Cars spanning the decades cruise Harper Avenue near 11 Mile Road during the 2021 Shorewood Kiwanis Harper Charity Cruise Aug. 25.

Cars spanning the decades cruise Harper Avenue near 11 Mile Road during the 2021 Shorewood Kiwanis Harper Charity Cruise Aug. 25.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Harper Cruise brings visitors from near and far to the avenue

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published September 8, 2021

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — It was one for the ages ... and the ’80s.

As the years progress, the cars counted as classic get newer and, among ’57 Chevy BelAirs, Ford Model-Ts and other traditional classic cars, the 2021 Shorewood Kiwanis Harper Cruise seemed to have many vehicles that first rolled off the line in the late 1980s.

Chuck Mack, of Almont, and his wife brought his 1987 SS Monte Carlo Aero Coupe to the Aug. 25 event. The all-black vehicle, modeled after the cars driven in NASCAR, was purchased in 1990 by his son. After he fell asleep at the wheel on North Avenue and “totaled it,” the car sat in Mack’s garage for 15 years before Mack bought it from his son. Working on the car part-time, it took about five years to bring it back to life.

Mack said there was probably more damage to the vehicle from sitting idle for more than a decade compared with damage from the crash.

“It turned out nice,” Mack said, noting that it was the third Monte Carlo in the family. “Every year, it seems to get more and more attention.”

Mack said he and his wife enjoy driving down to the Harper Cruise each year, so much so that they wished it was a little longer than the nearly 4 mile stretch from Old Eight Mile Road to Bayside Street. They enjoy their hobby as a couple, he said, and took the car to the Woodward Dream Cruise the week before.

Roseville resident Larry Kalakay brought the 1987 Cadillac Fleetwood he bought a few years ago to the cruise.

“I just like seeing all the old cars,” he said from the B-A-S Security Systems party south of Nine Mile Road. “I like looking at the cars from the ’50s and ’60s, from when I was a teenager.”

A group of friends that gathered to watch the cruise from the parking lot of the new Kroger store at Nine Mile Road said they like the atmosphere of the Harper Cruise better than Woodward.

“It’s close to my house, and I always have a good time,” said Derek Elliott, of Roseville.

He and his friends came to the “unofficial” cruise in 2020, as well.

“I was out here. The car community is stronger,” he said.

Elliott invited Mike Doelle, of Roseville, who has worked at Shores Auto Body, 20555 E. Nine Mile Road, for the past 15 years but never came to the cruise until 2021.

“I’ve always left because it’s been so hot,” he said. “But here I am, having the time of my life, a great time, literally more fun than I’ve had at Woodward.”

Sitting with the telephoto lens of his camera trained on the avenue, Doug Bukantis, of Roseville, said he and his dad like to go to all the car cruises.

“I’m a MOPAR guy, Dad’s a VW guy, so it’s always an interesting conversation,” he said. The Harper Charity Cruise is special, he said, because it brings back memories of when he and his friends grew up in the area and would cruise down to Stroh’s on motorcycles.

Amber Patton, of St. Clair Shores, and her husband bring his Mustang to the cruise.

“I like that it’s small and not a traffic jam,” she said.

While she said the cruise is a tradition for her and her husband, some traditions were just getting started this year. This was the first year Brad Miller, of St. Clair Shores, brought his 3-year-old son, Joey, to the car cruise.

“We did Woodward and then this one,” he said. “My dad always brought me out, and it’s something he likes. I live right down the street, and it couldn’t be better.”

Standing in the shade with his 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air, George Werthmann, of Chesterfield Township, said he likes seeing how Harper Avenue has changed over the years. He grew up in Harper Woods and then lived in St. Clair Shores as an adult.

“It’s the hometown kind of thing,” he said. “Everybody behaves. What’s there not to like about it if you’re a car guy?”

Many cruisers said they appreciate that it’s on a weeknight and they don’t have to arrive at the crack of dawn to secure their spot.

Wade Rayford, of Detroit, said he always comes to the Shorewood Kiwanis Harper Charity Cruise because it’s the last one of the season.

“I like the setting. It’s usually pretty straight-forward, not a lot of burnouts,” he said. “It’s in the evening; it gives me time to get out here.”

He brought his 1987 Buick National to the cruise.

“I bought that baby brand-new,” he said, pointing out that the original registration was still on the vehicle. “Now they’re coming into the point of being classics,” he said.