Classic car lovers cruise Hilo to celebrate Fourth of July

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald

    Classic cars pull onto Highway 19 from the scenic lookout in Hilo to head to Akaka Falls on Tuesday.

  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Classic cars line the edge of the parking lot Tuesday at Rainbow Falls in Hilo.
  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald Kalen Koga opens the hood of his 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air Tuesday at Rainbow Falls in Hilo.
  • HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald

    Tourists from Seattle check out Rocky Dias’ 1949 Mercury Chop Top on Tuesday at Rainbow Falls in Hilo.

Herbert Leite’s bright yellow 1930 Ford sedan stood out in the sea of other vibrant-hued classic cars parked at Rainbow Falls late Tuesday morning.

His was just one of many participating in “Cruize Paradise,” Hawaii Classic Cruizers’ triennial car cruise, which has drawn car enthusiasts and their vintage vehicles to the Big Island from throughout the state and mainland.


On Tuesday, the car cruise brought visitors — and their classic cars — to spots in and around Hilo, including Rainbow Falls.

Leite, one of the founders of Cruize Paradise, said the 11-day island cruise is one way car owners can show their cars to the public — and enjoy them.

It’s not often “we can cruise all around,” he said.

Leite has been collecting cars for more than five decades. His first was from 1929, which he bought in 1967.

“I also bought a 1963 Ford back in ’63, which I still have,” he said.

His collection started growing from there.

“The people love it,” Leite said about reactions to the car event. “They all love seeing the cars and … (it) brings back memories to some of the old people. They all say that, ‘Oh, I remember when I had one when I was growing up.’”

Plenty of visitors to the falls Tuesday could be seen admiring the old cars and taking photos.

Kalen Koga of Hilo said he has participated in the cruise since 2001.

It’s fun, he said, and he loves the classic cars.

“This event happens every three years, so I look forward to it,” Koga said. “We go cruising with all our friends, and people from the outer islands and the mainland come down, too, so it’s good.”

He was at Rainbow Falls with his all-original 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air.

People like that it looks like a classic 1950s car, Koga said about reactions to the car.

“It’s like a trip back in time. It kind of brings back memories (for some people).”

This is the first year Rocky Dias of Kaneohe participated in Cruize Paradise, “but we’re coming back.” he said.

Dias shipped his 1949 Mercury Chop Top from Oahu.

Bright orange, Dias said he and his son built the car over nearly 3 1/2 years. It has a big block Chevy motor, air conditioning, power windows and custom, handmade upholstery.

The car was a “basket case, meaning it was all apart” when they purchased it, he explained.

When asked what kind of reactions the car draws, he and his wife laugh.

“Everybody loves it. They can’t get over it,” said Crystal Dias.

“Words can’t explain it,” Rocky Dias added.

Hawaii Classic Cruizers will participate in the Hilo Bay Blast today with a display of vintage vehicles from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. in downtown Hilo’s Bayfront soccer fields.


The group also will host a drive-in movie night Friday on the grounds of the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium. Vehicles roll in at 6 p.m. and the movie, “Gone in 60 Seconds,” will start at dark. Food trucks will be on site, and admission is free.

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