Creepy cars and custom motorcycles roll into Pontiac

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Pontiac— Move over, Dream Cruise. Sunday was all about Pontiac’s new Scream Cruise.

The creepy car show and an accompanying motorcycle block party were added features this year, drawing out an eclectic crowd and capping the city’s three days of Dream Cruise weekend festivities.

The car and motorcycle shows were designed to bring attention to Pontiac’s growing business district as well as to custom motorcycles and neighborhood clubs with other nontraditional classic cars, including hearses, rat rods and lead sleds, said Glen Konopaskie, executive director of the Pontiac Downtown Business Association.

“We’re trying to target a new demographic,” Konopaskie said of the new events for the Thunder in Pontiac Dream Cruise Festival. “By doing that, we’re going into some of the nontraditional groups that either can’t participate in the Dream Cruise because their vehicles can’t take the strain of driving slow, or they don’t feel that they fit in.”

Steve Frey, president of the Nightmare Cruisers Hearse Club, a southeast Michigan group that has more than 60 members statewide, said members taking part are offering car lovers an alternative to the Dream Cruise.

“When people see a hearse at a car show they definitely stop, look and ask questions,” said Frey, who has owned his hearse since 2008. “It’s amazing how many people will talk to us about hearses. They are afraid of them, or have a genuine curiosity about them.”

Frey said his love of Halloween got him interested in the ride he regards as “creepy” with flat black paint, rust on the wheels and torn and dingy curtains. The vehicle was originally used by a service company in Iowa and had well over 1,000 transports for funeral homes in its day, he added.

“For the most part, we are fans of horror movies or big kids that used to dress up at Halloween,” he said. “Now, we get to drive a car that’s like dressing up every day.”

The hearse was among close to a dozen lined up in a lot along Woodward and being showcased on Sunday.

Frank Hedeen and his Hell, Michigan-based club, Just Hearse’N Around, also drove in a variety for the display.

Hedeen, a retired Detroit police officer, said his fascination with hearses began about 20 years ago.

The Tyrone Township resident said he’s had up to eight at one time and now has three, including the 1974 model he brought out on Sunday.

“There are not two hearses alike,” he said of the appeal of being a collector, noting the variety in Buick, Cadillac, Ford and Lincoln models. “You’d be surprised how many people want one.”

The cruise featured a guest appearance by actor Butch Patrick, who played Eddie Munster in the television show “The Munsters.”

Early Sunday, Patrick was on site, along with replica models of the Munsters Koach Dragula. The actor is in the midst of a nationwide “Kid in the Kars Tour” to celebrate the 50th anniversary of “The Munsters.”

“I’ve done a few of these things and it’s always been a lot of fun,” said Patrick, of Manhattan Beach, California.

In addition to the hearse car show, several hundred motorcycle enthusiasts were expected for the kickoff of what is hoped to be an annual Mad Cow Motorcycle Block Party at the southwest side of the downtown loop.

The party, sponsored by Pontiac’s Mad Cow Custom Leather, was taking place just east of the creepy car show and aimed to draw attention to the city’s 18 new businesses. It offered live music, food and space for motorcyclists, said Jay Burgher, owner of Mad Cow.

The Dream Cruise setting, he said, hasn’t traditionally been ideal for motorcyclists with the heat and slow traffic flow. But the block party was expected to provide riders with a chance to gather and showcase custom bikes over several blocks within the downtown loop.

Eventually, they hope to incorporate mopeds and bicycles, he said.

“The goal is to extend the Dream Cruise for Pontiac to bring bigger future events,” Burgher said.