Cars are what you’ll find at the Tuesday cruise nights at Oakland Beach.
There are lots of cars, from muscle machines to a perfectly restored VW bug from the 1960s. And there are cars like you can’t find anywhere else – custom machines tricked out to go very fast, designed to turn heads or meant simply to showcase ingenuity.
Cruise night are aptly named, for in addition to an exhibit of a devotion to the “car” and mechanics, to use the metaphor, they are also a highway. The cruise is a trip into the past when giant finned machines owned the highways, or even further back when not much more than a buggy was powered by a crude machine to replace the horse.
It’s all there on the Oakland Beach commons and stretching on the field beyond, depending on the weather. The hint of rain is enough to deter some from opening a garage door. A few raindrops can close things down.
So, if you’re planning on cruising, check the forecast, but also be prepared to meet people.
Stephen Henault is a regular. He’s been cruising in Oakland Beach ever since the late Kevin Oliver started the event as a means of raising scholarship funds for the Oakland Beach Association and bringing the community together.
Henault paid $50 for his first car, a 1950 Crosley. He’s lost count of how many he’s owned since then.
At one point in business, he owned 27 apartments.
He consequently had many garages and places to keep the cars he couldn’t resist acquiring. He’s scaled back his collection now that he owns four apartments, but there’s no quenching his love for cars.
“I’ve always loved cars,” he said. At the cruise night he finds kindred spirits and as he puts it, “all great people.”
“There’s not a sour apple here. This is a great way to spend a night, surrounded by cars. It’s up my alley.”
And then there are those for whom cars are family – or, you could say, kids.
At first glance, Christine and Steve Hamm have twin Shelby GT-500s. They’re both red with a white stripe down the middle. Both cars sparkled in the setting sun last Tuesday and exuded power.
“Mine has more toys on it than his,” boasted Christine, pointing under the hood where every wire, hose and component looked as new as when it left the factory – if, in fact, it was even part of the car when it rolled off the assembly line.
Christine has added a lot. Some of it is for show, like the black metal plate extending from the grill under the hood. She wanted the plate to be an extension of grill. Steve made it happen, painting it red with the white stripes.
The next project?
“See those hoses?” she said, pointing to the polished engine with coiled cobra emblems. “I’ve got red ones on order, they’ll be arriving next week.”
“You tell him about the toothbrush?” queried Steve.
Christine feigned embarrassment, confessing she carries one to whisk away any dirt that might sully her baby.
Goliath must be the appropriate description, although this car attracts the kind of attention given to a newborn. Passers-by stand at a respectable distance cooing their admiration. The engine delivers more than 730 horsepower – it’s hardly a baby.
Have they raced? Who’s got the faster car, him or her?
Husband and wife traded glances. They did not say, although they agreed it would be cool to have a strip for a straight-line race.
There are secrets on cruise nights – where did you find that car; what did it cost to make it look like it does; who’s your mechanic?
That’s OK. There are some things family doesn’t reveal, even when another motorhead is asking.
Come, admire, ask questions, but don’t touch without asking on Tuesday nights.
You’ll travel to places never imagined.
Editor’s Note: National Night Out activities will be held tonight at Oakland Beach. The cruise night returns next Tuesday.