MainStreet Cruise-In: Cleveland, Tennessee’s Hot Rod Classic Cruise


Cleveland, Tennessee is the site of the MainStreet Cruise-In every fourth Saturday of the month from April through October, and it brings in all types of hot rods, custom, and classic cars from all over the region. The MainStreet Cruisers club runs the show and it welcomes owners to show off their cars, as well as visitors to walk around and admire the numerous rods, customs, historics and collectables in attendance.

As part of the fun, the Cruisers conduct a drawing, a model car contest for kids, offer door prizes, allow individuals to sell or swap parts for free, and they have a variety of other forms of entertainment setup at each event. Other clubs are welcome to meet at the MainStreet Cruise-In, and at the end of the year, the MainStreet Cruisers decide which charities they will donate to, as well as how to meet any other needs that come up throughout the year in the community.

A Briggs & Stratton-powered wagon caught this youngster's attention.

A Briggs & Stratton-powered wagon caught this youngster’s attention.

Club Show

A well-organized, yet unstructured group, the MainStreet Cruisers have guidelines they use to explain the rules and inform patrons. Handouts are given to all participants as they come through the main entrance.

In welcoming participants and spectators to Cleveland and the Cruise-In, they advise that city ordinances prohibit alcohol in the downtown area although it can be purchased and consumed inside restaurants licensed to serve liquor.

Burnouts are not permitted at any time. And they caution drivers to drive slowly and be aware of pedestrian traffic, particularly due to the large crowds the Cruise-In attracts. While the Cruise-In officially begins at 3:00 p.m., the club begins closing the streets at noon, and by 1:00 p.m. most of the locals have arrived. The Cruise-In entrance is at the intersection of Church and 1st Streets, and all cars are directed to come through this entrance, as it is the only place to receive your gift for participating in the event.

This '39 Ford Coupe is coated in classic hot rod red.

This ’39 Ford Coupe is coated in classic hot rod red.

When departing the Cruise-In, participants are asked to follow the signs and exit north on Ocoee or south on Broad. While saving a spot for a friend is okay, the rules allow you to do so only until 3:00 p.m. After that time, the number of cars arriving requires every open space to be made available. Chairs or other items left in parking areas after 3:00 p.m. are moved onto the sidewalks to avoid damage, a simple and nice way of getting people to comply with this request.

Club sponsors provide music to complement monthly themes, and request that participants not play music on a vehicle’s sound system or through any portable device that can be heard by others. Restrooms on the first floor of the Courthouse building are open during the Cruise-In, a privilege for everyone’s convenience.

Pickup trucks are a big part of any hot rod or custom car show or cruise and these days the Cleveland, Tennessee Cruise-In was no different.

Parts And Pieces

The Swap Meet, located south of Inman on Broad Street is free, and space is available on a first-come basis for auto-related items. If you need some hard-to-find parts or accessories for your car, this is a great place to come across many hard-to-find pieces for your project.

This 1927 T rat rod, 4-cylinder dubbed ‘Iron Duke’ sports Pontiac power.


Other vendors may contact the club in advance to arrange space and the MainStreet Cruise-In event T-shirts, hats and other items are available for sale in the club gazebo. Tickets for the nightly drawing can also be purchased at this location.

While this is a Cruise-In show, the use of tow vehicles or trailers are permitted as long as they are parked outside the downtown event area. Only staff golf carts and handicap carts are permitted during the event. Bicycles, skateboards, skates and other types of motorized vehicles are not permitted, due to the safety of spectators and vehicles.

Although there were an abundance of hot rods, musclecars were still a significant part of the parade during this particular Cruise-In.

Cleveland has an old-fashioned feel to it and the town will definitely take you back in time. This is one event where you can sit back, watch the traffic flow and enjoy meeting other participants. There is no entry fee to show your car or to attend the MainStreet Cruise-In, so you can sample some of the food at the event, or try one of the local restaurants without feeling guilty. Cleveland has plenty of restaurants, and of course, the BBQ and ribs are two excellent choices in this part of the country.

Top Picks

Our coverage wouldn’t be complete without the Rod Authority Top Picks, and while this event is for drivers and cruisers, there were plenty of beauties among the 1,000+ registered entrants.

Bobby Lockhart did the cobwebbed stripe over the original black paint.

Bobby Lockhart did the cobwebbed stripe over the original black paint.

Car Owner: Darrell McCarthy
Location: Ooltewah, TN
Vehicle: 1966 Chevy Chevelle SS
Why We Liked It: It’s an original-owner ’66 Chevelle with a 427 V-8 McCarthy swapped from a ’66 Corvette. The black paint is original, along with the 36,000 miles on the clock. Bobby Lockhart did the cobwebbed stripe in 1970, and Darrell still loves it as much as when he bought it.

Car Owner: Jimmy Thornton
Location: Ooltewah, TN
Vehicle: 1948 Chevy Pickup
Why We Liked It: Jimmy wanted to paint it emerald green, but couldn’t make up his mind until he saw a friend’s purple street rod. Thornton’s wife likes purple, so it was a no brainer.

Make someone happy - paint it their favorite color!

Car Owner: Steve Lewis
Location: Chattanooga, TN
Vehicle: 1932 Ford 5W Coupe
Why We Liked It: Steve built it, every piece of it in his home shop. What Lewis likes most about it is the Mustang color, which he says catches your eye and it certainly did ours.

The owner built every part of this car in his home shop.

Car Owner: Ronnie Barnett
Location: Jasper, TN
Vehicle: 1953 Ford Customline Coupe
Why We Liked It: We agreed with Barnett that he was successful in retaining its original look. The Ford Customline Coupe has been in his family for 45 years, and he couldn’t begin to tell us how many miles are on it.

Ford '53 Customline

Car Owner: Lloyd Crowder
Location: Cleveland, TN
Vehicle: 1947 Buick Roadmaster Convertible
Why We Liked It: There are very few Buicks, it was different and that’s what Lloyd wanted. With a 468 ci V-8, 350 Turbo, A/C and power everything.

How many Buick Roadmaster convertibles do you see anywhere?

More Than A Car Show

When you come to Cleveland for the Cruise-In, there’s a lot more to see and do that just the car show. Ride through town and look at the stately old homes along Ocoee Street, most of them restored. Stroll through Lee University’s campus, or check out some of the antique stores.

100_3231If you want to go for a scenic drive, get on Highway 60 East to Highway 64 East toward Ocoee. About 10 minutes into that ride you’ll be out in the country, and deep into the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. How about heading into Chattanooga? Hop onto I-75 South and you’ll end up in ‘Corky Town’ the old downtown area of Chattanooga, which is the headquarters for Coker Tire, Honest Charley’s Speed Shop, Honest Charley’s Garage, and the Double Cola Company.

Whether you just go for the cars on Saturday or make it a weekend and check out the surrounding area, it will make for a fun-filled and interesting getaway. For more information and Cruise-In dates still-to-come in 2013, visit the Cruise-In’s website at

For more coverage check out our GALLERY below:

About the author

Jason Sakurai

Raised in a family car dealership, Jason knew the Ford parts numbering system before he could drive. After college, he was hired by General Motors and became the youngest district manager in Pontiac's history. Concurrently, he sold his first story to Custom Rodder magazine, and has been writing and photographing cars ever since.
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