Cruisin’ Downriver draws crowd, cars

‘Light ‘em up’
One driver leaves a trail of smoke behind him after seeing the homemade “light ‘em up” signs during the June 29 Downriver Cruise. Subsequently, the combination sparked added participation into a repeat by other drivers.

Sunday Times Newspapers

WYANDOTTE — Despite construction, the chance of rain, and a route detouring Riverview, Cruisin’ Downriver still roared through its 14th year.

Fort Street was filled with classic cars, resto-mods, backyard builds, and custom cars driving through Wyandotte, Southgate and Lincoln Park June 29. The air was filled with the smell of exhaust fumes and burnt rubber coupled with the chants for drivers to “spin ’em” as they passed anxious onlookers.

There were thousands of drivers, cars, and spectators lining the street for the one-day event. Plenty of cars were unique, but one continuously drew a crowd: a Volkswagen Bug. The Bug was one of two Volkswagens — the other was a restored and modified Microbus — that commanded a different kind of presence at the cruise.

Custom car owner Tony Inzano chopped and channeled his Volkswagen Type 1 Bug about 11 inches, then lowered the engine and moved it back about 13 inches to match the smaller body. He said he built the ‘Volksrod’ in his backyard and has been customizing cars — mainly Volkswagens — for at least a decade.

“Sure isn’t like everything else here,” he said referring to the Camaros, Corvettes, Chevelles, Novas, and Mustangs populating Fort Street. “But, that was the point.”

The custom Bug featured all Volkswagen parts — including a 1915 Volkswagen engine he restored himself — except for three parts: the headlights were from a 1930s Ford, the taillights were previously plug-in air fresheners, and the shifter was a replacement hip joint.

Inzano enjoyed watching the cruise as much as participating in it. He said while there may be a lot of repetition, it was nice to see everyone’s interpretations of the classic cars. Many other participants shared similar sentiments along with their own views on the cruise.

Kevin Shay, second vice president for the Downriver Wanderers, said the club has participated in every cruise since 1998 and weren’t about to be discouraged by the construction or the potential bad weather this year.

He said being a car guy with a 1965 Tempest LeMans gives him good perspective from both sides of the sidewalk because the event is all about the cars.

“The club and I just like go out and cruise because that’s what the cars are made for,” he said. “They’re made to go out and cruise. They aren’t show pieces. I mean, they are beautiful, but we like to drive them. If the cars get wet, they get wet. They’re supposed to be driven.”

The Downriver Wanderers, with more than 70 members from the Downriver area, couldn’t wait to get involved in the cruise. He said this cruise is an all-around enjoyable experience where anyone can actually go out and drive.

“With this cruise, you can just cruise and enjoy the ride,” he said. “We don’t even do the Woodward Dream Cruise. It’s a parking lot. You cruise for about two miles and want to get the hell out of there.

“Here, you can cruise the whole circuit. It’s nice. We love coming down because it is one of the best in Michigan and it’s right here in our own backyard.”

(Gabriel Goodwin can be reached at