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Iowa City's Classy Chassy Cruisers meet for fifth time

BY EMMA MCCLATCHEY | AUGUST 30, 2012 6:30 AM

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A sea of sleek, stylized hoods, chrome bumpers, and round, protruding headlights covering the Sycamore Mall parking lot signal another gathering of Iowa City's Classy Chassy Cruisers car club.

And milling among these antique features are more than 200 families who share a common passion: preserving and celebrating classic vehicles.

Classy Chassy Cruisers, a local club that restores and displays vintage automobiles of many years, makes, and models, will host its fifth Cruise Night from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday in the Sycamore Mall parking lot. As with dozens of other club events throughout the year, Cruise Night will provide club and community members with the opportunity to see hundreds of vehicles.

"You can't believe the number of cars that come out of the woodwork. I had no idea that there were so many old classic cars around," said club secretary Donna Heacock, one of the club's founders. "We started the club in 2001, with nine members. We're up to 209 families now from all over the state of Iowa, from Illinois and different states."

Club President Mark Heacock said the event is not just for hard-core car lovers. Besides presenting the chance to enjoy different vehicles, Cruise Night also offers various prizes and entertainment provided by club sponsors, such as door prizes and clowns as well as '50s and '60s music and an Elvis impersonator.

The evening will also include charity events — such as a can and money drive for the Iowa City and Cedar Rapids Crisis Centers and a 50/50 raffle benefiting the Hospice Center — which raise approximately $2,000 to $3,000 a season.

"It's for anybody," Mark Heacock said. "People like to see the old cars, and the kids love them, so it's a nice thing to do on a Friday, and you don't have to spend any money to do it."

Participants in Cruise Night and Classy Chassy Cruisers in general go beyond ordinary vintage-car enthusiasts, he said.

"That's one thing nice about our club — and why people like to join our club — is we don't care what kind of car you have or whether it's a car or not," he said. "We've had motorcycles here, we've had trucks, we've had lawn mowers, we've had people with pedal cars come in, we've had people with dragsters come in. So it's people who like whatever they drive. If they like it, bring it in."

With the club having hundreds of members dedicated to hundreds of types of vehicles, Emily Wentzell, a University of Iowa assistant professor of anthropology, said it is clear to her that automobiles hold a particular interest for many people.

"The kind of cars will change over time, but the U.S. has a special place for cars," she said. "When dating culture became a thing, it opened up new ways to travel and visit with people outside your parents' basement. They symbolize freedom and individuality, which is very important to Americans."

Mark Heacock said the club works to preserve the vehicles and the memories they hold for older members.

"It's nostalgia," he said. "It's something that our-age people — we grew up and saw these cars when we were growing up, and some of us, if we're old enough, have been driving them, so it's something that you look in the past and enjoy."

Rick Funk, a Classy Chassy Cruisers member and the owner of a limited edition '68 Shelby Cobra Jet KR Mustang, said there are few better feelings than purchasing and driving a piece of automotive history.

"When I found out the Shelby was a 'KR,' which means 'King of the Road,' I just said, 'Oh my God.' They're super rare," he said in describing his signed Carroll Shelby car, which he and his wife have enjoyed for 18 years. "It's very fun to drive; when it gets out, it kicks pretty good. Our intentions are to keep it until I'm gone and pass it on to our son and daughter."

Wentzell said cars have a knack for bringing together people of all ages with similar interests and experiences.

"Vehicles provide a way to demonstrate one's technical skills and show identity while simultaneously creating a community around their passion," she said. "People find it really meaningful to externalize memories and share them with people. It makes them real and allows people create an identity and community around them."

Mark Heacock said this sense of solidarity is a central focus of the Cruise Night and the car club, and it will remain important as the club drives into the future.

"It's something that people can do together; they can get out and drive their cars," he said. "It's camaraderie. It's like-minded people doing like-minded things."

Who: Classy Chassy Cruisers car club
What: Cruise Night
When: 5-9 p.m. Friday
Where: Sycamore Mall parking lot
Admission: Free, but the club asks that visitors bring either $1 or a canned-food item to donate to the Crisis Center


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