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Cruise-In: Monday night cruising at Merchants Crossing

By Staff | Feb 5, 2015

If you’re a lover of classic cars, rarely a day goes by without being able to attend some kind of cruise night or classic car show.

Even on a dreary Monday at Merchants Crossing, there were countless cars on display in the parking lot next to Applebee’s, which hosts a cruise night every Monday between mid-September and the end of May.

And while the rain and chill kept some classic car owners away, there were still plenty of classic (along with some unusual later-model cars) driving machines on display as the skies cleared just before sunset.

Larry Day, volunteer of the Merchants Crossing Cruise-In, said this get-together has no club affiliation, making it an event where no car gets turned away due to make, model or amount of original parts.

Day said this is the time of year to come see the cars, since all the snowbirds are down.

“A lot of people from up north bring their cars with them. They enjoy coming out for all the automotive events all over Southwest Florida,” Day said, adding he has a website that shows all the automotive events for that given week.

Day said last week, there were 28 car events in Southwest Florida alone for every day of the week except some Tuesdays. Merchants Crossing usually has about 200 cars on a good week, but has had as many as 400.

“It’s a chance to talk with people with similar interest in the hobby.

Among the highlights of the event include a 50/50 raffle in which both sides of the money are given away, door prizes, and 15 percent discounts at Applebee’s on Monday’s only.

On the second Monday of the month, the event offers free National Street Rod Association safety inspections.

But people come for the cars, especially the classics. Bob Dowell, from Michigan brought a 1930 LaSalle, seven-passenger van, one of three LaSalle models his brings from up north annually. Beside the windshield between the front and back and the wipers, the cars has all original parts right down to the wood-spoked wheels.

“I sanded them for months, put five coats and varnish on them and check for termites. A car like this when new sold for about $2,700, while a Ford you could buy for $600, so it was an expensive car for its day,” Dowell said. It’s the car Archie Bunker sang about. ‘Oh, how the old LaSalle ran great.'”

Bruce Conley, of North Fort Myers, brought his 1967 Chevelle Supersport, which he bought at the Muscle Car Museum in Punta Gorda at a swap meet and reworked with a bigger engine, air conditioning and the works.

“I bring it here and there, not too far. It only gets 10 mpg. I only bring it where there’s asphalt,” Conley said, who had a similar car as a young teen before it was stolen and chopped up. “We’re like a dying breed. The younger kids aren’t into these things, they like those little ‘noopie’ cars.”

If you didn’t have a car, that was OK, too. Judy Raymaker was on vacation from Canada and she and her friend Gail Glover, now a resident, came across the event and loved what they saw, even if it was a limited inventory.

“I see it every Monday night and it’s something to do with company. My husband’s family was collectors of cars, so this is something we do,” Glover said. “It’s very social and the cars are a reflection of the past. That’s nice to see.”

Merchants Crossing is at Pine Island Road and U.S. 41.

The cruise-in gatherings run from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m or so.