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Cruise night returns to Van Nuys Boulevard

After a 28-year break, car lovers meet once a month on Wednesday nights to show off their souped-up muscle cars, restored classics and lowriders in a scene familiar a generation ago.

January 13, 2010|By Catherine Saillant

Streets lamps bathed the bikers at Arby's in an arc of white light. The van guys parked outside the Heads 'N Highs head shop and the street racers converged at Bank of America. Latino youths parked their lowrider at the June Ellen Doughnut shop, just south of the 101 Freeway, Stolz said.

Greg White, 55, remembers that it wasn't a good idea to venture into new territory. "Back then, if you didn't park in the right place you got beat up," said White, of Santa Paula.

For Richard Alicata and Rich King, cruise nights were all about being rowdy and chasing girls. Alicata, 51, drove an orange custom van; King, 45, cruised in a rebuilt Chevrolet Vega, which the police took note of. "By the time they shut cruising down, I had 28 moving violations," he said.

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Stolz decided to revive cruise night after chatting with others about it on an Internet message board.

Last spring, he posted a message on www.jalopyjournal.com, a hot rodders' website, while a friend's wife made fliers that were handed out at car shows.

Chip Beck, owner of the shuttered Rydell Chevrolet lot, offered up the empty asphalt as a staging area.

Stolz created a website to help spread the word -- www.vannuyscruisingassociation.com.

He figured a hundred or so hot rods might be there. Instead, there were 600 cars that night and many hundreds more people, he said. By September, roughly 2,000 custom cars, trucks, vans and motorcycles rolled through the old car lot, while families sat in lawn chairs on both sides of the boulevard to watch the parade.

Stolz and other car enthusiasts settled on a once-a-month event, he said, "so we won't wear out our welcome."

At the Dec. 9 cruise, Stolz, his wife, Pam, and other volunteers handed out a flier outlining cruising rules: "No burn-outs, light-to-light runs, open headers, drugs or alcohol." Loud stereos are also out.

A second flier encourages cruisers to patronize a long list of local fast-food shops and restaurants on the boulevard.

Whether self-policing works is up to the organizers, said the LAPD's Cabunoc. Police have gotten a few complaints from neighbors near the Rydell lot about loud music, illegal parking and trash, he said.

But for the most part, Reid and his supporters have done a good job keeping a lid on bad behavior. Cabunoc said he is not aware of any violence associated with cruise night.

Many welcome a more low-key vibe. White, the Santa Paula man who used to cruise in the '60s, brought his restored 1950 Buick to the December cruise and was impressed with what he saw. Car lovers chatted with each other around the parking lot, stopping every so often to admire a line of tricked-out vehicles moving through the lot.

"Look around, it's pretty friendly," White said. "It's old home week and it's cool."

catherine.saillant @latimes.com

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