FREE motoring August, 2013
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INSIDEFeatures n Cover Story Babe’s Hot Dogs Cruise Nights > pages 1 & 2
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nthony Traina of Joliet sits proudly next to his green and white 1961 Nash Metropolitan at Babe’s Hot Dogs parking lot in Joliet What makes Traina’s car different from the rest of the 200 or so cars at this weekly cruise night is not the fact that only 80,000 of them were made, or that Lois Lane drove a pink and white model in the 1950s television version of “Superman.” It’s the fact that Traina’s car is not a show car. It’s his everyday vehicle. “I saw it at a car show last September and paid $3,000 for it,” Traina said. “Except for some touch-up with paint, it’s all original. I used to live in Germany, so when I saw the car for sale, I said, ‘OK, I’ll buy it.’ In the winter, I put it away and drive my dad’s truck.” For 10 years, the 1972 green Chevelle Malibu Lana Vineyard Sexton of Channahon bought new from Bill Jacobs Chevrolet in Joliet was also once her everyday car, until Sexton bought another and parked the Malibu
in her garage. “My daughter Michelle was born in 1975, and she used to ride in it as a baby,” Sexton said.
“I fixed and restored every single piece, special to its original year and model. It has the original hold downs. You won’t find them in any auto store.” Matt Jurewicz Car Enthusiast
About a dozen years ago, when Sexton could insure the Malibu as a classic car, she began attending local cruise nights. Except from
switching from 14-inch to 15-inch tires and adding 1984 Monte Carlo rims 26 years ago, Sexton’s changed nothing on the Malibu. “I only drive it about 2,000 miles a year so,” Sexton said. “I don’t wear out the rubber. I replace the tires, because they dry rot.” Sexton actually had wanted to buy a Chevrolet Nova, but her father said that model would “fold up like an accordion” in an accident. “My dad made me leave the sticker in the window so everyone could see that his daughter had a brand new car,” Sexton said. “I had $2,100, so I had to borrow $1,700 from my parents. I paid it off a year to the date, the day before I got married, because my dad didn’t want me to have a car payment.” Tim Reilly, owner of Babe’s Hot Dogs, transplanted the cruise night from another venue about 10 years ago, said Reilly’s daughter, Casey Reilly. Several car enthusiasts had apContinued on page 2
2 | motoring August, 2013 Continued from page 1 proached Reilly about hosting the event because they had outgrown the existing space. There’s no fee or reservation required; just show up, Casey said. Although neither Casey nor her father owns a show car, she enjoys checking out the restored or modified vehicles lining the parking lot. “There’s some million dollar cars here,” Casey said. “You should have seen the black car that was here last week. The paint was so smooth, it was unbelievable.” Two years ago, Babe’s dining room introduced the “wall of cars,” along with a framed invitation that reads: “Do you own a car? If you do, bring in a framed 8 x 10 of your car and we’ll hang it in our dining area.” “We also have a DJ at cruise nights playing oldies music,” Casey said. One car attracting plenty of attention was Matt Jurewicz’s 1965 red Pontiac GTO. This Joliet man bought the car almost a decade ago from a Plainfield farmer who had parked the car by the side of the road. Except for a dent in the right rear quarter panel, which Jurewicz replaced during the frame-off restoration, the car had its original metal, proven by the frame number matching the VIN registration. Inside, Jurewicz added a Hurst shifter and a variety of gauges--vacuum pressure, voltage meter, oil pressure, coolant temperature sensor, fuel pressure and tachometer—and then wrapped and hid them under the hood so nothing detracts from the original layout. “I fixed and restored every single piece, special to its original year and model,” Jurewicz said. “The bolts are correct; the threads are correct.
