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Downtown Downers Grove Summer Nights Classic Car Show revs up fans across the area

From the Ford Mustang and Plymouth Barracuda to the American Motor Corporation Javlin, pony cars were the stars of the show at the most recent installment of the 25th annual Downtown Downers Grove Summer Nights Classic Car Show held Aug. 4.

Summer was in full swing, and the live tunes of the alternative jazz quintet, Zazz, filled Main Street from Maple Avenue to Franklin Street.

The weekly event returns Aug. 11 for another round to feature Ford, Mercury and Lincoln make and models.

“For the public, it’s great. They’ll just come down here, and they’ll look,” said Bob Markert, the car show’s chairman. “The Village likes the idea… It’s a nice activity, as I like to call it. It’s inexpensive entertainment. They don’t pay. In a cruise, you don’t pay. The cars, they just come and go.”

On a typical night, the event brings in between 200 and 300 vehicles.

“It’s the grand daddy of the cruises of this area, the Chicago area,” Markert said.

Often, hotdog and hamburger restaurants hold cruise nights for people to enjoy.

“This show has been listed in some of the car magazines as one of the Top 10 in the country, and that’s versus shows, not just cruises,” Markert said. “We were the first ones to start [the event] in this area.”

Markert said the key difference between many events of this type and the Downers Grove car show comes down to the street atmosphere created in the downtown area.

“People come and go as they please, and it’s just [popular,]” he said. “It’s a nice place for guys to show cars.”

By the end of the night each week, a trophy is awarded to the car owner whose vehicle is voted Best in Featured Cars.

Mark Johnson, of Downer Grove, said he is a regular attendee of the car show.

“It’s fun. [You] meet people, and nice people [that] just look at the cars,” he said. “I’ve got [a nice car,] so I might as well let people enjoy it.”

Johnson brought in his 1969 Mustang Mach 1 for spectators to view.

“It’s in nice shape,” he said. “It’s been fully restored to original condition.”

Johnson said he is a big fan of cars.

“I’ve had three mustangs,” he said.

The reason Johnson is drawn to Mustangs takes him down memory lane, Johnson said.

“I had them when I was a kid,” he said. “[It] was always one of my favorite cars.”

Johnson said he likes to take his cars for out for spin and sought to bury the misconception that classic cars cannot be driven all that much.

“They need to be run,” he said, laughing. “You can just let them sit in the garage. Some people do, though. They don’t touch them. They put them in a bubble. Why have it, if you’re not going to drive it?”

Markert said the event does a wonderful job of drawing in Downers Grove residents, as well as community members from across the area.

“We do get occasionally people [that] come a distance because they’ve heard of it,” Markert said. “We’ve had people come out of Ohio, this guy said Indiana. And, I’ll say, ‘Why’d you come?’ Well, [they’ll say,] ‘We heard about it [and had] to come here next.’”

Mark Oles, of Aurora, was checking out the featured cars displayed along Curtiss Street with his son.

“I try to [come every week,]” he said. “We’ve been coming to this car show for years. This [showcase of pony cars] is, I think, usually the best shows of the summer.”

Oles said he most enjoys the cars that bring a sense of nostalgia.

“In general, I’m not interested too much in newer [cars,]” he said. “When I was 13—that was 1969—and that was you know when boys started being interested in cars. That blue [Mustang Mach 1] across the street, that’s typical of that era.”

Oles said he has been a proud Mustang owner since age 21.

“I’ve always had at least one,” he said. “The oldest one doesn’t run, but we’ve got a ’90 that my son drives and a ’99 that I drive on occasion.”

Oles added that he is glad to know he passed along his love of pony cars to his son.

“I like to keep doing [the Downers Grove car show] if I can,” he said.

Markert said downtown businesses love the way the car show brings people to the area.

“[They’re] the ones that back this,” he said. “If they didn’t back this, there wouldn’t be a show.”

The weekly event is made possible thanks to the Downtown Downers Grove Management Corporation.

“All round, it appeals to the car people and appeals to the general public, too,” Markert said. “Some have car interest, some just like to come and have, like I said, a nice night.”

For the complete schedule of summer car shows, visit


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