JOLIET – At 32, Marvin Minarich of Morris is one of the youngest members of the Joliet Antique Auto Club.
Minarich joined last year because he loves classic cars – his Morris-based business, Marvin’s Motor City, restores classic cars – and wanted to meet people in the area that did, too. The club meets at 7 p.m. the second Tuesday of the month at Stone City Post 2199.
That said, Minarich feels his generation will never be as interested in cars from the 1930s and 1940s as older club members are. Minarich himself prefers cars from the 1960s, as do many of Minarich’s clients in his age bracket. It was an era of high-performance cars so reasonably priced even an 18-year-old could buy a new one.
The older cars, Minarich added, aren’t practical.
“You can’t drive a 1927 Model A Ford to take your wife out to dinner,” Minarich said. “You can’t drive it on the highway. They’re fun, but it’s almost like driving a regular tractor. But a car from the ’50s and ’60s, even though it’s on the older side, is still drivable. That’s what’s cool about it. They have reliability and safety. Obviously not as safe as newer cars, but safer than the cars from the ’20s and ’30s.”
Don Meyer of Minooka, president of the Joliet Antique Car Club, also likes muscle cars from the 1960s, simply because he was a 1960s teen, but it’s not an exclusive like. Meyer said he has a small collection of antique cars, which range from the 1920s into the 1970s.
“I think it’s becoming a lost hobby, with everyone into the computer age,” Meyer said.
The automobile industry classifies any car older than 25 years as an antique, Meyer said. Club members own cars predating the 1920s, but some also own cars built in the ’90s.
“Obviously we like to bring younger folks onto the scene,” Meyer said. “But if someone drives a new car out of the showroom – we’re not into that stuff.”
Club activities revolve around monthly meetings, driving tours to destinations up to an hour away, picnics and participation in cruise nights. The club began in 1971 and some founding members still belong, Meyer said. Two club members joined at age 16 and stayed through the decades.
One founding member is Andy Honiotes of Joliet, who also belongs to the Joliet Region Model A Restorers Club. The Model A club was formed a month before the Joliet Antique Club.
Because it’s a chapter of a larger organization, membership was restricted to Model As, Honiotes said. The Joliet Antique Auto Club was founded to accommodate owners of other models.
Honiotes agreed with Minarich that some antique cars are clumsy (“They’re like driving big lawn mowers”) to handle. But they’re also tinkering-friendly and they certainly turn heads, especially when a line of 10 putz down the road.
“They do require more attention and they don’t have all the comforts and abilities of modern cars,” Honiotes said. “With that are pre-1940, you need two hands on the steering wheel at all times. You can’t drive faster than 45 miles per hour. And the braking isn’t the same as with a modern car.”
Honiotes still receives enormous pleasure from them.
“You’re driving at a slower pace,” Honiotes said. “You generally take country roads instead of the highway. You sit back and see the cows and windmills and farms. You’re not in a hurry.”
Frank “Butch” Bruntjen of Lockport, a founding member who no longer belongs to the Joliet Antique Auto Club, recalled the car shows and flea markets members held each year to raise money for social activities, such as Christmas parties and summer cookouts.
When it comes to antique cars, Bruntjen, who said he owns four, prefers an emphasis on fun, not competition.
“The restorations weren’t as high quality as they are now,” Bruntjen said. “I could take a car apart, put it back together and go for a ride. As the hobby evolved, people got more particular about what their cars looked like. They got into judging and stuff. That kind of ruined everything. People were after the trophies and $1,000 paint jobs instead of the enjoyment. It wasn’t where you fixed the car in your garage and took it down the road.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Joliet Antique Auto Club
WHEN: 7:30 p.m., second Tuesday of each month
WHERE: Stone City VFW Post 2199, Laraway Road and Route 53, Joliet
ETC: New members welcome
WHAT: Joliet Region Model A Restorers Club
WHEN: 7 p.m., first Wednesday of the month
WHERE: Joliet Junior College, auto shop, 1215 Houbolt Road, Joliet
ETC: New members welcome