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Roll out your rims: Classic cruise season has landed

Published June 3, 2013

Classic cars, hot rods, antique and exotic wheels are out of winter storage and prepped for motor festivals, cruise nights and show-and-shine gatherings across Canada.

Car-lovers are bringing their wheels to gatherings held in city parking lots, parks and rural settings. Events such as next weekend’s three-day Fleetwood County Cruize-in, June 7- 9, in London, which draws more than 25,000 people and thousands of unique vehicles.

Billed as an “auto extravaganza like no other,” this year’s Cruize-in includes concerts featuring acts from the early days of rock ‘n’ roll such as Bobby Vinton, Mitch Ryder, Paul Revere and The Raiders, The Association and Mary Wells of the Supremes, as well as hot-rod and custom-car celebrities George Barris, “Miss Hurst” Linda Vaughn and Gene Winfield.

Why do classic car events thrive?

“There are a few things at work here, and it’s not unlike a lot of other activities that we as a culture get excited about,” said Stuart Henderson, PhD., assistant professor at McMaster University’s history department.

Henderson specializes in North American pop culture, and is a features editor with PopMatters Media and the author of Making the Scene: Yorkville and Hip Toronto in the 1960s.

“The historical associations with the car haven’t changed over the years. It represents freedom and sex. There’s all this romance associated with the car that still resonates with people to this day.”

Since the 1950s, the car has been idealized as a teenage means to escape parents and a means of freedom, on the open road.

“The car represents control in an important way,” Henderson said. “Being a good driver able to control the machine is a point of pride. Sometimes things are beyond our control. The boss is giving you a hard time or the kids are driving you crazy or whatever it is.

“But you can get in the car and drive away.”

Being able to pop the hood, and fix and maintain a classic car or hot rod provides a great sense of control over technology, especially in a modern world where it’s become harder to tinker with devices.

“Car consumption is never simply about rational economic choices, but is as much about aesthetic, emotional and sensory responses to driving, as well as patterns of kinship, sociability, habitation and work,” writes Mimi Sheller, a professor of sociology and founding director of the Center For Mobilities Research and Policy at Drexel University in Philadelphia.

A founding member of the Thornhill Cruisers Car Club and its president for the first 16 years, Nate Salter has seen crowds of people come to the club’s popular Monday cruise nights with as many as 1,000 showing to see up to 500 antique and collectable cars 20 years and older on a summer long weekend.

The event has always been free and open to cars and spectators.

Since 1994, the club has raised $200,000 in draws to support local charities.

Adults, kids and teens are drawn to see remarkable vehicles from the past at the weekly event, held in Richmond Hill.

Thornhill Cruisers Car Club cruise nights are now held in the parking lot of the Canadian Tire store at 250 Silver Linden Dr., just west of Bayview Ave. off High Tech Rd., from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Mondays, from Victoria Day until Labour Day weekend.

Billed as “a Canadian newspaper for the enthusiast,” Old Autos has been publishing twice a month since 1987, providing news, event listings, and classified and display ads for antique and classic car enthusiasts.

“Interest in older cars is increasing, because a lot of younger people are starting to get attracted by cars from the 50s, 60s and 70s. I would say the classic car culture is very much alive,” said Kim Meloche, co-publisher of Old Autos.

While 80 per cent of the title’s 20,000 subscribers are in Canada, the paper is read by people in the U.S., Australia and Europe, and its website is accessed by viewers around the globe at http://www.oldautos.ca/

Wherever classic car events are held you will always hear people say with fondness: “They sure don’t make them like they used to.”

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