Cruise-In finds a home in Cornelius
They say a little love goes a long way.
Well, one needn't go any further than Cornelius to find a love for cars — old and new.
Starting a year ago, and restarting this summer, you can find some of western Washington County's finest automobiles parked in the northeast corner of the Walmart parking lot in Cornelius.
Firebirds, GTOs, classic pickups, Camaros, and even more modern sport and muscle cars can be found on display from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday nights throughout the summer.
"It's just a laid-back hang for people who love cars," Cruise-In creator Brian Lindsey said. "It's a way to build community spirit around a popular American cultural theme in a weekly get-together open to everybody."
Lindsey started the event in July 2019.
A lifelong car enthusiast who himself is in the process of refurbishing a 1968 Pontiac Firebird, Lindsey wanted somewhere that allowed for people to show off and talk about their and others' cars.
After clearance from Walmart management, Lindsey printed a series of flyers to advertise his proposed event, and since it's grown by the week.
"Each week, it's grown and grown," Lindsey said. "The last couple of weeks, we've had between 25 and 30 cars, and a few weeks ago, we had more than 30."
The Forest Grove resident said that the bulk of the people come from western Washington County, but they've also gotten cars from Vernonia and St. Helens, amongst other places in the greater Portland metro area.
Sig Unander, a local historian and former Cornelius city councilor, has helped Lindsey bring the event along.
The son of a car collector, Unander is also restoring a classic American muscle car: a 1971 Pontiac Trans Am. It's not quite yet ready for show, Unander said.
But Unander pointed out that the Cruise-In is not just about showing a car — it also provides a place for fellow enthusiasts to contrast and compare, talk shop, or simply spend some time with like-minded "gearheads."
"It's very inclusive," Unander said. "It's just a place where anybody who has a cool or collectible car can come and find friendship, fellowship, advice on parts and restoration, and/or get introduced to the hobby of collecting cars at no price."
Frank Richards lives in Cornelius and is one of those car collectors who frequently finds his way to Walmart on Friday nights. Richards and neighbor Joe Klein have restored 29 cars in roughly the same amount of years.
Like many other car buffs, Richards said, they were drawn to automobiles at a young age.
"I built model cars when I was little, then I outgrew 'em," Klein said with a chuckle. "It's the same principle — they're just harder to store."
Mike Smith is also a regular at the Forest Grove Cruise-In. He showed up last Friday, July 31, driving his 1956 Chevy 210, which he's had for four years.
Smith typically attends "Hot August Nights," a 34-year-old classic car and concert event held in Reno, Nevada, but due to its cancellation amidst the ongoing pandemic, he has been left to fill the void with events like Lindsey's in Cornelius.
Like most in attendance, Smith enjoys the camaraderie of the "show," but he said when it comes to cars, it's really about the blood, sweat and tears, along with the fruits of the labor.
On his '56 Chevy, Smith said, he did the wheels, the ghost flame, disc brakes radiator and "motor stuff" himself, and as a result, he gets to proudly display it for onlookers.
"It's really about the work," Smith said. "That's what I enjoy … and then I get to show it off."
One of the benefits of the ongoing event at the Cornelius Walmart is the flexibility.
Lindsey said that Hillsboro has a Cruise-In as part of their Tuesday Night Market, but drivers are required to show up in advance, and they aren't able to leave until the event is over. At Lindsey's event, participants can come and go as they please, and they can stay for however long they please, whether it's two hours or two minutes.
It's also not just for classic cars and "old-timers," as it's become common place for young people, in their late teens and 20s, to show up and show off their speedy, more modern rigs. Motorcycles have also been a recent addition.
Both Lindsey and Unander emphasized that all are welcome.
"A lot of times, people will park across from us and walk through with their kids, just to check it out," Lindsey said. "I tell people all the time, even if you don't have a car, come check out the cars.
"What I really like about it is to see the look on kids' faces when they come through, and to hear them say how cool it is. That's pretty neat."
"There might be a little bragging," he said with a laugh. "But it's free. There's no judging, no prizes, just fun."
The Cruise-In begins at 6 p.m. Friday evenings, weather permitting, through September.
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