Classic car Cruise Night in Glen Arbor


Dee Shuker poses with her 1965 Chevy Truck.

By Sarah Bearup-Neal
Sun contributor

By day, it’s Northwoods Hardware. By night—well, Thursday night—it’s Car Central. Every Thursday night from July 10 until the end of August, the parking lot at 6053 S. Glen Lake Road/M-22 becomes a convocation of motorheads. It’s Cruise Night in Glen Arbor.

“The theme of Cruise Night is to bring your classic hardware to the hardware,” said Don Drabik. He got the whole thing started three summers ago.

Translated, “classic hardware” refers to older, restored automobiles; but they’re flexible about that definition in Glen Arbor. On any given Cruise Night a brand-spankin’-new Porsche Boxster could be parked next to a vintage Mach 1 Mustang, which could be parked next to a Rat Rod, a stripped-down, custom car that imitates the hot rod of the 1940-’60 period and appears “unfinished” (wink-wink).

“But we’ve also had people bring wooden boats and motorcycles,” Drabik said. Classic is in the eye of the beholder, and they’re not checking pedigrees on Cruise Night.

Instead, they’re nosing around under the raised hoods, peeking at the interiors, checking out the paint jobs. Cruise Night has attracted both local and downstate hardware to the hardware, Drabik said, and always lures people who are out for an evening stroll in for a look-see.

“I had a goal (after) I came up here,” said Drabik, who moved to Leelanau County from Illinois with his wife Kathy in 2006. “I wanted to see more people driving their classic cars around the area and I needed to give them something to drive to.”

That goal came to fruition with the help of Northwood employee Steve Shuker. “I presented the idea to him because he has an old truck,” Drabik said.

Drabik comes by his motorheadedness honestly. His father was “very mechanically inclined” and the nut didn’t fall far from the bolt. Drabik is the owner and primary employee of Cherry Classic Cars. It’s a restoration service, specializing in Mercedes Benz 190 SL models made from 1955-1963. He owns two of them, both red; and a 1948 seafoam green Studebaker pickup. The Studebaker once was Kathy Drabik’s mode of transport to and from work. Which begs the question: Are classic cars and, by extension, Cruise Night, a guy thing?

The wives-and-restored-trucks theme repeats itself in the Shuker family. Eight years ago, Dee Shuker, wife of Steve, spotted a 1965 Chevy pick-up in a Frankfort front yard. It was a little rough, but it had what she wanted: right time period, power everything, automatic transmission, air. Dee bought it for $2,000 and Steve fixed it up.

“I’ve done many [restorations],” he said. “It’s a sickness.”

Dee Shuker shelled out another $15,000 to make her truck roadworthy: new engine, bodywork, paint job, tires.

“I love my truck,” Dee said. “Her name is Daisy”—perhaps in reference to the yellow paint. No great surprise to hear her add, “I love old cars. Period.” Dee Shuker speaks for many classic car enthusiasts who appreciate the automotive designs and lines of other eras.

“You either get that or you don’t,” said Steve Shuker. He, rather than Dee, is the one who usually drives Miss Daisy to Cruise Night. “These cars are part of the past. They don’t make things like they used to. And it puts a smile on your face when you’re going down the road driving that old stuff—as long as it runs.”

The past is made present on Thursday nights. Cruise Night begins at 6:30 p.m. All motorheads are welcome. “It’s like a reunion (of classic car fanciers) every week,” Don Drabik said. “Rain or shine.”