Cruze Enthusiasts Make Some Noise in Lordstown

LORDSTOWN, Ohio – The chorus began even before all of the cars arrived at the UAW Local 1112 union hall. As the drivers of some 60 Chevrolet Cruzes parked their cars, they showed off the sounds their autos – some modified, some not – could bellow.

Some drivers revved their engines, others shouted song lyrics but most were content to simply lock their doors to set off the familiar honk that showed their cars were secure. And when the noises came together, the 100 Cruze enthusiasts in town for the annual meeting found it beautiful.

“It attracts a huge variety of people. There are people here above 60 and people here below 20,” said Andrei Pop, an administrator for the online forum. “It’s an amazing car that’s unlike anything else on the market.”

This is third time the website, with 18,000 registered users, has held an annual meeting. All have been in Lordstown.

Most drivers were from Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan, but some made the trek from as far as California and Ontario, Canada.

“I traveled this far because it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to not only see where my car was built, but also to meet up with other Cruze owners and share stories,” said Nick Patton from Kansas City, Kan.

Patton knew exactly how far he traveled to meet with fellow Cruze fans: “883 miles,” he said with a proud smile. “I wouldn’t have missed this for anything.”

The attraction of modifying Cruzes, Pop said, comes from the fact that they’re relatively inexpensive, efficient cars.

“One of the biggest things is the option for the 1.4-liter turbo engine that most of these have. That turbo means you can upgrade them a bit and make modifications,” he explains. “A lot of people get it because it’s a very fuel-efficient and comfortable car. But at the same time they can have fun with it.”

And the CruzeTalk members definitely had fun with their cars.

“I’m really into plastidipping, so most of my work has been centered around that,” said Cody Rumsey from Cincinnati, who drives an all-black Cruze. “I’ve tinted the windows, added a cold-air intake and had a custom gear shifter made.”

Other cars have had their engines completely reworked, while others have had sound systems put in, been repainted or had aftermarket wheels installed. One car that Local 1112 President Glenn Johnson pointed out has a sparkling, crystal-blue paint job.

“That’s from Mineral Ridge, so it’s probably the closest car,” he said. “And it’s somebody who works at the plant because I see it every day when I come in.”

As for Pop, the changes he’s made to his car have mostly been to the audio system.

“I do home theaters on the side, so I took that knowledge to the car and got some good results,” he said. “It’s my daily driver that I take my wife and kid around in.”

Seeing what enthusiasts have done with their cars is a great thing for the workers at the General Motors Lordstown plant, said plant manager Steve Notar Donato.

“People like this give us a chance to connect with our ultimate customer. We have our metrics and our quality standards that we live to and share with our employees,” he explained. “But when you have a customer come in and tell you what they like or don’t like or think could be done better, it personalizes it for us.”

Before meeting at the union hall, the CruzeTalk members were invited to tour of the plant.

“I told them, ‘Welcome home.’ This is where their car was born, which has to be exciting for them,” Johnson said. “They get to see the nuances of the process and they were excited to be here.”

And with the announcement of the next generation Cruze coming on June 24, the excitement of meeting at the home of the car was only increased.

“I’m curious about what options they’ll add. Some people have been asking for a bigger engine or a two-door option or wondering if they’ll keep the diesel engine,” said Pop, who was invited to the unveiling in Detroit. “As far as the looks, it looks fantastic. I’m excited about the new look, which will appeal to a lot of people.”

Having the group act as advocates, regardless of whether they modify their cars, helps break down some the stigmas related to the model.

“It takes the stigma of being a family car or the first-time car and steps it up a notch into something exciting and bold,” Johnson said. “They’ve figured out all kinds of ways to tune them, whether it’s improving the turbo or adding carbon fiber to make them lighter. And they have a fun with it, which is a testament to what the Cruze is about.”

Pictured: Glenn Johnson, president of Local 1112 of the United Auto Workers.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.