Car Clubs: Still Cruisin’
May 01, 2017 08:30AM ● Published by Jason Huddle
Car Clubs: Still Cruisin’
ON A BEAUTIFUL CAROLINA DAY, IT ISN’T UNCOMMON TO SEE PRISTINE VINTAGE AUTOMOBILES OUT OF GARAGES AND ON THE ROAD. AND SOME OF THESE VEHICLE OWNERS BELONG TO CAR CLUBS.
Two of the oldest car clubs in the U.S. originated pre-World War II. The Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) held its first meeting in Philadelphia in November 1935. The Veteran Motor Club of America was founded in December 1938 with 12 members; it held its first car meet in September of ’39 and, today, boasts more than 3,000 members internationally.
The Classic Car Club of America (CCCA) – comprised of Cadillac and Packard fans – was created in 1951. At the week-long 1952 International Motor Show, the club added 75 new members to its original 25. The CCCA is still in existence today with thousands of members.
“Car clubs have been around since the automobile was made available to the general public,” rodauthority.com says. “The individual’s interpretation of how to make factory productions better looking or how to make their machines faster and stronger were always top priorities. Groups of builders and drivers would stake out the availability of back roads before drag strips were created.
“Throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s, car clubs became immensely popular for building faster and one-off looking cars. The process involved chopping, channeling and splicing different parts to make a wild creation.”
This was when NASCAR was also gaining in popularity and, with it, drag strip racing. “Builders flocked together to create the meanest of the mean street machines in order to race down the local strip,” rodauthority.com adds. “With the desire of speed also came the importance of being flashy and standing out. Clubs would hold local events flaunting their custom creations around their neighborhoods while other clubs would join in to flaunt off their own.”
Whether or not today’s car clubs gather to chop and splice or to show off classics restored to their original glory, it’s easy to recognize what draws these people and their cars together: the enthusiasm
over a certain model. It might be a sentimental journey – remembering cars from their youth, or it may remind them of a certain time in our country’s history or the fact that “they don’t make ‘em like that anymore.”
Regardless of the reason, bringing these owners together with other, like-minded owners is bound to be a thrill and give some a bad case of the “I wants.”
Today’s larger car clubs may run like a business with paid employees, but most are non-profit groups, often with an elected volunteer governing body. Club membership fees might provide members with participation in events as well as merchandise and publications. The events we see most here in Cabarrus County are cruise-ins.
In 2010, Stan Cavaness, Rick Thomas, Craig Hill, Joe Palumbo, Steve Holstein and the late Dennis Peskir founded Harrisburg Cruisers, a non-profit club whose common denominator is the love of American-made muscle cars.
The Muscle Car Club defines a muscle car as “an intermediate-sized, performance-oriented model, powered by a large V8 engine at an affordable price.”
Examples are the Buick GS, Chevrolet Chevelle SS, Dodge Charger R/T, Ford Torino/Cobra, Plymouth GTX, Plymouth Road Runner, Oldsmobile 442 and the Pontiac GTO.
Tanya Colon is Harrisburg Cruisers’ social media coordinator. “It is important to note that the Harrisburg Cruisers is not just a vintage/classic car club, although the majority of the cars are vintage/classic cars. There are several members who have newer-school muscle cars like a 2016 Mustang GT, a 2006 Pontiac GTO, a 2013 Chevy Camaro and others,” she says.
As for why members restore and/or
collect these cars, Colon sees it as a love of a particular car, for sentimental reasons or, “Maybe they have a vehicle that was passed down from a family member – maybe a parent – or they have a love of cars that was passed on from a loved one that has carried on into their life,” she shares.
Club members enjoy the process of restoring and modifying muscle cars, then hitting the local roads. “Part of the fun of working on these cars is the hunt for parts,” Colon explains. “It can be very rewarding if you are at a flea market and spy an item that you have been looking for, for years. Let the haggling begin. For the hard-to-find parts, eBay is a good place to look. Also, collector car magazines such as Hemmings. The Auto Fair has a flea market section with plenty of old, used parts. There are even some junk yards, especially out west, that still have old cars.
“For muscle cars, most parts have been reproduced. This is not true in all cases,” she adds. “For a
1969 Camaro, every part is available. A whole car can be built from scratch. Chrysler/ Dodge (Mopar) are the hardest to get parts for. There are more and more being produced, but not everything is available.”
Once cars are completed, they participate in cruise-ins. In the Harrisburg Cruisers’ case, that means events to benefit charitable causes.
