Northeastern Pennsylvania car cruises bring people together over automotive passion
Automotive culture revs to life during spring, summer and early fall months in Northeastern Pennsylvania. With a multitude of car clubs hosting several events from March through November, local motor heads need only to do a quick Google or Facebook search to find a gathering that suits them.
Some regional clubs cater to an automotive niche, while others open their lots to all who’d care to show their prized vehicle or simply admire the work of others. PA Modern Mopar, NEPR-AACA, Cars of Friday Night and Curry Donuts on South Pennsylvania Avenue in Wilkes-Barre organize and promote monthly car meets to bring together like-minded car lovers. Often referred to as cruises, these gatherings are more for meeting new people, sharing information and showing off rides than driving.
Mike Brown of Elizabethtown founded PA Modern Mopar three years ago, and the Wilkes-Barre chapter is in its inaugural year.
The term Mopar is derived from the words “motor” and “parts” and is representative of Dodge, Chrysler, Plymouth, Eagle and post-1987 Jeep vehicles.
The Wilkes-Barre chapter hosts a cruise-in from 2 to 6 p.m. the second to last Sunday of each month from March through November at Logan’s Roadhouse in Wilkes-Barre Township. The next event takes place July 24.
Brown said the events draw 15 to 25 Mopar owners from the Wilkes-Barre and Scranton areas.
“Even though we are Modern Mopar, we welcome the older stuff,” Brown said.
There is no fee to attend, and Brown said joining the club is not necessary to participate.
“People can just come and talk,” Brown said.
The founder named camaraderie as his favorite element of the cruise-ins.
“You become friends by the end of the season,” he said. “The cars are the bonding element.”
A group of import-loving friends looking for the right place to gather started the Cars of Friday Night club, which hosts a car meet at 6 p.m. on the first Friday of every month through September in Johnny Rockets parking lot on Montage Mountain.
Founder Branden Eakle organized the first event three months ago, and the next event is Aug. 5.
“There was nothing for us in the (Scranton/Carbondale) area to do,” Eakle said. “If we meet up in a local parking lot, usually we get harassed.”
What started as a gathering for 20 friends has grown to draw more than 300 people each month, Eakle said.
The Aug. 5 event features sponsor Audio XTC. According to Eakle, the Pittston business will raffle off a $2,200 car stereo system and a trailer full of merchandise.
Cars of Friday Night has brought so much business to Johnny Rockets that the restaurant is putting a portion of profits toward an advertising fund for the club.
The events are free and all styles of vehicle are welcome.
“We realize we have something good going here, so we want to take it head on and make it bigger,” Eakle said.
The Northeastern Pennsylvania Region of the Antique Automobile Club of America also runs monthly car meets from 6 to 10 p.m. the last Friday of every month from April through October on Public Square in Wilkes-Barre.
The antique and classic muscle car club specializes in restoring such models to like-new or factory condition, but they’ve expanded their cruises in recent years to involve everyone who is proud of their wheels.
“We don’t want to leave anybody out, so we maximize our participation,” club director Mark Nenichka said.
Nenichka said the club appreciates the heart and soul people put into custom work.
The next gathering takes place July 29. The meet is free to attend. Money from a 50/50 drawing and the sale of food goes toward the Make-A-Wish foundation.
“We don’t even put a price on the food,” Nenichka said. “People just give what they can.”
Nenichka said people learn a lot at Public Square meets, often finding the answers to questions they’ve been asking for months.
Lester Rittenhouse, owner of Curry Donuts on South Pennsylvania Avenue in Wilkes-Barre, has been running car meets in the parking lot of his business for more than a decade.
“The group I hang out with is mostly in their 60s and 70s and into custom building,” Rittenhouse said. “We started this, because we like to think outside of the box, and we don’t like rules.”
The event founder has three rat rods, including one inspired by the hearse-rod from “The Munsters.”
The Curry Donuts meet takes place the Sunday before the NEPR-AACA gathering each month, because Rittenhouse attends that event as well, and it features a DJ and grilled foods. The recently rekindled congregation of car lovers draws about 50 cars every month.
Like the AACA event, the Curry Donuts meet is open to all vehicles.
“Car clubs have to realize that our kids are the next generation,” Rittenhouse said. “The imports are what they’re into, and I’m impressed at the speed they get out of them.”
Rittenhouse said his favorite part of the meets is talking to older car owners about the old days and passing on knowledge to the younger crowd.
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or Twitter@ TLArts