Classic cars grab the spotlight at Glendale Cruise Night

“I grew up around lowriders, so my first word was ‘Hydraulics.’ It wasn’t ‘Mother.’ That oughta tell you what my passion was, from the beginning,” said Daniel Ayala, an engineering consultant from Alta Loma, at the Glendale Cruise Night this past Saturday.

More than 350 pre-1980 vehicles were on display along Brand Boulevard between Broadway and Milford Street, including custom-built and modified classic cars as well as motorcycles, for the 23rd annual event.

Ayala spent seven years restoring his 1961 Chevy Impala. The vehicle drew attention with its custom plum with copper pearl body and hand-spun silver stripes down either side.

“It was kind of a junker. I completely disassembled the car, every nut and bolt. Literally, the car was in a million buckets and cans, and then (I) started from the ground up, everything brand new again. So, really, what you’re looking at is a brand new ’61 Impala.” Ayala said.

Ayala’s car was just one of many lowriders and hot rods that captured the attention of spectators.

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Many poked their heads under hoods, admiring engine compartments, using mirrors to view undercarriages, and even dancing to the hip-hop classics that blasted out of custom sub-woofers and tweeters.

More than 40,000 people attended this year’s Cruise Night, according to city officials. It featured hundreds of vehicles, food, live music, activities for kids, an awards ceremony and a fireworks display.

Behind many cars were stories of friendship, passion and the dream to drive and own a beautiful, classic vehicle.

“When I take (the car) out, I don’t worry about anything else. I just take it out for fun — I think that’s what life’s about,” said Joe Gutierrez of Mission Hills, owner of a 1965 Cadillac Coupe de Ville.

Onlookers strolled up and down Brand, posing for photos in front of classic and custom-built cars.

A couple of participants even dressed in the era of their vehicle.

Encino residents Ken Sobel and Larry Levine sported zoot suits, standing outside their vehicle as the old-world sounds of Al Bowly could be heard flowing out of speakers.

“We both always wanted to get a gangster car and it just worked out. We did.” Levine said.

Levine and Sobel, who have been friends since junior high school, went in together to buy a 1934 Dodge DRXX in 1998.

Sobel was in the hospital at the time, and the surgeon told him that he had less than 10 years to live.

“My wife always wanted an old car, so I called up my friend and said, ‘Larry, bring me over some old-car magazines.”

Two months after they found the Dodge, Levine sold his Ferrari.

“He liked this better,” Sobel said.

Formerly a race car driver, Sobel has been a car enthusiast for most of his life. Their Dodge, named “Jurutha” by Sobel’s wife, is the first restoration project for Sobel and Levine.

The two of them took the vehicle to Silver States Industries, a prison just outside of Las Vegas, to have the work done.

“We’re basically cheap, and to restore it (in regular shops) would have cost three times as much as what the prison was,” Levine said.

Since then, Sobel and Levine have taken the Dodge to car shows all over the United States, and to Calgary, Canada.

Onstage at Milford Street, “Mr. Rock N’ Roll” himself, Brian Beirne, hosted live entertainment throughout Cruise Night.

Surfin, a Beach Boys tribute band, Desperado, an Eagles tribute group, and the Surfaris, known for the classic hit “Wipe Out,” fittingly set the tone with the classic sounds of surf and rock, bringing back a bit of nostalgic Americana as observers swayed and danced to the music.

“I love the mix of people. It’s a great cultural mix built around a love for mid-century cars. It doesn’t get better than this,” said Los Angeles resident Duff Marlowe.

This was the first year Glendale Cruise Night expanded its lineup to include motorcycles.

Though not technically a classic bike, crowds were drawn to local comic Michael Passion’s 2003 blue Harley Davidson Softail, essentially a “constructed chopper,” Passion said.

Both adult motorcycle enthusiasts and children were captivated by Passion’s real crocodile skin seat and full-face helmet designed to look like a skull.

Passion has been in love with motorcycles since he was 6 years old. Though his wife wants him to get rid of his bike, Passion maintains, “It’s my getaway. It’s the freedom, it’s the wind, the sound, and the bad ass comes out of every man.”

Toy is a contributor to Times Community News.