Ouellette Car Cruise Rocks Windsor with Record Participants Amid Pandemic

Despite the pandemic, one of the rites of summer saw the usual and unusual of wheeled vehicles rolling through downtown Windsor Friday night with a flurry of colour and the sounds of meticulously-tuned powerhouse engines. The annual Ouellette Car Cruise was back and it was nothing if not to be enjoyed. And although put together by the Downtown Windsor Business Improvement Association (DWBIA), the Cruise spread its delight around the city, starting at the foot of Ouellette Avenue and traveling Tecumseh Road East to Pillette Road and back downtown via Riverside Drive.

Ouellette Car Cruise Classic Vehicle

A classic vehicle turning during the 5th Annual Ouellette Car Cruise in downtown Windsor on Fri., Aug. 14, 2020. Photo by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor.

Steve Crawford, of Crawford General Contracting, is the night’s lead sponsor. David DesRosier, posting on Facebook, echoed the appreciation of many of Crawford’s leadership efforts for this his second year of funding the run. “As one of the grateful participants in the cruise I think we owe a debt of gratitude to the gentleman for the second year in a row that funded the cruise thank you.”

Ouellette Car Cruise Sponsors

Sponsors sign on display during the 5th Annual Ouellette Car Cruise in downtown Windsor on Fri., Aug. 14, 2020. Photo by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor.

In a pre-Cruise news conference, Brian Yeomans, DWBIA Chair, characterized the event as part of the ongoing and dedicated efforts to rejuvenate the Rose City’s downtown. Crawford, speaking at the same conference, admitted to being very excited about the event’s growth and termed it a “big thing for the city.”

How big? Yeomans tells Eyes on Windsor participant vehicle numbers jumped way ahead of last year. In 2019, some 800 cars drove the streets of Windsor. This year, Yeomans put the unofficial number at 2,000. It was, he says, most noticeable at the beginning.

Ouellette Car Cruise Vintage Vehicle

A vintage vehicle during the 5th Annual Ouellette Car Cruise in downtown Windsor on Fri., Aug. 14, 2020. Photo by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor.

In normal years, the cars would muster at Riverfront Festival Plaza for a half day of celebrations. This year they simply lined up on Riverside Drive. But, here’s the catch. Yeomans, and organizers, anticipated the line-up would stretch from Ouellette Avenue to Goyeau Street and all would be well. Instead, as more and more cars arrived the line stretched as far east as Pillette Road.

Convertible Mini Cooper Ouellette Car Cruise

Ride participants smile as they drive by in a convertible Mini Cooper during the 5th Annual Ouellette Car Cruise in downtown Windsor on Fri., Aug. 14, 2020. Photo by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor.

Despite the long line, participants were more than happy to show off their vintage, classic, custom, collector and special interest cars, street rods and muscle cars for this the fifth running of what has become a key summer downtown attraction. Perennial favourites mixed together with cars from all over the region. This included the ever popular fully costumed Blues Brothers riding high in their de-commissioned tribute police cruiser.

Blues Brothers impersonators and their vintage police car

Blues Brothers impersonators and their vintage police car during the 5th Annual Ouellette Car Cruise in downtown Windsor on Fri., Aug. 14, 2020. Photo by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor.

Local CTV news anchor Jim Crichton was also among the celebrities, navigating a boat-like early-1960s Chrysler convertible.

Jim Crichton 1966 Chrysler 300 Convertible

Jim Crichton with some guests driving his 1966 Chrysler 300 convertible during the 5th Annual Ouellette Car Cruise in downtown Windsor on Fri., Aug. 14, 2020. Photo by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor.

Rob Burden, parked on Ouellette, in the immaculately customized “Rob Rod” (as stated on the vehicle’s vanity licence plate), was waiting for the traffic to die down a bit. It didn’t for a number of hours, so he simply found a place in line and headed south. His multi-coloured revised 1937 Ford Coupe represents over a year of painstaking restoration, streamlining and the adding of a few extra touches, like a Corvette engine.

