Flexing Their Muscle Cars 

Brunswick Car Cruises

If there were a beauty contest for cars, this would be it. The asphalt quivers as the bombshells peel off the road into the parking lot, their engines growling down the runway. They snake past clusters of paparazzi, the fragrant outdoor hamburger stand, and the silver-and-black row of motorcycles. The target: a prime parking space on the end of a row, so they can show off their perfect silhouettes.

Proud owners of vintage and classic cars have been strutting their automotive stuff at the Brunswick Car Cruises in the Big Boy/Wendy's parking lot every summer since 1994. Held each Saturday night, the cruises give car lovers a chance to admire unblemished beauties from nearly every era of automobile history.

"Eight or nine hundred cars show up on a good night," says DJ Frank LaManna, who spins "Little GTO," "Little Old Lady From Pasadena," and other classic tunes at the cruises. "The lot holds 500 cars, but they rotate. People may stay a couple hours, then leave, making room for newcomers."

But you don't have to own a hot rod to enjoy the free event. Those who want to show their vintage or classic cars simply pull up in the designated areas (mere mortals park elsewhere) and stand back to let all manner of spectators amble between the rows of cars, gawking at the buffed boys and girls of summer. Moms and dads wheel strollers with sunburned children inside, teen couples walk hand in hand, and retired folks meet up with their old work buddies and gab until long after dark.

"It's a mixed crowd," says Cookie LaManna, DJ Frank's wife and business partner. "We get families, professionals, and even -- I don't know how to put it nicely -- hillbillies."

This is America, after all -- the land of chrome and asphalt. Everybody likes to look at pretty cars: the color of this Starliner, the contours of that Viper, the chrome bumpers on a '65 'Vette -- che bella! Only the smell of exhaust and the attendant gray smog detract from the beauty of the scene.

And while you might think the owners, coddling their cars like stage mothers doting on four-wheeled babies, would be too preoccupied to strike up a conversation, that's just not the case.

"The people here are very nice," insists Jan Cramer of Hartville, relaxing in a patio chair in the shade of her dark green '66 Plymouth Hemi. Cramer, who makes the 70-minute pilgrimage to the cruise most Saturdays, says that this cruise is "bigger and nicer" than a lot of other area cruises, because "there's lots of room."

"People come to see their friends here," she adds before turning away to talk to another car fan who popped over to chat.

Tom Gasper, who parades his '96 dark metallic purple Corvette coupe every couple of weeks, agrees that the people he's met at the Brunswick cruises are friendly and open to sharing their knowledge. "This cruise has a lot of people to talk to -- they give me ideas to use on my car."

All the hoods may be open for display, but looking and talking is about as far as you'll get. Many of the showpieces sport small placards that range from the serious ("Please don't touch") to the silly ("You toucha da car, I breaka u face").

But unlike at a real beauty contest, here the spectators can at least see what's underneath the perfect paint job and satiny complexion. "It's nice to see the detail work that a lot of people do -- especially under the hoods," Gasper says.

And so what if the best all-around car doesn't win a crown and sash -- that just saves you from those awful acceptance speeches.

Speaking of Highlights

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