The 20th annual Woodward Dream Cruise, that rolling bazaar of nostalgia, has finally arrived — although cruisers have been warming up unofficially along M-1 for days and even weeks. From Ferndale to Pontiac, 40,000 cars will be ogled today by a million onlookers. It amounts to the biggest one-day auto event in the world.
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Birmingham – As the light faded on the Dream Cruise Saturday night, Woodward reminded me of one of those rivers you see in nature films.
The wide avenue proves irresistible for thirsty predators that swim the tributary waiting for an innocent impala to wander unsuspectedly into their path. You know. Impalas.
There it is in the middle of your picture. A common, 2006-era Chevy Impala. Surrounded by a pack of snarling, hungry beasts: Two Camaros, a Mustang, an Acura NSX, a Firebird.
Poor thing. Has it any idea what it has stumbled into? I wonder what happened to that Impala . . .
Royal Oak – Scratch the paint of some cars in the Cruise and the history runs deeper than mere modifications.
Phil O’Reilly’s 1947 Ford Super Deluxe roadster is a looker with its bright red paint, white ragtop, modified 302 V8, and dramatic white scallops running back from the chrome grille. But turn back the pages of history and the ’47 Ford is reminder of a nation – and a Detroit – that was transformed by war.
“The 1946-1948 models were the first cars that Ford produced coming out of World War II,” says Reilly, who now lives in Pinckney. “Ford had ceased auto production during the war to make airplanes and other vehicles to fight Nazi Germany.”
Reilly was just 10 years old in 1946 when his car was built. His father had just moved to Michigan from Youngstown, Ohio where he too had been consumed by the war effort by manufacturing steel for military use.
Bill grew up to be a successful, 37-year veteran of Ford’s powertrain development division. He has amassed an impressive car collection, including a 1923 Ford Model T, a ’56 Porsche Speedster, a ’64 Cobra, a 2004 308 Ferrari, and a 2006 Ford GT.
But that ’47 Ford. It’s a reminder of the fires this country has endured to enjoy a Saturday on Woodward.
Just a few observations gleaned while driving 3 mph on M-1 during the Woodward Dream Cruise.
I wonder how many of those orange signs are going to be stolen? The ones that tell drivers to drive only classic cruisers in the right two lanes. They have to be collectors items, right?
Or the sign reading “Do not block driveway” on a barricade that was blocking the driveway.
Or the guy who stopped his diamond blue Plymouth Valiant in the right lane of northbound Woodward (completely blocking traffic) as he sprinted to a port-a-potty on the berm in front of the Shrine of the Little Flower Elementary School. Hey, when you gotta go, you gotta go!
I don’t know if they simply grew weary of the war or just finally accepted their fate, but the marquee on the Magic Bag (on Woodward, just north of Nine Mile) didn’t contain snarky messages about what a pain in the asphalt the WDC is for them.
That’s the first time that’s happened in years.
Worst parking spot. Three cars were parked on the shoulder of northbound Woodward on the incline from the I-696 overpass. I thought maybe they were broken down, but they all seemed to know each other, their hoods and trunks were open for inspection and they were sipping cold ones while sitting in folding chairs.
Brian and Lisa Sams and their daughter Brianna, 3, traveled to Mustang Alley in Ferndale to show off a very special car. On the outside it may not look like much, but their Mustang served as a Florida State Police patrol car from June 1989 to February 1993 and was driven by the first female state trooper of the year.
“We got it from a guy who got it from the auction,” said Brian Sams, of Darlington, Md. “Originally, we bought it to race, but when we found out it had a lot of police history, we decided to keep it as was.”
The Sams’ Mustang was among 1,160 parked at Mustang Alley on East Nine between Woodward and the train tracks.
There are quite a few rare vehicles cruising Woodward today, but Ithica resident Joe Barden probably has the rarest of them all … a 1923 Meteor hearse.
And it’s all original equipment, including the incredibly beautiful and exquisitely hand-carved wooden body.
Barden is the fourth generation director of the Barden Funeral Home, established in 1902 with Joe’s son set to take over as generation No. 5.
“There are only three 1923 Meteor hearses and the other two are in a museum and not likely to see the light of day,” Barden said. “I have family photos that show that this hearse is exactly the same as the one my great grandfather bought so many years ago.”
Barden has a friend who specializes in finding and restoring antique hearses, the kind put into storage and then are just sort of forgotten about.
