Rain can’t dampen the last summer Cruise

Rachel Nickles, 16, of Palmer, used to have a typical teen’s reaction to her dad’s vintage cars.

“I used to roll my eyes,” she said.

Then she got the car bug herself.

Big time.

“I’m fixing up a ’55 Merc at my place,” she said proudly. “Dad is helping with the engine.”

Nickles was one of the many car fans attending Friday’s Ja-Mar Cruise, the last of the monthly events for the 2013 season.

She looks right at home among the old cars too; she wears clothing styled after an earlier era.

“I’m way into the vintage look,” she said. “I’m at a car show. I might as well dress the part.”

While Nickles continues to work on her own car, she gets to help with some of the work on her uncle, Matthew Nickles’, 1963 Mercury Meteor.

“I wish it was my car,” she said after wiping down the rims.

Even though Nickles has a license, she hasn’t gotten to drive it yet.

“It has a clutch,” her uncle said. “It might be awhile.”

Roxann Beletti, of Fort Dodge, is a car gal too.

“I love cars,” she said. “All kinds. I love going fast.”

Beletti enjoys seeing the older vehicles on display, although she’s hard pressed to pick a favorite.

There is one preference: “Anything in Chevy.”

As the show got under way, nature provided a bit of excitement for Bob Friesner, of Fort Dodge.

He had to scramble to get the convertible top back on his 1957 Chevy.

“It might be a little slow,” he said.

With the top on in time, he said he might consider replacing the hydraulic cylinders that move it into place.

Parked next to him, Wayne Thilges took the moisture in stride as he wiped it off his 1966 Mustang.

“I’d prefer sunshine, but we need the rain,” he said.

Chris Harrison, of Fort Dodge, attended the show with his 1968 Mustang. It’s proof that owning a hot rod doesn’t have to end when family life begins; the back seat contains a properly strapped-in child seat.

“They’ve both grown up in cars,” he said of his children.

Harrison has owned customized cars since he could drive and they were and are very much a part of his identity.

“In high school,” he said, “people would say, Hey, you’re the kid that drives the Volkswagen.”

While the custom Bug eventually found another owner, his philosophy on keeping his current vehicle home when it rains is not to.

“It’s a car,” he said. “If you don’t build it to drive then why have it?”

Jerry Jordison, owner and manager of the Ja-Mar Drive In, said that the cruises have been ongoing for about 26 years. Typically, the June show draws about 300 people, the July show a bit less at 150 and the August show, 200 to 300.

While he enjoys the show, he’s not a hot rod owner himself.

“I would have one if I knew how to work on them,” he said. “I have to get one with the warranty.”

Jordison said cars show up from all over Iowa and that he often sees new ones.

“We have different cars every month,” he said.

The show is open to anyone who wants to display their car. There is no best in show; it’s held for fun and comradery.

“We do it because they love it,” he said. “It’s a good night out to see everybody.”

While he still made it to the show, Eddie Simpson, of Boxholm, didn’t get to bring his 1949 Oldsmobile.

“It started raining just as I got done washing it,” he said.

The monthly car show is expected to resume next summer. They are held on the first Friday of the month in June, July and August starting at 5 p.m. at Ja-Mar.