Cruising nights: where every dream car has a story to tell


“It was almost done and it was kind of about choosing (a color),” says the owner of the 1937 Ford and the shade of yellow he calls “dramboogie”.

Ray Klowak spotted her across the lot at a car show in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

It was actually the woman’s shirt that caught his eye. Well, it’s the color. It was a perfect yellow shade.

“I had been looking for a color to paint my car for a year and a half,” he recalls happily as The Californian dream by The Mamas and the Papas played on the speaker recently on a warm evening. “It was almost done and it was kind of about choosing something.”

And then he spotted it, moving among the classic cars on display. He approached the American, explained to her that she was wearing the color he had been looking for for a long time and that he would mind if he bought her another top to wear so he could bring his back to the home.

Being a fan of classic cars, she immediately accepted and found something else to wear.

“I brought it here and had it matched the color and it’s the color,” says Mansfield man BarrieTodaypointing the result to his 1937 Ford, which he bought 22 years ago.

It’s another Saturday night cruise in the Bayfield Mall parking lot where stories of cars, their origins and evolution abound as good vibes reverberate. No classic car show is complete without a backdrop of classic tunes.

Each car owner has his own story, which he shares with pleasure, as the efforts of many years’ work are exposed.

For Klowak, once the paint job was complete, it was time to focus on the interior of the car. Leather, he decided, would add the perfect touch.

But not just any leather Scottish leather is what he chose when looking for hides that hadn’t been marred by any marks from fencing. He ordered to dye three skins with this special shade, which he decided to call “dramboogie” riffing on the liquor’s name, Drambuie.

Once the flawless hides were dyed and delivered, the seats were then upholstered in Caledon.

Klowak believes he spent 2,000 hours of his own elbow grease building the car from the stock chassis, plus more than just a pocket change on the various new components and a labor outsourced.

Cruise parties are for enthusiasts who get together on warm summer evenings to share their passion and show off their rides to fellow admirers and classic watchers, explained Gord Houston of the Barrie Chapter of the Back Alley Cruisers.

The longtime Cookstown car collector founded the local club in 1994, seeing a dozen chapters emerge since then. The Barrie show is in its fourth decade, he believes, although it has been run by other clubs in previous years. And on a hot summer night, more than 300 cars could fill the lot.

“It’s a night for everyone,” he says. “There is a mixture of everything hot rods, antiques, customs.”

Houston himself drives a black 1934 Ford. He also has a 1956 Mercury Monarch, which he still works on, but his collecting days date back to when he was 16, like many others in the parking lot.

The Back Alley Cruisers aren’t the only show in town, though.

Drive downtown on a Wednesday night after 5 p.m. and you’ll find another collection of car enthusiasts as classic cars thunder through Heritage Park.

After finding a place in the shade for his 1970 Lincoln Continental Mark III, Robert Vieira de Oro Station placed a banner listing his car’s attributes, something you might find for a car for sale. It helps to answer the typical questions that he regularly answers.

The weekly Barrie Thunder Classics gathering is another chance for aficionados, collectors and those who appreciate gas-guzzling beauties of yesteryear or more modern performance cars to share a common interest.

After polishing the white sides of the Mark III, Vieira recounts his time with the car. He bought her 15 years ago, spent a few years getting her restored and rolling her out on the weekly nighttime waterfront cruises.

His brothers, who have a local car restoration business, were instrumental in bringing Vieira’s price level up. The 10-month process meant taking the whole vehicle apart and rebuilding it.

Most of the interior is original, with walnut accents on the steering wheel throughout the interior as well as a prized Cartier clock.

“Lincoln spared no horse when they built this thing,” Vieira marvels.

John Olthuis, president of the Barrie Thunder Classics automobile club, wears a safety vest and directs cars to the older classics area or the sports car line.

Here, too, the field can fill up on a nice evening with more than 300 cars and more than 1,000 spectators, says Olthuis, who often deploys his 1988 BMW 325i convertible for the weekly event, weather permitting.

“People come from Wasaga Beach. The Innisfil area has a lot of nice cars. They will come from the north, Alliston, Toronto. We have some really nice cars coming in from Toronto in the summer,” says Olthuis.

An ice cream truck and hot dogs are usually available.

In the supercar driveway along Lakeshore Drive are the more modern, sporty offerings where James Bates of Barrie parked his 2004 Lamborghini Gallardo with vanity plates: PRENUP.

“Same group of guys, we do all the auto shows in the area together. We come here to shoot the breeze and we talk about the same things we talked about two days ago, but we’re just talking about it today” , he jokes.

Bates bought his treasure five years ago and, unlike many special rides owned by Barrie Thunder Classics members, he doesn’t put his car on blocks in the winter.

He thinks the car is meant to be driven, so it’s his lightly used daily driver.


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