“On the second Friday of the month, we have a cruise-in at the Hardee’s on Highway 49 in Harrisburg from
5 to 9pm,” Colon says. “We have a 50/50 raffle at each cruise-in and the proceeds go to a charity of the club’s choosing (normally Kleb’s Kids, which is a local charity that assists less fortunate children in the area at Christmas time). Our last cruise-in of the year is actually a toy drive to benefit Kleb’s Kids.
“We also have at least one car show per year at Ken Schrader Automotive (this year’s is September 30), and all proceeds go to a charity of the club’s choosing. The last Ken Schrader Car Show proceeds went to the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Our most memorable show was to collect money for a service dog to detect seizures for a little girl named Anna Beth Davis. Collectively with The Sam Wallace Foundation, Kleb’s Kids and Mike Brown, more than $10,000 was raised and Anna Beth later got her dog.”
Participation in events varies, but Colon says that Harrisburg Cruisers is an active club with about 75 percent of its members getting involved in car shows. If they don’t have a car to show, they’ll work behind the scenes.
As for some of the rarest/most unique cars that Cruisers members have owned, Colon says, “We have had a 1954 Desoto Colorado, which was all original but, unfortunately, the owner recently sold it. We have several rare and unique vehicles remaining, and I would say a 1948 Chevy Coupe and a 1933 Ford are the most noteworthy.
“Basically, we are just a group of guys and girls who love cars and our community,” she says. “We have been blessed to use our cars to do good in the neighborhood!”
For more information about Harrisburg Cruisers, visit harrisburgcruisers.org or check out their Facebook page.
Kannapolis Cruise-In is an event that takes place in downtown Kannapolis the second Saturday of each month, 1:00 to 7:00pm, from March through November.
Brenda Drye is executive director for Cabarrus Events Association, which produces the Kannapolis Cruise-In. She explains that it’s had a stop-and-go history. “The seed was planted in the late ‘50s and ‘60s when teens and young adults cruised West Avenue. This was where all the kids hung out. This was stopped in 1984. Somewhere around 2006 to 2008, the cruise-in was put on by another group of people; this also ended. In 2010, Cabarrus Events Association obtained permission from the property owner to bring it back. It continues today with a big following.”
Add the average 1,500 to 2,000 spectators to the 800 to 1,200 classic cars/trucks on display each month, and you’ve got an extravaganza.
“We have had a parking lot marked off for different clubs of the month, but this is a monthly event open to the public and free to everyone. There is no charge to bring your car and it’s open to any year model,” Drye says. “We have a DJ to provide music, a food court, we have had Hula Hoop contests for children, the Rock Climbers Jeep Club, a display of vintage bicycles and a tractor club with vintage tractors.”
She sees the cruise-in as a connection to the past. “It’s an ongoing love that Americans have for motor vehicles,” she says. “It also helps to preserve the history of the American car. A lot of car owners just like to work on the cars and rebuild them to their original beginning. Some car owners buy and restore cars that they owned when they first got a car or one they had growing up, or one that they wished they could have had growing up.”
She rattles off a list of vintage autos she’s seen at the cruise-in, like model Henry Js, Old Nash, Buicks, Studebakers, 1955, ’56 and ‘57 Chevrolets, as well as a 1951 Plymouth. On April 8, two Chevrolet trucks painted the same shade of blue showed up – a 1948 and a 1952. The owners did not know each other (photo, left).
Kannapolis Cruise-In relies on sponsorships, and Scotty Beaver with Beaver’s Honda Car Salvage has been a sponsor for the past eight years.
“We have people from surrounding cities such as Mooresville, Winston-Salem, Raleigh, Greensboro and even surrounding states such as Virginia, South Carolina and Tennessee come out to this event,” Drye says. “The Kannapolis Cruise-In is one of the biggest in our area. It is unique in that you can park and sit and talk to other car owners or you can cruise around West Avenue to see all the cars. Or you can just park and walk to get an up-close-and-personal look at the cars. Car owners love to have pictures taken of their cars.
“It gives our volunteers great pleasure in bringing this event to downtown Kannapolis where families can come and enjoy a part of our past as well as the present. You see grandparents bringing their grandchildren and telling them stories about the old cars. Children love to see the cars, especially the Rat Rods.”
For more information, visit cabarrusevents.org or call Brenda Drye at 704-932-3808.
Story By: Kim Cassell
Photos Courtesy: Kannapolis Cruise-in and Harrisburg Cruisers