It has the original hold downs. You won’t find them in any auto store.” Why the preference for Pontiacs? Performance, Jurewicz said. “Pontiacs are a lone wolf by themselves,” he said. “My girlfriend’s into them, too. She has a Grand Am.” The 1989 Chevrolet Camaro belonging to Gene Liles of Morris was originally a T-Top changed to a convertible by a California company. When Liles bought it from the south side of Chicago, it sported two bullet holes, one above the back right tire and the other on the passenger door, below the mirror. “They weren’t very deep, so it must have been shot at from a distance,” Liles said. It’s the first car Liles bought for cruise and show purposes, one he’d randomly found on Craig’s List. The restored interior came from a 1995 Camaro; Liles also replaced the exhaust and brakes. “When I first stepped on the brakes, it spun around in a circle,” Liles said. “It was not fit to be on the highway. It took two years before it was road worthy.” Liles originally wanted an older convertible, but knowing he’d add disc brakes and fuel injectors, decided to purchase a vehicle that already had them. Babe’s cruise night is known for its friendliness, he said. “We have our animosity between Chevrolets and Fords,” Liles said, “but it’s all in fun.” Gary Martin of Joliet found his1964 Volkswagen “by accident” at a Mid America Motorworks show in Effingham. Martin had previously owned two more -- 1967 and 1972 -- which he’d bought “presumably at cost” when he worked for Volkswagen and then drove those cars on trips to Florida.
Casey Reilly, daughter of Babe’s owner Tim Reilly, shows off the “wall of cars” in the dining area. Babe’s invites car owners to bring in a framed 8 x 10 picture of their car to hang in the restaurant.
“Volkswagens make people smile,” said Martin, who’s worked on cars since his first gas station job at age 15. “Everyone has a story about them. I’m going on 72, which is why I bought it already ‘done.’ Everything takes 10 times longer to do now.” James Dickerson also bought his 1931 Ford Model A fully restored. Everything except the fiberglass running boards is steel. It has a 350 engine, 350 transmission and a Corvette rear end. “I want to change the exhaust to a chrome exhaust,” said Dickerson of Joliet, who just purchased the Model A three weeks ago, “and I want to change the steering box to make it right. It’s an old style hot rod Comet. The steering is nothing but a big coil spring. But as far as change anything else? No.” In 1970, Dickerson met a Kentucky man with a barn full of these cars. The man had let Dickerson drive one throughout the countryside. After that, Dickerson always wanted one. It recently won a first place trophy at a Brookfield show, he said. “It was a thrill when I bought it,” Dickerson said. “I’m in love with this car. I spend a lot of time waxing it.” Bigger is definitely not better for Tom Townsend of Minooka and Marisa McCann of Joliet. They drove their “his and her” mini pickup trucks onto the lot and parked them on the ground. Townsend’s is a 1991 Isuzu, the color of root beer (“It looks gold in the sun,” Townsend said), which he bought used in 2009. McCann’s is a magenta 1993 Nissan Hardbody. All the rebuilding, including the painting, were accomplished in McCann’s garage. “I’ve been doing these forever,” Townsend said. “This is my 10th and her first. I build
them, get bored and then trade for something new. It’s a vicious cycle, an expensive, vicious cycle.” Townsend’s truck -- a four-year project that he completed two months ago -- has no door handles, taillights or gas tank. The body has an air rise suspension and sits on 20” wheels. He loves the “toy car” look of mini trucks. “The goal is to be as low to the ground as possible with largest tires as possible,” Townsend said. “I like being able to pull up next to a Ferrari and have my truck get more attention. It’s not something you see every day.” Even Mayor Tom Giarrante of Joliet came out, not to show off his the 1962 Chevrolet he bought last fall and has since brought out to Babe’s, but to eat hot dogs and let his grandchildren see the cars. “I make a few shows when I have time, and I’ve had (the car) here,” Giarrante said. “It’s a nice event.” Giarrante said enthusiasts often express disbelief at the low price -- $18,000 -- he paid for the low mileage, all-original car, a near replica of the black car with blue interior Giarrante and his wife once owned new. He searched for three years to find a similar one and finally found it in Channahon. Its owner had recently moved to the village due to a job transfer and needed the money for a house down payment. “The only difference is that it’s blue with blue interior,” Giarrante said. “It’s like brand-new. People are amazed.” Babe’s Cruise Nights are held from 6 to 9 p.m. every summer night, weather permitting, 2600 W. Jefferson St., Joliet. For more information, call 815-744-7773. n Written by Denise M. Baran-Unland
Matt Jurewicz of Joliet did a frame up restoration of the 1965 red GTO Pontiac he purchased from a Plainfield farmer.
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