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REVIVING MEMORIES: A JOURNEY THROUGH CAR CULTURE

By Monique Garcia

Photos by Monique Kuhlman



As someone who grew up with a car enthusiast dad, I am no stranger to car meets. When I was a kid, my dad had a habit of unexpectedly pulling into car meets if he spotted them from the corner of his eye while driving. It didn’t matter if we had a pint of ice cream in the groceries, he would be pulling in and parked within a minute to admire the classic and custom makes.


While I had zero knowledge of car culture, even I could appreciate the shiny paint jobs and personalized interiors. There’s something about an obviously well-cared-for car with a shiny paint job that makes you feel cooler just for being in its vicinity. 


In every single memory I have of him doing this, I remember the people being nicer and cooler than the cars they drove. Listening at his elbow as he struck up a conversation about their cars taught me to appreciate the work, time, and money owners put into their cars. 


After speaking with Mike Shrout and hearing his journey with car culture, my appreciation for this niche community and long-standing SoCal tradition grew.


Mike has been an avid car enthusiast for decades. Ever since he was a kid, he and his brother shared interest in automobiles and engineering. They would spend time together fixing their family’s lawn mower and helping their neighbor when he worked on his car. In high school, his interest solidified when he joined an auto shop class. The friendship and camaraderie he found there would stick with him.



His 1967 Camaro

A few years later, Mike bought a 1967 Camaro RS. He would drive it everywhere until sooner or later, life events - a home remodel, starting a family, and moving up in his career- left that 1967 Camaro gathering dust under a tarp in his backyard. It was only once he retired that he found the time to fix his Camaro and get it up and running that he found his passion once more. 


“The minute I retired, I got the car running and driving and just drove it around Long Beach,” remembers Mike. Three days of riding around his neighborhood and reminiscing was all it took to convince him he should tear it apart and completely redo the car, just like he always wanted. 


He shares, “That desire to get back into rebuilding my Camaro is what pushed me to look into the local car scene.”


That was two years ago. Now, he is only days away from finishing the remodel. A few months ago, Mike decided to shop around for a car club to join.


While blogs and forums are great for mechanic tutorials, it leaves much to be desired in camaraderie and companionship. 



The Mercifuls

Thankfully, living in Long Beach, Mike had no trouble finding a car club. But just like hats, it took a few tries to find the right fit for him. 


The Mercifuls has been around since 1968. Gordon McIlonie and a few friends formed the group while attending Millikan High. The group of young men would take weekend trips into the desert, help each other with their cars, and bond over their love of all things steel with four wheels. 


“I think the main asset of being in a club is everyone has their expertise. If I need help with a specific aspect, I know I can call up one of the members,” states Tony Colombini, PR Director of The Mercifuls. 


Unlike some car clubs, there are virtually no rules to The Mercifuls. All they ask is for prospects and members to treat others respectfully and have an above average appreciation for cars. 


The club started as a close knit group and to this day they keep true to that. With 17 members plus one honorary member, those that are available meet every Sunday for their “Hot Cakes and Hot Rods” at Glory Days Sports Grill in Lakewood.


When asked if there were any car qualifications for joining, Tony remarks, “All we ask is that you be a car enthusiast.”


The Mercifuls keep true to their Long Beach roots with their annual “Spark of Love’’ Toy Drive Car Show event at LB POA Park. Merciful members and the Fire Department host a pancake breakfast for the community to appreciate hot rods and donate toys. It’s a fun morning full of raffle prizes, trophies, and pancakes.


“We usually are able to fill up truckloads not just thanks to the community, but plenty of other clubs in the area pitch in too,” shares Tony.


The Mercifuls have grown over the years but overall its mission is still the same. And to this day, one of the founding members, Gordon McIlonie, is still president.

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