Duane Moore always had a love for cars, but when he had heart surgery and had to stop working, cars became his therapy.
Moore, a federally licensed aircraft mechanic, moved to Springfield 30 years ago to work on aircraft after doing a stint in the military and starting a family. When a quadruple heart bypass forced him to retire, he wasn't sure how to fill his time.
Then he bought a 1964 Chevy II (Nova) and replaced the engine with a 283 small block V8 himself.
"I wanted to be able to cruise into a car show - and this car will do just that. I kept the original white color and flame motif and redid everything - the engine, brakes, transmission, exhaust and interior.
"I did it to prove I could still be a mechanic," Moore says, "and to make a better, healthier lifestyle."
Along with the car came the club.
"I always had the notion of wanting a hot rod. The best info comes from other car people, so when I built the Nova, I joined the Route 66 Cruisers. Then I could talk to people about their projects."
Moore's project car isn't just for cruise-ins and car shows - he drives it for pleasure when it's not in storage for winter.
Moore also enjoys driving his 1950 Plymouth Special Deluxe. He bought it four years ago, made some minor repairs and repainted it the original battleship-gray color. Lady Gray, the car's name, is hand-painted on the trunk of the car.
"In the '50s and '60s," he says, "people would name their cars. The former owners called her Gray Lady, but I like Lady Gray."
You might see Lady Gray and the Nova this spring, when the Route 66 Cruisers start pulling their cars from storage. They meet monthly at Rock N Roll Hardee's on Stevenson Drive.
"We get together, play music, play games and have contests. Anything automobile-related goes," Moore says.
Moore has been a member of the club for several years, but he's also served as president and newsletter editor. He encourages membership for anyone who likes cars and Route 66.
You have to get a car to be in the club, he adds, but you don't have to spend a fortune to get involved.
"You make it about what you have and you enjoy it."
And Moore truly enjoys this hobby. It's been good for his physical health, his mental health and his social life.
"Having an interest in old cars is a good thing to have to help you get through," he says.
Moore says his wife - Melissa Winstead-Moore, a computer programmer at Horace Mann - plays a big role in his hobby. He jokes, "The cars are hers, too. I get to do it with someone who will at least put up with me."
The route and the club
In 1921, the Federal Aid Road Act was passed, designating primary roads within state highway systems.
With its beginnings in 1926, the "Mother Road" was part of this new network of highways (along with Yellowstone and Lincoln highways) that changed the way Americans traveled. It was famous for being the shortest route between Chicago and the West Coast, opening the American West to car travel and economic opportunity.Even though Route 66 officially was decommissioned in 1978, it remains America's most famous road, drawing both American and international tourists to many locations along the corridor. Springfield is home to a few Route 66 hot spots, such as the Cozy Dog Drive In, Shea's Gas Station Museum and Joe Rogers Chili Parlor.
The Route 66 Cruisers of Springfield started with just a few people who liked to talk about Route 66 and cars. By 1992, the group was meeting regularly and participating in cruises and automotive events staged on and around Route 66.
There are now more 200 family memberships, and the club participates in cruises for charity and parades in the Springfield area.
Look for the Cruisers during the spring and summer Cruise In events at Rock N Roll Hardee's on Stevenson Drive.
Members of the Route 66 Cruisers must be 18 years old and have a vehicle that was manufactured at the time Illinois Route 66 was in use (pre-1980s). Go to www.route66cruisers.com for details. n
Schedule of events
The 2011 Springfield area Cruise In schedule at Rock N Roll Hardee's Restaurant, Stevenson Drive:
Story published Friday, March 4, 2011 ( Volume 6, Number 2 )