Like many origin stories, that of Car d’Lane starts with a small idea.
In 1990, Idaho’s centennial year, a group from Southern Idaho was coming up as part of the celebration, touring the state in their classic cars. Dennis LeKander, a Coeur d’Alene downtown businessman, got together with a few others and wondered how they might welcome this contingent. LeKander owned a classic car business.
“I called as many car people as I could think of and asked them to bring their cars downtown, and (said) we’ll park our cars downtown and welcome them to Coeur d’Alene,” said LeKander.
He asked the touring group to gather on the east end of Sherman Avenue and to drive in at the same time. It got a little publicity, he said.
“It turned out to be a neat deal, and from that point on the Downtown Association decided to do it again the following year,” LeKander said. “It took off from there.”
Thus was born Car d’Lane, which this year celebrates its 29th anniversary, with a cruise through Downtown Coeur d’Alene from 6 to 9pm on Friday, June 14. The next day, from 8am to 4pm, owners host the Show and Shine, where visitors can ask questions about the vehicles, check out the cars and also get food and drink from local vendors. Both events are free to attend.
“The car demographic, that is a smaller group of people we tap into, and those are the people that show their cars,” said Emily Boyd, event coordinator for the Downtown Association. “I’m not really a car person, but anyone can enjoy Car d’Lane, and that’s what I love about it. With the loud noises and the fancy paint jobs, you don’t have to know everything about cars to enjoy it.”
The event has grown to host car owners from across the country and has become a major event for the Downtown Association, Boyd said. Some who show cars do so at a number of events in the region, making Car d’Lane one of their stops along the way, she said, and that is to the city’s benefit.
“Just having an event for the community to attend is a really big deal, but for the restaurants and bars, Car d’Lane (has) a significant impact,” she said.
This will be the second year the event will go on without the North Idaho Classics Car Club, which co-sponsored it until a contract dispute ended the partnership.
Saturday’s festivities also include a Young Builder section into which builders 25 years old and younger can enter their car or automotive-related project.
There are a number of other awards up for grabs, including “Best of” awards for each decade. Cars and trucks built as recently as 1980 are allowed to enter.
Brad Enders at Classic Garage in Coeur d’Alene has been participating in the event since he was a teenager. Classic Garage, located at 1710 North Fourth Street, opens up for a garage tour before Friday’s cruise so people can come see the two dozen or so cars it currently has in the shop.
Enders grew up working on cars because his dad owned a body shop, he said, and so cars just resonated with him.
“I fell in love with the hobby when I was 14 years old,” Enders said. “My grandparents gave me a ’62 T-Bird.”
He still has that Ford Thunderbird. When his dad passed away 10 years ago, he turned his hobby into Classic Garage, which he operates in a space rented from LeKander. He has gradually expanded it, taking over other parts of the large building as the work of Classic Garage grew.
Part of the appeal of car shows is those memories, Enders said, and that’s what makes them more than just a niche event.
“I think it brings back memories. There are collectors who have old cars, but there’s also a group of people (who are) not interested in owning an old car, but it brings back memories of their childhood: Their parents had one or the car that they drove,” Enders said. “They may not have any interest in owning a ’51 Packard, but when they see it, it brings back memories of their childhood. So it hits on everybody, not just people that are interested in cars.”
In order to be considered “classic,” a car needs to be at least 25 years old, which explains the presence of a ’91 Chevrolet S10 Blazer that is currently a project at Classic Garage. Some vehicles gain popularity as they age—sometimes because they are rarer or have a feature that few others do.
Last year’s Car d’Lane added another nostalgic element: the Retro Studio pin-up contest, which invites women of all ages and sizes to do up their hair and makeup. It will be back for a second year.
The cruise on Friday will travel through downtown mostly along Sherman and Lakeside avenues. The show on Saturday will occupy sections of Front Avenue as well as Sherman—a fitting spot considering the original event drove cars down that same road.
“It’s not at some fairgrounds. It’s downtown,” LeKander said, “and I think it’s a good deal for the car people and a good deal for Coeur d’Alene.”