Ouellette Car Cruise 1937 Ford Coupe

A fully customized 1937 Ford Coupe with a vanity license plate that reads ‘Rob Rod’ owned by Rob Burden during the 5th Annual Ouellette Car Cruise in downtown Windsor on Fri., Aug. 14, 2020. Photo by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.

Ouellette Car Cruise participant Rob Burden

Rob Burden keeping an eye on traffic while sitting in his parked customized 1937 Ford Coupe during the 5th Annual Ouellette Car Cruise in downtown Windsor on Fri., Aug. 14, 2020. Photo by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.

He’s enjoyed the car for almost two decades. It has taken him around the region and as far south as Louisville, Kentucky, with no problems. Jerry Beach, sitting on Chatham Street with the hood up of his fully-restored 1967 Mustang wasn’t as lucky. He’s owned the pony car for two years, about half of them spent in the garage where it was being re-worked. For some unknown reason, the car just gave up the ghost and refused to join the parade. As he waited for a friend to rescue him, he reasons the fact it was sitting around not running for quite some time before he bought it might have had something to do with its reluctance to operate.

Ouellette Car Cruise 1967 Mustang

Jerry Beach standing in front of his stalled fully-restored 1967 Mustang with its hood up during the 5th Annual Ouellette Car Cruise in downtown Windsor on Fri., Aug. 14, 2020. Photo by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.

This is life with cars that have been brought back to life, some almost a hundred years old. While most of them provide more than reliable transportation, Yeomans reckons the Covid 19 virus has had more than a little to do with the incredible turnout. With so many other popular car shows canceled, Windsor’s event is one of the few still standing. It is why he is happy to see the Cruise run a route through a considerable part of the city. It makes it more than just a downtown event, significant enough to attract automobiles and vintage trucks from other parts of the province.

Volunteer waving to Ouellette Car Cruise participants.

Volunteer standing on the sidewalk giving the peace sign as cars drove by during the 5th Annual Ouellette Car Cruise in downtown Windsor on Fri., Aug. 14, 2020. Photo by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor.

Saturday night, Windsor’s northern neighbour Detroit hosted its famed Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise. Right now the border between the two countries is closed, but this didn’t deter Yeomans from giving the green light to Windsor’s outing. Because very few Detroiters participate in Windsor’s event, it is not tied to the US to be a success. It is, simply put, a made-in-Windsor success story one he anticipates will be repeated again next summer.

Ouellette Car Cruise Participants Smiling

People in a convertible smile as they drive by during the 5th Annual Ouellette Car Cruise in downtown Windsor on Fri., Aug. 14, 2020. Photo by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor.

Mustangs Ouellette Car Cruise

Ford Mustangs lined up behind Transit Windsor Bus during the 5th Annual Ouellette Car Cruise in downtown Windsor on Fri., Aug. 14, 2020. Photo by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor.

Vintage Vehicles on Riverside Drive

Vintage vehicles on Riverside Drive during the 5th Annual Ouellette Car Cruise in downtown Windsor on Fri., Aug. 14, 2020. Photo by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor.

Vintage Vehicle Ouellette Car Cruise

Vintage vehicle during the 5th Annual Ouellette Car Cruise in downtown Windsor on Fri., Aug. 14, 2020. Photo by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor.

Convertible Mustang Ouellette Car Cruise

Convertible Mustang during the 5th Annual Ouellette Car Cruise in downtown Windsor on Fri., Aug. 14, 2020. Photo by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor.

Convertible Sports Car Ouellette Car Cruise

Convertible sports car during the 5th Annual Ouellette Car Cruise in downtown Windsor on Fri., Aug. 14, 2020. Photo by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor.

Classic Convertible at Ouellette Car Cruise

Classic convertible during the 5th Annual Ouellette Car Cruise in downtown Windsor on Fri., Aug. 14, 2020. Photo by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor.

Robert Tuomi

Article by Robert Tuomi

For over a decade, Robert has covered local news and community events. Initially as a contributor to CBC Radio’s local morning show and then as the long-time producer and host of CJAM’s The Rest of the News and as a journalist at the Windsor Square. A graduate of the Nikon School of Photography he enjoys illustrating his reports with what he sees through his camera’s lens.