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Cruise-in returns to Merchants Crossing

March 1, 2017
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

It has been a welcome sight to see hundreds of cars cram into the parking lot at the Merchants Crossing Shopping Center on Monday nights once again.

After spending almost a year at the Shell Factory, the Monday night Cruise-in has returned to Merchants Crossing, and it didn't take long for the old and new classic cars and hot rods to return at the same level they were in previous years.

About 350 cars came on Presidents Day, one of the biggest of the season, and they ran the gamut from restored vehicles built nearly a century ago, to some of today's barely legal machines.

Bill Burks, who puts on the show, said the weekly event is for anyone who loves classic cars and anyone is invited.

"It's a good time for everyone. We have a DJ, a 50/50 drawing and it's sponsored by Applebee's, which puts the money up for the deals and offers cruisers a 15 percent discount on food," Burks said.

The car show left Merchants Crossing last year as the new owners apparently didn't look too kindly upon the weekly event. It moved to the Shell Factory, where it was a huge success.

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Despite that, Burks and Applebee's worked to bring it back. The owners had a change of heart and Applebee's became the major sponsor of the event, which allowed it to return in September.

The Shell Factory decided to hold a cruise night on Thursdays

"It's just a better facility to bring in more cars and I like this place," Burks said. "It's been getting bigger every week."

Some of the cars Are some of the real classics, such as a 1957 Thunderbird or 1956 Bel-Air. Some were even more authentic.

Duane Johnson, from Indiana, took the body of a 1957 Thunderbird from the windows down and the top of a 1961 Falcon station wagon to build something very genuine.

"It was two and a half years of work. I take this car here in January and February and to about 12 shows a year," Johnson said. "I've already put 1,000 miles on it since I finished it last year."

Bobby Howard of Atlanta brought his "Rat Rod," made from a 1961 Galaxy, a 1941 Willy and a wooden box to create the "Herse from Hell."

There were also some of the modern wonders of the road, such as the 2016 Corvette Eric Pearson brought to the show with an LT4 supercharged engine that can do 200 mph on the highway.

John Bonnett, of North Fort Myers brought his 1956 Bel Air, with a 454 big block engine and 600 horsepower, completely renovated and restored and looking for a buyer.

"I've got over $100,000 in it and I haven't driven it much, about 2,000 miles," Bonnett said, who only does a handful of shows per year and brings other cars as well. "It's for sale and I have it down to $55,000."

Sid Jacobsen, a 36-year resident of Cape Coral, brought a reproduction of a 1990 Rolls-Royce Phantom. He said he does nearly 50 shows a year and loves the camaraderie.

"It's a nice evening out, you meet a lot of people and it's better than watching TV. The weather is great and the people are taking advantage of it," Jacobsen said. "I get a lot of picture takers."

The Cruise In will be held from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. every Monday until Memorial Day.

Merchants Crossing Shopping Center, is at 15201 N Cleveland Ave.



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