Chuck McCarty of Spring Bay, the founder and director of the Central Illinois Cruisers Car Club Inc., has a longstanding passion for classic cars. The passion seems to be genetic. McCarty himself owns a 1937 Ford coupe. His daughter Amanda, the public relations director for Central Illinois Cruisers, owns a 1932 Ford HI boy coupe. And his sons and brothers own classic cars ranging from a 1937 Ford sedan to a 1955 Chevrolet pickup to a 1968 Chevrolet Camaro.

Since retiring from Komatsu, Ltd., McCarty has been maintaining and detailing a variety of classic cars for automobile dealership owner Gary Uftring of East Peoria, who collects them. Among the cars that McCarty cares for is a 1949 Ford that once belonged to actor Clark Gable. McCarty and the Uftring’s collection of vintage automobiles have been featured in the December 2011 issue of Streetscene magazine.

“When Gary Uftring hired me to take care of his cars 16 years ago, I told him I would have done it for nothing, just to be around them,” said McCarty. “Being paid to maintain and detail cars I love to look at and love to be around is just a bonus. I also get some of them ready to take to events like the Barrett-Jackson car auction in Arizona and the Mecum car auction in Indianapolis, if Gary wants to sell them.”

It stands to reason that someone with McCarty’s enthusiasm for vintage cars would seek out like-minded local residents. He assembled a group of fellow car aficionados about 20 years ago and founded Central Illinois Cruisers.

“The first Street Rod Nationals club, hosted by the National Street Rod Association, was held in Peoria in 1970,” said McCarty. “It got too big for Peoria, so it moved on. Columbus, Ohio, hosted it a few times, and now it’s in Louisville. But that’s the gathering that got me interested in starting a car club.”

Central Illinois Cruisers currently has about 230 members. Throughout the summer, the group holds Cruise Ins, which are open to the public. The purpose of a Cruise In is primarily for club members to display their vintage cars and provide the public an opportunity to admire them.

The difference between a Cruise In and a car show is that a Cruise In isn’t as formal,” said McCarty. “You bring in your car, show it off, get something to eat and drive around. You can leave whenever you want, where with a car show, you have to stay all day for trophy presentations. We usually start a Cruise In at 4 or 5 in the afternoon, and people will usually start heading out when it starts getting dark. It’s basically just a show and tell, but some people come with “For Sale” signs and are actually able to sell their cars.”

Cruise Ins are seasonal events for the obvious reason that vintage automobile owners do not wish to expose their prized possessions to adverse weather conditions. Thunderstorms will cause McCarty to cancel a scheduled event.

“These cars can’t come out in the winter,” said McCarty. “They’re show cars. If there’s a chance of rain, you won’t see them come out. If we were out in Arizona, we might have events every weekend.”

The Central Illinois Cruisers Cruise In season runs from May until September. McCarty only schedules events for two months at a time.

“I have stuff lined up past the end of July, but I haven’t finalized it,” McCarty said. “That’s because I might have to move events around or add new ones.”

Among the Cruise Ins that have been scheduled for this summer are a June 30 event at Crust Pizza in East Peoria, the GoodGuys Tour Cruise Night July 3 at the Pair-a-Dice Casino in East Peoria, a Cruise In at Buffalo Wild Wings in Pekin July 8, an event at Big R’s Sporting Goods Store in Washington July 22, and the annual Pekin Street Cruise July 29 on Court Street. For the Pekin Street Cruise, a section of the street will be blocked off. In the interests of safety, a principal concern in any Central Illinois Cruisers event, drivers will enter the event from one direction and exit from the other.

“The GoodGuys Tour is a big deal, because the GoodGuys are a national organization that has about 15,000 cars,” McCarty said. “All those cars aren’t coming here, of course, because the parking lot at Par-a-Dice couldn’t accommodate them here. But they have 30 or 40 members bringing their cars in, and they’re coming to meet with us. They’re coming from all over the country, from as far away as California. Some of our members are going to Brimfield to meet them, and drive in to East Peoria with them. It’s going to be a big parade of classic cars. They’re going to spend the night at the Par-a-Dice and go to Columbus, Ohio, the next day.”

The Cruise In at Buffalo Wild Wings in Pekin will feature a live performance by Peoria-based band JamSammich, raffles, and a 50/50 drawing. Proceeds from the raffles and the drawing will be donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. An important aspect of Central Illinois Cruisers events is that they benefit local businesses.

“It’s a win-win situation,” said McCarty. “We get a venue, and we attract spectators, who become potential customers for the businesses or, in the case of the Pekin Street Cruise, the food vendors. The businesses and food vendors pay the disk jockeys who play music at our events.”

For more information on Central Illinois Cruisers Car Club Inc., visit the club’s website at www.centralillinoiscruisers.com