Cruising into summer

As the temperatures outside creep higher, the smell of burning high-octane fuel, the barely tamed rumble of idling big blocks and the gleam of freshly waxed paint jobs are becoming common scenes in parking lots across the county.

Almost every weekend from April to September in Shelby County brings some sort of automotive enthusiast gathering.

These parking lot shows, which usually feature classic radio hits, have the ability to transport spectators back to a time when 400-cubic-inch engines and eight cylinders ruled the streets.

“I just really enjoy the hobby of it. I love building a car from the ground up,” said Wilsonville resident Tim Shoemaker, president of the Chilton County Cruisers car club. “I’ve just always liked old cars and muscle cars.”

Shoemaker, who attends cruise-ins and car shows nearly every weekend, currently owns a 1968 Chevrolet Camaro Z28 and a 1970 edition of the same vehicle. Over the past decade, he has worked to build and restore about 10 cars.

Restoring and modifying cars, no matter what generation, is an addictive habit, Shoemaker said.

“Most of the guys in our car club, and most of the guys who go to the shows, share the same passion I do about cars,” Shoemaker said. “Once you get into it, it’s just something that gets into your blood.

“It’s the same thing whether you are into muscle cars, trucks or what the younger generation has now with the tuners,” he added. “You would be amazed at how many car lovers there are in Shelby and Chilton county.”

Shoemaker and Columbiana optometrist Stancil Handley, who owns a classic Ford Thunderbird, a Triumph TR-6 and a street rod pickup truck, are working to establish a monthly cruise-in event at the old Summer Classics property in Columbiana.

“Right now, we are really trying to grow that event and get the public more involved,” Handley said. “That cruise-in will always begin at about 5 (p.m.) on the third Saturday of the month.”

Car clubs and enthusiasts also hold other monthly cruise-ins at several venues throughout the county. Every first Saturday of each month, dozens of classic cars fill the parking lot at the Colonial Promenade Shopping Center in Alabaster beginning at 5 p.m.

On the third Saturday of each month, the cruise-in moves to the Pelham Publix parking lot off Huntley Parkway, and begins at 4 p.m.

On May 15, the Calera High School Alumni Club will be hosting a car show at Calera Middle School. Registration for the show will begin at 9 a.m.

On May 23, Cross Creek Baptist Church in Pelham will host a car show from 3-5 p.m. at the church.

Ernest McCarty Ford on U.S. 31 in Alabaster will sponsor a car show hosted by the Southern Stangs car club from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. on June 5.

Because car shows and cruise-ins can draw hundreds of people, they can help boost a community’s economy, Shoemaker said.

Clubs like the CC Cruisers also regularly raise money for local charities.

“This is a great area to be a car guy, most definitely,” Shoemaker said. “If you think about it, all those people have to have somewhere to eat, buy gas and everything else.

“If local businesses will sponsor us and give us a little money to pay for the entertainment, it would really help these events,” he added. “There’s really no telling how much money these events bring to these towns.”