Skip to content

Cruise nights: Where every dream car has a tale to tell

'It was almost complete and it kind of came down to the final crunch to pick (a colour),' says owner of 1937 Ford and the shade of yellow he refers to as 'dramboogie'

Ray Klowak spotted her across the field at a car show in Kalamazoo, Mich.

It was actually the woman’s shirt that caught his attention. Well, it's colour. It was a perfect hue of yellow.

“I had been looking for a colour for a year and a half to paint my car,” he happily recalls as California Dreamin' by The Mamas and the Papas plays over the loudspeaker recently on a warm evening. “It was almost complete and it kind of came down to the final crunch to pick something.”

And then he spotted it, moving among the classic cars on display. He approached the American woman, explained that she was wearing the colour he had long been searching for, and would she mind if he bought her another top to wear so that he could take hers home.

Being an admirer of collector cars, she immediately agreed and found something else to wear.

“I brought it back here and had it colour-matched and that’s the colour,” the Mansfield man tells BarrieToday, pointing to the result on his 1937 Ford, which he bought 22 years ago.

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

Every car owner has their own tale they happily share, as the efforts of often years-long labour are put on display.

For Klowak, once the paint job was finished it was time to focus on the car’s interior. Leather, he had decided, would add a perfect touch.

But not just any leather  leather from Scotland is what he decided upon when searching for hides that had not been flawed by any imprint of fencing. He ordered three hides to be dyed that special hue, which he decided to call 'dramboogie'  riffing off the name of the liqueur, Drambuie.

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

Klowak figures he spent 2,000 hours of his own elbow grease building the car from the original frame, along with more than just pocket change on the various new components and out-sourced labour.

Cruise nights are all about enthusiasts gathering together on warm summer evenings to share their passion and show off their rides to other classic admirers and observers, explained Gord Houston of the Barrie chapter of the Back Alley Cruisers.

The longtime car collector from Cookstown founded the local club in 1994, seeing about a dozen chapters emerge since then. The Barrie show is in its fourth decade, he figures, although it had been managed by other clubs during the earlier years. And on a hot summer night upwards of 300 cars could fill the lot.

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

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

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

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

After finding a spot in the shade for his 1970 Lincoln Continental Mark III, Robert Vieira of 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 he regularly fields.

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

After polishing the whitewalls on the Mark III, Vieira recounts his time with the car. He purchased it 15 years ago, spent a few years having it restored and rolls it out to the weekly waterfront cruise nights.

His brothers, who have a local car restoration business, were integral in the task of bringing Vieira’s prize up to show standard. The 10-month process meant disassembling the entire vehicle and rebuilding it.

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

“Lincoln didn’t spare any horses when they were building this thing,” Vieira marvels.

Wearing a safety vest and directing cars into either the older classics area or in the line of sports cars is John Olthuis, president of Barrie Thunder Classics car club.

There, too, the field can fill up on a nice night with upward of 300 cars and more than 1,000 spectators, explains Olthuis, who often rolls out 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’ll come from up north, Alliston, Toronto. We have some really nice cars come up from Toronto in the summer time,” Olthuis says.

An ice cream truck and hot dogs are typically available.

Over in super-car alley right along Lakeshore Drive are the more modern, sporty offerings where Barrie's James Bates parked his 2004 Lamborghini Gallardo with vanity plates: PRENUP. 

“The same pack of guys, we do all of the car shows in the area together. We come here to shoot the breeze and we talk about the same stuff we talked about two days ago, but we just talk about it today,” he quips.

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

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


Reader Feedback

About the Author: Marg. Bruineman

Marg. Bruineman is an award-winning journalist who focuses on justice issues and human interest stories
Read more