Cruisin' the Coast

Drive your way through the eras at Cruisin’ The Coast

The lights and grill on a 1930 Ford Coupe has its smile turned upside down at Cruisin’ The Coast 2014.
The lights and grill on a 1930 Ford Coupe has its smile turned upside down at Cruisin’ The Coast 2014. SUN HERALD

Whether it is an older car, something newer, a rat rod or a car that’s sky blue, the love of antique and classic cars unites all who come to Cruisin’ The Coast.

Ask people why they prefer a certain era of car and their choice often goes back several decades.

“Most people have the cars they had or wanted when they were teenagers or young adults,” said Magnolia Classic Cruisers president Shannon Broome, who had ’73 Plymouth Duster and now drives a black and gray ’67 Dodge.

The cars of each era reflect what was happening in the country and the world at that time. Early cars like the Model T were rather spare. “That’s what people could afford back in the day,” Broome said. Production of the elegant and extravagant Duesenberg ended in the middle of the Depression and it wasn’t until after World War II that cars got big and bold.

“For the most part everything was big in the ’50s,” Broome said. The ’60s was the decade of the muscle car and at Cruisin’ The Coast, “You see some of the younger folks with them,” he said.

The ’30s and ’40s cars were very Art Deco, said Tripp Rabalaif, general manager of Vicari Auction, which will sell about 500 cars to the highest bidder during Cruisin’ The Coast. With their rounded fenders, chrome accents and hood ornaments that are works of art, “These cars had a lot of style,” he said, and even the Fords had the distinctive big, round fenders.

“It’s an elegance to me that you get in that style of car,” he said. “We lost that after the war.”

One of the cars up for bid by Vicari Auction is a 2011 Auburn Speedster. The two-tone navy and cream convertible replica is based on a classic beauty — a 1936 Auburn. “Obviously there’s still some desire for it,” he said.

Bringing the highest bids at auction are the 1950s and ’60s cars on a new power train, he said. Put a Denali motor into a ’57 Chevy, and, he said, “It still looks like a ’57 Chevy, but it runs like a brand new Denali.”

Those looking for a detour during Cruisin’ The Coast stop by Busted Wrench Garage Museum , 2311 29th St., Gulfport, for a free visit. On display are British sports cars, Porsches and cars of other eras along with motorcycles, boats, bicycles and memorabilia. Museum director Stacie Hans said they’ve partnered with Chandelier Island Brewing Co. in Gulfport and will have cars on display there Oct. 3 and 4.

Most of the cars people love are connected to a memory, she said. For Steve and Sharian Gillie of Springboro, Ohio, antique cars and Cruisin’ brought them back together after 46 years.

Steve said he and Sharian reconnected but had only talked on the phone when she suggested they meet at her sister’s house at Long Beach during Cruisin’ The Coast. That was a few years ago, and they now are married, drive their ’49 Mercury to Cruisin’ each year and are looking for a place to winter on the Coast.

“After playing with old cars for most of my life I was thinking of selling out my collection, but now that I’ve got a partner in my hobby, I feel like a new Corvette,” he said, jokingly.

He grew up in the age of James Dean and bought and customized cars with his dad. He drove a black ’49 Mercury coup in high school and said he was lucky to find his maroon Mercury in Ohio seven years ago. It brings a lot of thumbs ups out on the road, where he said, “It drives like a ’49 Mercury, too.” The car has a Chevy V8 engine, automatic transmission and something rare for that time — factory add-on air conditioning.

Besides the cars, he likes seeing the same people every year, driving through the small towns and finding good restaurants in South Mississippi, he said. He finds the Long Beach parade unique. “Up North we don’t throw beads,” he said.

Bobby Hand of Moss Point, past president of Magnolia Classic Cruisers, sees Cruisin’ as a time to meet people and talk cars. He goes for the ’60s cars and now has two of them.

“I’ve got a small car and a big one,” he said. He restored a turquoise 1965 Mustang and also drives a 1961 Pontiac. The cars of this era are outnumbered at Cruisin’ The Coast by the Tri-5, he said, which are ’55, ’56 and ’57 Chevys. “Those three years are very popular,” he said.

Woody Bailey took over as executive director of Cruisin’ The Coast in 2008, when Gene Oswald died after leading the event since its beginning in 1996. Bailey spends all year planning for the next Cruisin’ The Coast and also operates a Coast lumber company. But he doesn’t have his own Cruiser.

Since his name is Woody and he sells lumber, he reasons, he’s been thinking a Woody wagon might be appropriate for him to drive. He came close to buying one built locally, but the guy’s wife likes it so much Bailey said he doubts she will let it go.

Bailey favors muscle cars and growing up in South Mississippi he owned a ’67 Chevelle in high school

“We used to run up and down Highway 90,” he recalls. For now he’ll ride around South Mississippi with other Cruisers until he finds his ideal ride.