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Chrome Sweet Chrome

The Chuck-A-Burger Cruise Night sets hearts and engines racing

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What is the hottest thing happening at the Chuck-A-Burger car cruise? Is it the broiling, humid St. Louis summer? Is it the slick rides, such as the T-top Corvette Stingrays and Plymouth Hemi 'Cudas? Is it the restaurant chili some folks are actually consuming in the triple-digit heat? Or is it Elvis impersonator Steve Davis, draping scarves around the necks of an endless series of women of a certain age, accepting their nervous kisses and continuing to croon through "Can't Help Falling in Love"?

It's hard to decide what's hottest and what's coolest about the monthly summer car show at the nearly 50-year-old diner. Slaves to car culture wander amid the tightly packed grid of machines and discuss whether a classic car should, on principle, be a "shower" (only driven to shows) or a "driver" (driven to work daily). If you've been to a show like this one, you know the drill. Old Ford pickups, muscle cars, '57 Chevys and even a few motorcycles and scooters await their fans. A recent show featured a darling Fiat mini and a pair of sleek top-bracket dragsters fresh from Gateway International Raceway. (In case you're wondering, there is no "cruise," per se, other than the ride to the diner.)

Hungry oglers have three options: They can go inside for burgers and fries in the small, nostalgia-filled dining room; buy barbecue burgers and hotdogs from an outdoor stand; or order from poodle-skirted carhops (who are, alas, not on roller skates).

With all these retro jollies from a more innocent '50s America, maybe the scene could use a little retro shakeup. It would be nice to see the oily crew from a local band of rockabilly musicians such as the Cripplers or the Trip Daddys sneer and leer at the assembled like greasers from the wrong side of the tracks.

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