Salem Historical Society hosts third annual Car Cruise

By Kevin Hotary - Staff Writer
Salem - posted Mon., Jul. 25, 2011
Ron Miller and his 1970 Monte Carlo, which took the Colchester resident 16 years to restore. Photos by Kevin Hotary.
Ron Miller and his 1970 Monte Carlo, which took the Colchester resident 16 years to restore. Photos by Kevin Hotary.

The Salem Historical Society began hosting a yearly car cruise in July of 2009, primarily as a way to introduce the organization to area residents, and perhaps enlist a few new members.  And while that goal has been met, it turns out that the summer car cruise, which was held last Thursday, July 21, has become much more for Salem residents.

“Now it’s more of a ‘town’ event rather than just a ‘car’ event,” said Historical Society member and Car Cruise organizer Elizabeth Lane.  Now in its third year, the cruise has grown steadily each year, to the point that there is a very realistic threat of not having enough space for all of the cars.

“They come in all night,” said Lane of the drivers who bring their cars from as far away as Hartford and Manchester to sit and talk with fellow cruisers, listen to the music of the Eight Mile River Band while eating Salem Valley Farms ice cream, courtesy of the Historical Society, and just enjoy a relaxing evening.  No fees, no judging, no prizes.

“Just a nice night to take your car out,” said Lane, who herself brings a spotless 1949 Buick Roadmaster that was once featured on the cover of the “Bible” of collector car magazines, Hemmings Classic Car.

Similarly, the cruise attracts more than just the few local classic car enthusiasts, as residents bring out their lawn chairs to sit and chat on the lawn of the historical society building, enjoying the same music and ice cream.

“This is a nice event, more relaxed,” said Terry Davidson.  He brought his restored 1955 Ford Fairlane to the cruise from his home in Gales Ferry.  He said that he enjoys a break from the more crowded cruises that can sometimes have several hundred cars.

“And it kind of goes with the old buildings, too,” he said, as the cars were lined up along the front of the Historical Society building, which was built in Norwich in 1749, and moved to Salem in 1831.

“What’s more historical than classic cars,” agreed Lane.

Bob Rudne of Colchester brought his 1936 Ford to the cruise.  His first restoration job, it took him three years to complete, he said.

“It’s just something that I’ve always wanted to do,” he said, adding that he had only two requirements for the car he was going to restore “I wanted an antique, and it had to be older than me.”

While three years may seem like a long time to restore a car, that’s nothing compared to the amount of time it took Ron Miller to completely restore his supercharged 1970 Monte Carlo, which he disassembled down to the frame and rebuilt piece by piece, a process that he has documented in a thick book of photographs.

“It took me 16 years,” he said, during which he changed jobs, bought a house and met his wife.

“She’s the one who actually pushed me to finish it,” he said.  His first restoration, but hopefully not his last, Miller said that “I learned as I went along.  It was a great experience.”

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