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cruise night deemed another success

Wednesday, June 21, 2017 16:34 PM
Written by Stan Maddux
Category: Local News

For more than 30-years, Leigh Morris owned a 1948 Studebacher then he sold it and later came down with a bad case of what he described as "Studebacher Fever."

So, he went out and replaced it with another Studebacher like the one his wife had during their younger days.

The 83-year old Morris with his wife, Marcia, beside him was behind the wheel of their 1960 Studebacher Lark station wagon on June 10 during the annual Cruise Night in LaPorte, Indiana.

More than 500 antique vehicles paraded from one side of the city to the other through the city's historic downtown for more than two-hours before thousands of onlookers on a warm, sunny evening 15 miles from the southern tip of Lake Michigan.

"Look at the people who are out here having a marvelous time. Great cars. How can you do better this," Morris said.

He bought the car with all original parts and just 49,000 miles on the odometer after selling his beloved Studebacher Land Cruiser he had for 32-years.

While looking for another Studebacher, he came across the same model his wife drove whe she was in college.

"This one became available and it just seemed like it would be a nice car to have and it is," said a jubilant looking Morris.

This year's Cruise Night was put on for the first time by Rusted Knuckles Car Truck Club out of nearby Valparaiso after the Michiana Antique Auto Club had sponsored it from the inception of the event in 2005.

Bill Lowe of Michigan City showed up in his 1957 Ford F-100 pick up he purchased from the previous owner six years ago.

The 20-year old gray paint job looked brand new and so did the shiny chrome rims.

He recently updated the suspension and put a new large block engine from another model truck underneath the hood.

"It looks old but it drives like a new truck," said Lowe, who called the truck priceless not just because of its condition but from all of the work he has put into it.

Porter Lilly of LaPorte showed up in his 1957 white Ford Thunderbird that looked like it just rolled off the assembly line.

"It's like being lost in the 50's," said Lilly, who also owns a 1949 Oldsmobile convertible, a 1952 Oldsmobile two-door along with a 1964 Chevy Impala SS and a 1969 Chevy Chevelle.

"It gets in your blood," said Lilly.

Cruise Night was put on this year by Rusted Knuckles Car Club out of nearby Valparaiso.

The organization estimated there were more than 500 vehicles taking part this year, a similar amount from previous years when Cruise Night was sponsored by the Michiana Antique Auto Club.

LaPorte area residents Jerry and Kathy Orcutt, organizers of the event from the beginning, were looking to turn over Cruise Night to another group but held off until contacted by Ryan Stevens, who heads up Rusted Knuckles.

Mrs. Orcutt said the event was becoming too demanding to put on with she and all of others involved getting older.

"Ryan called us and we were thrilled because we didn't want to see it die," said Orcutt, who took part in the cruise in a 1976 Ford Grand Torino.

Her husband was behind the wheel of his cherished 1970 Mercury Cyclone.

"It's like the old days when we used to cruise up and down the drag. It's a lot of fun," she said.

Adding to the nostaligia was a street dance in LaPorte's downtown featuring the 60's, 70's and 80's sounds of The Bare Facts, a band whose members played together while in high school in LaPorte over 40-years ago.

Thaddeus Cutler, LaPorte's downtown director, said local restaurants and bar reported being very satisfied with the extra business generated by the heavy turnout and seeing more of the 70's and 80's vehicles in this year's cruise.

He said newer antiques tend to attract more younger people from growing up when those vehicles were used daily on the streets.

"When you get a different car club putting it together, they're reaching a whole different group of people that travel with them. The streets were packed," Cutler said.
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