traffic. This was probably the most challenging project done to control lighting.”
After months of work, Ling was able to present the finished project to Rodney in the beginning of May 2023. It’s now on display in Rodney’s living room.
“It’s a great looking picture,” said Rodney. “Every time I see the photo it reminds me of childhood memories and brings back memories of what we did together. I’m really pleased with the picture.”
Rodney and Richard were born 10 minutes apart on December 1st, 1952. Born and raised in Inkster, the twins did everything together as they grew up.
“We did a lot of work on cars, went into the military together, and worked at Ford together after high school. I always had a buddy,” said Rodney.
The twins graduated high school in 1970. Representatives from Ford came to their high school and handed out job applications. There were only a few students that actually filled out the application, so the twins were hired on the spot.
They were in the National Guard from November 1971 to October 1977 as part of the lotto for the draft. Their sister was in Vietnam as a nurse in 1969 and told the twins if they had to go to Vietnam she would re-enlist.
From 1981 through 1984, they started their own company together but eventually, Richard returned to work for Ford.
“That was the first time that we were separated. It was a big shock for me,” said Rodney. “He was always around and we worked great together.”
The twins’ father retired in 1980 and built a house in the Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan. Their father passed away in 1987, and the twins took over the house. Then in 2008, their neighbor in the UP sold their house and Richard bought it so he could live next door.
“We’ve grown apart in the last years, but we did everything together. He is my best friend. If you’re not a twin, you won’t understand. We’re very close,” said Richard.
Since the photoshoot, the twins have been working on projects together at their homes in the UP which has brought them closer together.
Rodney purchased a copy of the finished photo for Richard and planned on driving up north on Monday, June 26th or Tuesday, June 27th to give it to him.
“I’m more active in car shows than my brother. I could never convince him with our unique story. I could never get him involved. This photoshoot was the first major attempt that worked,” said Rodney.
Rodney participated in the annual car cruise, Cruisin’ US12 in Wayne in 2018 and 2019. He was ready to participate again this year but will be up north during the event.
To view the twins’ photo or any of the other projects Ling has completed or to book a photoshoot, you can visit art-afterdark.com/home or his main business page, dlphotography.com/home.
“It was an absolute delight to work with these people to create something that they will be able to have for a long time,” said Ling.