Made in America

Ann Arbor's Perich celebrates American cars
Ernie Perich and his Cadillac CTS.

This photo of Ernie Perich and his Cadillac CTS is posted on his website, (Image links to closeup of the T-shirt design.)

In 1976, when Ernie Perich was a feckless youth, he and two buddies from college decided to travel to art fairs around Michigan selling “I Love America” T-shirts, tapping into the nation’s bicentennial celebration. More than 30 years later, Perich – now with the trappings of adulthood, including his own Ann Arbor ad agency and a bank directorship – is back in the T-shirt game.

Perich says that over the years he’s owned “every one of the fancy Ann Arbor German cars,” but about a year and a half ago he got a Cadillac CTS and loves it. He’s tired of hearing people dis the U.S. auto industry – plus, General Motors is one of his firm’s clients. He wanted a way to celebrate American cars and generate a little buzz, so he spent about $2,000 on T-shirts intended to do just that.

The T-shirts say  ”I ♥ My (American Car)” with the last two words rendered in Japanese characters. The idea, Perich says, is to get people to wonder what the heck those Japanese words mean. A website address – – is printed on the sleeve. On that site, you can upload photos of yourself with your car, or buy the T-shirt for $17.76 – get it?

Perich calls the venture a pet project, and says he’s not looking to make money. “It’s just kind of a feel-good thing,” he said.

T-shirts wrapped, labeled and ready to ship at Perich Advertising + Design in Ann Arbor.

T-shirts wrapped, labeled and ready to ship at Perich Advertising + Design in Ann Arbor. They're sold on the website

And in fact, they’re not set up to do high volume at this point. He’s ordered only 200 shirts – printed locally at Ascott Corp. on North Main, on shirts bought from American Apparel. Those that they haven’t already given away or sold are stashed in a couple of cardboard boxes on the second floor of Perich Advertising + Design’s funky First Street offices.

When The Chronicle dropped by on Friday afternoon, Jeff Lutch – a production designer with the firm – showed us the design for a second T-shirt that’s in the works. This one broadens the theme from cars to anything made in America. The shirt reads “I ♥ My American-Made _______ ” and will come with a red marker to write in your product of choice.

Perich came up with the idea only a month or so ago, and he’s done virtually no marketing. He did send a T-shirt to WJR radio host Frank Beckmann, who recently interviewed Perich about the project. That spot generated more than 100 orders for the shirt, according to a post on the I Have Chosen Facebook page. Perich plans to ramp up publicity soon.

Perich says the impetus for this isn’t coming from his firm’s relationship with GM, though he says the automaker is an important client. His 25-employee agency works with several different GM divisions, including fleet, commercial and alternative fuel groups.

He grew up in Dearborn and says he cares about the fate of the domestic auto industry, and believes many others do, too. He hopes that creating an outlet to express that support will somehow make a difference.

“It’s important to us,” Perich said. “No bull.”

Evan Perich, left, is working on a display for a line of hats that his father is designing with the Swedish firm Wigens.

Production designer Jeff Lutch looks on as Evan Perich, left, works on a display for a line of hats that his father is designing with the Swedish firm Wigéns. But that's another story.

One Comment

  1. May 27, 2009 at 10:30 am | permalink

    Can I buy one of the “I ♥ My American-Made _______ ” shirts and write in “Toyota” for the Camry I used to own that was built in Kentucky? Or “Honda” for my mom’s Civic that was built in Ohio?

    Just curious.