Field Notes: Classic Car Cruise Nights
Each month Field Notes explores Honolulu’s vibrant and varied scenes and subcultures. This month: Classic Car Cruise Nights.
The 2014 Cruise Night schedule includes Aikahi Park Shopping Center, March 1, May 3, June 7, July 5, Aug. 6 and Nov. 1; Windward Mall, March 15, May 17, June 21, July 19, Aug. 16, Oct. 18.
Photos: Odeelo Dayondon
WHAT IT IS
When talking about cars, “cruise” generally means “going for a drive.” Among Hawaii’s classic car buffs it has another meaning: parking with your friends and talking for hours about each other’s 1972 Dodge Chargers, 1964 Volkswagen Beetles, 1945 Ford pickup trucks or whatnot. On any given weekend, there’s at least one “classic car cruise night” happening somewhere on Oahu. Shopping mall parking lots are the preferred locales. Fast-food restaurants are the default.
WHAT IS A "CLASSIC CAR"?
The debate over what qualifies as a classic has been ongoing since, roughly, electric headlights replaced kerosene headlamps. As far as the Department of Motor Vehicles is concerned, to qualify for the state’s coveted horseless carriage license plate—the crowning touch on a classic car—a vehicle must be at least 35 years old. Fred Weisberger, owner of a 1930 Cadillac 353 Town Sedan, and president of the Antique Automobile Club of America’s Aloha Region, suggests a different standard. “There are so many definitions of what is a classic car,” he says. “Ultimately, it has to be in the eye of the beholder.”
A small cruise night at a McDonald’s or Wendy’s might include 20 cars, while really big events can bring out 200 cars. Classic car owners are mostly men in their 40s, 50s, 60s and up. They’re the ones with the time, money, and, in some cases, home equity loans, to put into their vehicles. Their wives often accompany them, especially when cruise night occurs at a mall. “The women go shopping,” says Jim Sylvester, who organizes regular cruise nights at Windward Mall and Aikahi Park Shopping Center, and who owns a 1982 Camaro Z28. “The guys stand around and talk to the same guys they talked to last weekend. It’s fun.”
WHO'S NOT THERE?
Young car enthusiasts driving high-tech, late-model Japanese imports are not found at classic car cruise nights. They share the same roadways and service stations as the classic car buffs, but they travel in a separate universe. If a kid driving an import rolls up to a classic car cruise, he won’t get in, at least not with his car. Lei Naumu, who owns a 1952 Chevy Deluxe, and who organizes classic car nights at Pearlridge Center and other locations, says: “I won’t let in a Mitsubishi. I won’t let in a slammed Honda. A couple of Scions showed up one time. I told ‘em, ‘Sorry guys, but you gotta wait a couple of decades before you get in.’”
- NO BURNING RUBBER.
- NO LOUD MUSIC. Softly played Hawaiian music is fine.
- NO DRINKING. At least not flagrantly.
- NO SAVING PARKING PLACES. It’s first come, first park.
NO TABLES. This rule encourages eating out rather than picnicking, as a courtesy to the malls and fast-food restaurants that lend their parking lots to the cruisers.
WHAT KILLS A CRUISE NIGHT
RAIN. Every square inch of gleaming aluminum, chrome and stainless steel needs to be cleaned and re-polished after a classic car is caught in a shower. The first hint of rain sends car owners fleeing for a covered garage. A few cruisers, however, stand their ground. One jokester likes to say that his car has “water paint”—the kind that won’t come off in the rain.