Hot rods to a VW microbus

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“Every year, as long as they have it the night they’re supposed to, there’s been more cars. This is the most I’ve ever seen,” said Wiltonian Paul Bonomo as he stood next to his 1932 Ford Highboy Roadster Hot Rod at this year’s Wilton Kiwanis Geeb Fleming Memorial Cruise Night Friday, July 10.
“I’ve always been a car guy, since I was 15. Lived in Wilton all my life. My family moved here in 1922. We’ve been here for almost a hundred years,” said Bonomo.
“I’ve come (to the Cruise Night) every year since they had it. I knew Geeb, the guy who started it,” said Bonomo.
Thomas “Geeb” Fleming was killed by a drunk driver in 2009. He started Cruise Night out of a love for cars and car people and ran it for eight years, and now, six years after his death, the Friday night destination is still attracting enthusiasts and non-enthusiasts alike.
“This is just great,” said Bonomo, “and there’s new stuff coming. I haven’t seen these Land Rovers before; I haven’t seen that Ford,” as he pointed to various cars around the Piersall Building parking lot. “A lot of stuff here that hasn’t been here before. A lot of stuff that has been, but a lot of stuff that hasn’t.”
Bonomo exhibited four of his 10 vintage vehicles Friday: A 1963 Willy’s CJ3B, a 1961 Corvette Hot Rod, the aforementioned 1932 Ford Highboy Roadster Hot Rod and, perhaps most interestingly, a 1966 21-window Deluxe Volkswagen Microbus.
“Believe it or not, that’s probably worth more than any of these three,” Bonomo said. “They became very, very popular in the late 60s. It was really the first minivan. People bought them, but nobody held onto them.”
To Bonomo, it is priceless.
“I was getting some parts in California,” he said, “and the part-guy offered me 40 grand for it; I said, ‘no.’ I put it up for sale briefly, and had another guy offer me 55; I said, ‘no.’ He upped it to 65; I said, ‘no.’ He said, ‘Will you go to 75?’ I said, ‘no.’ I’ve seen them go for $130,000.”

The man underneath the hood

“I’m just delighted that everybody picked up on the spirit of ‘Come; bring what you got; let’s all enjoy it.’ Frankly, I’m amazed,” said Kevin Craw, who organized and ran the event, and who has been doing so ever since Geeb passed away. Craw and Geeb were best friends, and Craw helped Geeb manage Cruise Night as his “second lieutenant” before fully taking over after his tragic death.
“Thanks to the Kiwanis Club for doing all the hard work with the food,” he added. “Certainly thanks to the Village Market for helping us get set up and providing us with all the great ingredients; they gave us a big break on the bill. And thanks to the Coachmen Car Club of Norwalk for bringing the sound system and helping to keep the vibe rolling. A lot of the really cool cars here tonight are Coachmen Cars.
“I think this is at least as good, and maybe more cars than previous years. Just a great turnout. I love the vibe. Ben’s Ice Cream Truck is here, gotta have a milk shake; they’re amazing,” said Craw while simultaneously fielding questions from passers-by and other individuals.
Craw showed a 1963 Triumph TR3B, a 1971 BMW 2800CS and a 1973 BMW 2002.
His favorite is the ’71 BMW. It belonged to his late father. The 2800CS was a limited production model and was BMW’s flagship vehicle from 1968 to 1976.
“My dad loved that car,” said Craw. “It was just a shell when I inherited it. It took me three years to restore. It used to be blue, with blue leather, too. Now, it’s Verona Red.”