Remember the old days when drivers would pull into the local drive-in to show off their wheels and grab a burger? That is still happening at Sonic in Clinton Township.
Sonic, America’s Drive-In, becomes part of the tradition
Car culture is still king in this area.
You can see it easily enough with all the summer cruising events that dominate Michigan cities, roads, restaurants and parking lots warming up for big events like the Clinton Township Gratiot Cruise, Aug. 7.
Getting into the game this year are the local Sonics.
Macomb County has three of them — in Clinton Township, Shelby Township and Sterling Heights — and they’ve held car shows throughout July.
“It’s cool because it’s old school and nostalgic,” said Dave Volpini, general manager of the Sterling and Shelby locations.
Sonic is new to the cruise game this year, but it’s a perfect fit, since driving into Sonic is a blast of nostalgia including waitresses on wheels (as in roller skates) and classic American fare such as burgers, fries and shakes topped by an endless supply of oldie tunes.
Gratiot Cruise founder and committee member Marco Lavinio said Sonic’s contribution is a “natural fit for them,” a no-brainer, taking us back to the “Happy Days” and Arnold’s Drive-In-eras.
Lavinio’s family owns Mario’s Body Shop in Clinton Township, which he manages.
He has a wealth of car memories to share and loves that it’s a way to keep local history alive. “Many remember cruising Gratiot as teens,” he said, and “everybody loves to stand and exchange stories.”
That’s what a lot of people love about cruise events, sharing stories about the old days.
Talking to Lavinio, you could almost call a car show a family reunion of sorts. “Cars seemed to have their own personality,” he said. Just about everybody named their wheels, and “the car was part of the family.”
As a kid in the 1970s, Lavinio remembers how he would go out and play and everybody in the neighborhood would be outside with cars, washing and waxing them. “Those cars were like living Hot Wheels,” he said. For him, it was like having a car show in the neighborhood each Saturday.
Cars would get spruced up, he said, and everyone would hit the road for a burger or ice cream, and it became a family event.
A big highlight for him was going out in his dad’s 1976 El Dorado convertible or one of the original land yachts, as he called it.
His dad still has the car and still recruits kids to help with it in exchange for a ride to get ice cream, a Saturday afternoon ritual that Lavinio sees a lot of people keeping up.
“It’s like watching a film reel of my childhood,” he said. “It’s the coolest thing.”
To keep it alive is natural. “This is who we are,” said Lavinio. “It’s our identity.”
Check out videos from local cruise events!
Provided by The News Herald