What do you get when you combine gorgeous fall weather, a Power Cruise, and a spotlight on Somerset thanks to a visiting popular television show?
You get one of the largest Somernites Cruise events ever.
“It’s already the second biggest day ever,” said Mark Hansford, Somernites Cruse Vice President, at around 5 p.m. Saturday as the classic cars continued to trickle into downtown Somerset.
As many as 1,684 cars had been counted by 5:15 p.m. Saturday, but Somernites Cruise team members watched the classic cars roll into downtown Somerset even as the sun began to dip lower in the sky on Saturday evening.
Saturday’s cruise event comes just short of a 2007 cruise during which team members counted 1,843 cars, according to Hansford.
The September weather — barely 80 degrees with a brisk wind and low humidity — made Saturday’s event the place to be for spectators.
The autumn weather was also one of the reasons cruise organizers decided to move the annual Power Cruise from July to later in the season.
This season’s Power Cruise featured cars rolling into Somerset from six different directions — Cincinnati, Louisville, Bowling Green (Ky.), Nashville, Pikeville and Chattanooga.
“A lot of ... older cars respond better to cooler temperatures,” said Hansford in an earlier interview with the Commonwealth Journal. “When you don’t have air conditioning, it’s a big difference between 75 degrees (outside) and 95 degrees.”
The Speed Channel’s “My Classic Car” and its host Dennis Gage — known for his handlebar mustache — made a stop in Somerset for this weekend’s Somernites Cruise to film a segment for the hit TV show, which is watched by a million viewers every week.
And one vehicle caught Gage’s eye — and everyone else’s who ventured to downtown Somerset for the event. A 1954 Kaiser Darrin, number 353 of only 430 ever made, complete with its pine tint green paint, was the talk of the cruise on Saturday.
“Most people haven’t seen them,” said Barbara Morgan, who owns the car along with her husband Bill. The Morgans have homes in Somerset and Mt. Sterling.
Designed by Howard “Dutch” Darrin, the Kaiser Darrin could be considered one of the first roadsters produced in America (The Kaiser-Frazer Corporation, which was reorganized and named the Kaiser Motors Corporation later, made automobiles in Willow Run, Mich. from around 1945 to the mid-50s).
Eddie Skeen, with Classic Auto Restoration Service in Seymour, Tenn., took on the job of restoring the Morgans’ Kaiser Darrin.
“It was a challenge to me, and I wanted to do it because you get tired of doing the same thing,” said Skeen, who generally restores General Motors muscle cars such as Chevrolet Corvettes. “I consider myself fortunate to be able to do it.”
Barbara Morgan said “it took the whole family” to restore the vehicle, which took about a year and a half while they hunted down parts and materials for the project.
It even took a month to locate the thread to sew the car’s seats.
The effort is obvious, as those who gathered around the rare vehicle had nothing but good things to say about the car.
“The quality on this ...,” said one observer. “I’ve never seen it.”
The Kaiser Darrin was only one in nearly 1,700 classic vehicles that crowded Somerset’s streets Saturday, which helped to usher in Somernite’s closing events with a bang.
“If we have good weather next month (October), it’ll be a good show,” said Hansford.
A Dodge Challenger and GatorMade Trailer will be given away at the October cruise, which will be the last of the season.
Donations of gently-used coats for youth, ages preschool to junior high, will be taken for the “Coats for Kids” program through the October cruise as well. Gloves and hats are also requested. The items can be dropped off at the DJ trailer on the Fountain Square, or taken to Key Cleaners in the Tradewinds Shopping Center on U.S. 27 (let them to know the items are for “Coats for Kids”).
Next month’s Somernites Cruise is set for Saturday, October 27.