ST. CLAIR SHORES — Hours before cruisers and spectators took to Harper Avenue, the dark clouds parted and blue sky shone through to make way for classic cars, hotrods and other specialty vehicles to take to the road.
That lucky turn of events didn’t surprise Bob Joannides, of St. Clair, though. He said it happens every year.
“The weather turns beautiful for this cruise,” he said, sitting outside Swick Tax Service just south of 10 Mile Road.
He comes every year to the cruise for a private party given by the business and really enjoys the quality cars he sees on the road.
“It’s a St. Clair Shores tradition now,” he said. “Each year, it gets better and better. The quality of the cars, the people … it’s a good group of people that turn out.”
Many other members of the crowd lining the sidewalks of Harper Avenue Aug. 28 for the 2013 Harper Charity Cruise, hosted annually by the Shorewood Kiwanis, agreed.
First-time visitor Michelle Touchton, of St. Clair Shores, came to see the sights with family, including her two children.
“We live close by and we love cars,” she said. “There’s lots of stuff to look at, stuff for the kids to do.”
And Darren Reed, of Roseville, who brought his white 1967 Ford Galaxy 500 to the event, said he’s never missed a Harper Cruise. He likes it because there’s no boulevard to block the view.
“This is probably the best cruise in Michigan,” he said. “You can see all four lanes, they always have nice classics. You can see everything (and), for us, it’s kind of a family reunion.”
Frank Pascoe, of Farmington, with his gleaming 2011 Dodge Charger RT, also came with family.
Pascoe retired from the Chrysler styling department after working on the 2011 Dodge Charger and said he bought the customized vehicle because he said he “wanted a car I couldn’t have when I was 17.”
He said he spends his summers on the car cruise circuit with that vehicle or one of his two classic cars — a 1977 American Motors Corporation (AMC) Pacer and a 1973 Dodge Charger.
“I worked on the Pacer, too,” he said. “My work history is in my garage. Cars are in my blood.”
But it takes a lot of work to get the cars in the right shape, said Bill Callahan, of St. Clair Shores, as he watched the parade of cars outside Sabby’s Lounge at 10 Mile Road.
“You have to be very resourceful,” he said. “Pre-World War II cars parts are hard to find. (From the 1960s on) those parts are still somewhat available if you’re willing to travel.”
He said it’s difficult to make things look right without some professional help, though, especially when it comes to high-gloss paint. As the owner of a 1930 Model A and a 1957 Fairlane 500, he should know.
“Unless you’re very, very good, it shows,” he said.
That’s why Joe Mentt, of St. Clair Shores, only got his 1970 Vitamin C orange Plymouth Barracuda on the road just in time for the Harper Cruise.
With just three miles on the car, he “worked on it for three years, and it’s the first time out.”
But if there was one cruise he was going to get the car to this year, the Harper Charity Cruise was the one to aim for.
“(I) actually met my girlfriend here seven years ago — still going strong. It’s always a good time,” he said.
Everyone was well-behaved on the cruise route from Old Eight Mile Road up to Bayside Street, said Traffic Lt. Steve Lambert. There were no accidents reported during the cruise and only a small rear-end crash reported after the fact, which he was quick to say did not involve any classic cars.
“It was great,” said Lambert. “Great weather, great crowds (and) well-behaved.”
The friendly crowds are what attract many auto enthusiasts, including John Bennett, of Lenox, who brought his 1957 Chevrolet golf cart — complete with rear fins — to the cruise.
He calls the vehicle the “Rat Fink Surf Shop” because, of course, it has a surf board on the roof.
“I find it easier to get in and out of traffic, plus it doesn’t overheat. I take it everywhere,” he said.
His wife, Karen Bennett, said they enjoy the unique vehicles they see on Harper Avenue, including a motorized bathtub and a paddleboat driving down the road.
“There’s all kind of crazy things on the road,” she said. “It gets funny.”