Summer car show every Tuesday at Lansing restaurant

It was May 15, 1980. Mike Alexander was landscaping the front of the Olympic Broil when night crept over the drive-in restaurant.

“The evening was cool and I had five yards of dirt to spread by myself, and it ran into the late hours,” said Alexander. “It was 9:30 at night, and I had no light but streetlights. I heard a rumbling in the distance, like cars with no mufflers.”

When Alexander looked up, what he saw would change the legacy of Olympic Broil forever.

“Three hot rods rumbled into the parking lot and they wanted to know if they could hang out,” said Alexander. “I said, ‘Sure, as long as you keep the headlights on my job here so I can finish.’ So, they kept the headlights on so I could finish shoveling. One of them kind of meandered away, and I figured he didn’t want his battery to die so he left. Twenty minutes later, 15 cars show up. That started the hangout, and by the end of June it was huge.”

The “hangout” Alexander refers to is Olympic Broil’s Cruise-In held every Tuesday from 5-8 p.m. in the parking lot.

“People would get out of work, they’d clean themselves up, get out their car and come here to hang out,” said Alexander. “It got so big that first year and it was all kinds of people with muscle cars. The police thought it was too large.”

Now, the Cruise-In is an almost 40-yearold established tradition at Olympic Broil with a healthy mix of regulars and newcomers each week.

Larry Nelson, a Cruise-In veteran, claims to have participated since the conception. Nelson proudly showed off his car, customized to stand out from the sea of chrome and fresh paint jobs.

“I thought I would be different by having this side look different than the other side” said Nelson, gesturing to the asymmetry. “I’m the only one that’s done this. Why not?

Both sides look nice. I knew no one else would have the nerve to do it and no one else has. They say, ‘Oh jeez, Larry that’s a dorky idea.’ All along I know they’re jealous. I can see it steaming out of their heads.”

Dean Darnell has attended the Cruise- In every week for about eight years, and was not shy about his ’63 Dodge.

Pointing to the collection of trophies laid across the backseat, Darnell said, “Since I started showing this [car], I’ve won 20 out of 25 car shows. When I first started doing it, I won eleven straight in a row. I’ve won every one I attended downtown, four out of six at Hawk Island. About anywhere you want to name. You could say I’ve been there and done that a few times.”

In the lineup of colorful classics, Rick and Christine Adams were experiencing the weekly throwback event for the first time with their ’66 Chevy Impala.

“We’ve been working on it about the last three years,” said Rick. “It’s still a work in progress. We just got it done last spring so this is our first year out with it.”

When asked if they would attend again next week, Christine gave a firm, “Yes.”

Brothers David and Bob Bierstetel attended with the Portland Cruisers, sporting a Chevy Caprice and ’56 Chevy respectively. The two said that owning classic cars was “in their blood.”

Alexander agreed, “Young people [today] didn’t grow up with vehicles, they grew up with the latest electronic gizmo.

The generation before them grew up with the latest mechanical gizmo. It’s a different toy that they’re playing with. The mentality for computers today is what they had for cars back then.”

That knowledge and nostalgia is what keeps many coming back.

“We were raised on cars when we were younger,” said David Bierstetel. “We were a family of seven boys and two girls and we all had Pontiacs at one time and we used to take them up to the drag strip. After we got married, we got out of it, but now we got back into it to have something to do on the weekends.”

Bob agreed, “We’re in our second childhood.”