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