Behind the Wheel

Broadcaster Jeff Phelps gets personal with classic car owners on Fox Sports Ohio's Cruise-In.

Jeff Phelps has four classic cars tucked away in the garage that sits behind his Medina County home. All have a story about how he came to own them, but one holds more meaning than the rest.

"My dad, when he sold cars, kept a sales brochure of the 1964 Thunderbird convertible," Phelps says. "He pulled it out one day and said,'We need to get one of these.' "

They did, at an auction in Indiana in the mid-1990s. And though Phelps initially thought they paid too much, he has since come to appreciate his dad's love of the car.

Phelps' dad has since passed away, but now the veteran Cleveland sports broadcaster and Cavs sideline reporter still owns the classic car along with three others, all Fords. There's a 1964 Galaxie 500, a '62 Thunderbird hardtop and a '76 Mercury Cougar, a car that is longer than a hot July day and is nearly identical to the first car Phelps owned.

It's stories like this that Phelps and videographer John Stealey aim to get as they shoot the second season of Cruise-In, which airs on Fox Sports Ohio on Mondays at 8 p.m. Last summer, they shot 20 episodes, visiting car shows throughout Northeast Ohio. They will do 20 more this summer.

"People just love sitting around and talking about their cars," Phelps says.

That approach sets their show apart from other car shows. Phelps is more concerned with getting the personal story behind the vehicle than anything else. Each episode, he talks to six owners about their cars: how they came to own it, why they chose the car they did, why they tattooed a picture of the car on their leg.

For instance, on Memorial Day weekend, Phelps and Stealey visited Laurel Square Shopping Center in Brunswick and talked to a couple who own a 1960 Pontiac Star Chief.

They bought the car in Youngstown about four years ago after asking their son, who was in the military and stationed in Iraq, to check out a different car online. He didn't like the one his parents wanted but found the Star Chief. He told them they should buy that one instead. So they did.

"They love the fact that their son discovered the car while stationed in Iraq," Phelps says. "They like to say they bought the car from Youngstown through Iraq."

The show has been nominated for three local Emmys, Phelps says. Not bad, considering it started out as something for two working dads to do during the summer.

"We think it has legs," he says. "We would love to try to grow this to more than a summer hobby."

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