Have You Ever Seen a Chevy, er Guitar, With a Butterfly Door?


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"Look, that one opens and closes. I love it!" says a woman swathed in a pink hoodie and jeans. Despite her sweaty disposition thanks to this 85 degree Cleveland day, she couldn't help but appreciate the unique art at GuitarMania. The event, which kicked off today, showcases and auctions 10-foot Stratocaster guitars designed by local artists and celebrities. Birthed in 2000, GuitarMania has raised over $2 million for United Way of Cleveland, catapulting it to rock star status in the non-profit sector. And today in no way deviated from the event's previous success. One "hybrid" design--half string instrument, half car--proved a crowd favorite though.

The designer, Justin Riolo, only weeks from graduating from North Olmsted High School, created his guitar to resemble a Mercedes Benz, complete with butterfly doors. Riolo drew from an unlikely source though--National Geographic magazine. You might expect such an expedition for inspiration to end with a cheetah print instrument, but Riolo came across an ad for an old Mercedes Benz in the magazine's pages. That combined with the sexy look of the 2012 Mercedes Benz racing AMG and Riolo found his muse. "I wanted to make it look like you could open the door of the guitar and get in and drive it," he says. Despite Riolo's obvious creative knack, his future lies with the Marines. But he says he'll never lose interest in art.

To put a cherry on top of that cherry red guitar, the design was a natural fit for president of Collection Auto Group Bernie Mereno, who then owned three (now four) dealerships in the greater Cleveland area. The company dropped 10 grand each on three unique designs, the most of any of GuitarMania's sponsors. "I shouldn't say I have a favorite, but this one's my favorite," Mereno says. Well, Bernie, you're not alone. --Christina Sterbenz


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