Car Aficionados Converge on Wharf

“It’s great to see strangers become friends,” said Jim Barton of New Bedford last Friday evening at the Mattapoisett Wharf Cruise Night at Shipyard Park, a bi-monthly event that started in July that will continue into September.

Barton said that he’s been coming to this event and other Cruise Nights, including one that takes place every Monday night at Plumb Corner in Rochester, for a number of years, and that he’s been collecting classic cars since 1989. On this particular evening, Barton brought his 1966 Pontiac Catalina Convertible, which still features all of its original parts, from the interior to the paint job.

“I like an original vehicle,” said Barton, noting that he had a great group of friends who taught him how to work on the cars and to keep them period-specific and to help return them as close to the original condition as possible. “It’s not pristine, but it maintains the integrity of the vehicle.”

Like most of other vehicle owners who attend this Cruise Night, as well as the nights in Rochester, Barton also enjoys showing off his cars to others, not for personal gain, but because he knows that it brings people back to those midcentury times when life was simpler and the American car was still an world-class icon.

DJ Johnny “Angel” Remedis, a retired police officer who deejays a lot of the cruise nights in the area, including those at the Wharf and Plumb Corner, echoed Barton’s sentiments, saying that the classic tunes he spins often remind people of their younger days.

“It’s fun,” Remedis said. “Times were easy back then. Sometimes I play a song, and an old couple gets up and dances to it. It puts a smile on their face.”

At this particular event, the Downshifters’ Car Club of New England (which Remedis started in 1989 with a group of friends) teams up with Cuz’s Car Club (named after a group of collectors who all referred to each other as “cuz”). The result of the partnership is a wonderful collection of classic cars and classic individuals that strive to keep a period of American history alive through their vehicles.

“It brings a lot of people back to the cars they originally owned,” said Donald Lake of Mattapoisett, who currently serves as the organizer for the Wharf Cruise Nights. “Depending on the weather, we can have anywhere from 55-70 cars down here in this little area. Plus it helps for the Mattapoisett Inn and The Ice Cream Slip, so the Selectmen like it. It’s just a good time.”

Like the Mattapoisett Cruise Nights, the Plumb Corner event on Monday evenings is always popular, as well. Marion normally holds a Cruise Night, but the events were cancelled this year. Standing out equally among the decked-out classics is the sense of camaraderie that’s shared amongst the collectors and spectators, as well, including a younger generation of future collectors that many hope will follow in the footsteps of the older collectors before them.

“The children are going to be the future of this,” Barton said. “So it’s good to see them out here.”

By Nick Walecka

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