“My friend found this one in a barn down in Texas,” Barden said. “He snapped it up because he knew I was interested in this kind thing. It wasn’t running so he had to restore it, which took about 10 years.”
The reason it took so long is because it was important to keep the hearse as original as possible.
“Back when these machines were made, they painted everything except the tires,” Barden said. “When I got it, it was covered with silver paint. We stripped the paint and found that beautiful original woodword. The wood is a combination of cherry, maple, oak and walnut.”
The hearse was built in Piqua, Ohio, and the list price back in 1923 was about $1,800.
“I would imagine it’s worth considerably more than that now,” Barden said. “This is the third time I’ve driven it in the Dream Cruise. Just one complete circuit because I don’t want to wear it out. Ithica is about 30 miles north of Lansing, so I trailer it here.”
And it’s possible to drive this, the hearse of your dreams.
Barden rents the hearse out for $750 to car buffs, woodworkers or as a gift for someone’s granddad.
“Of course they have to learn how to drive it first,” Barden said. “It starts with a crank; it’s a stick shift and the throttle is on the steering column.”
And yes, Barden has used it for the occasional funeral.
“As long as the funeral is local because I don’t want to drive it too far,” he said. “Think of it as the last cruise you’ll ever take.”
A man from Sterling Heights won the one-of-a-kind convertible version of the 50th anniversary Mustang being auctioned off by Ford Motor Co. in Mustang Alley in Ferndale.
Each raffle ticket cost $20 and around 30,000 were sold, helping Ford raise nearly $600,000 for multiple sclerosis research.
“No matter who wins this tonight, we’re all winners because of what we’ve given to this cause,” said Dave Pericak, chief engineer for the Mustang.
Barbara Williams loves the Mustang.
“It’s one of my favorite cars,” the Comanche, Texas, resident said. “My husband when we met had a 1965 Mustang.”
Williams checked out Mustang Alley on Dream Cruise Saturday with her daughter, Doe Williams, and her 9-month old granddaughter, Fable, both of Lafayette, La. She and her husband picked them up along the way to Detroit.
“It’s the first time we’ve had the whole family here,” said Doe. “It’s been a lot of fun. We all have different favorites so were trying to fit them all in.”
Many of the 40,000-plus classic cars expected to cruise Woodward look scary good. But one car in Pontiac was flat-out terrifying.
Around the corner from Erabus, once the world’s largest haunted house, organizers had a quite a creepy cruiser made out to look like the head of a screaming man with his hair on fire.
“That would be a little bit nerve-racking seeing that coming down the road at you,” said June Hadley, who drove down to Pontiac from Flint.
With eyes popping of of his head and seats inside of his open mouth, the car caused the same affect on many Dream Cruise spectators.
“If they wanted to commit murder that would be one way to do it. I mean look at those eyes,” said Mike Hinkle of Rochester Hills, noting the installed headlamps.
The car also frightened Kimberly Cutcher of Gibsonburg, Ohio.
“If you saw those lights coming at you in the dark…” she said. “I say ‘Noooo!’ I would be like Fred Sanford, ‘I’m coming to join you, honey.'”
But Erabus, one of the top haunts in the country, specializes in scares. The four-story haunted house, which opened its doors in 2000, held the title of world’s longest walk-through haunted attraction from 2005 to 2009 in the Guiness Book of World Records.
Even still, after seeing some one taking the car for a spin around the Loop, Cutcher said she needed to get a picture before heading home.
“I’ve been trying to catch it on Woodward and I said ‘where’d it go,’ and around here and I said ‘There it is there it is it’s the car.”
Two wheels or four wheels?
That’s the decision Mary Lou and Gary Cochran have had to answer every night this week before cruising. The married motor heads own a classic Pontiac GTO and two jaw-dropping Harley motorcycles. Decision, decisions.
This day, they chose the Harleys. You thought the Dream Cruise was just about celebrating muscle cars? Let’s hear it for muscle bikes.
“Forget GM, Ford and Chrysler,” says Gary as he straddled his ’73 Harley shovel-head. “There is only one company that can get owners to tattoo their name on their bodies.”
The Cochrans and their fellow hogs (have you ever seen just one?) cruise Birmingham in bikes so spotless you could eat your dinner off of them.
Mary Lou’s ride is a 2009 Crossbones soft-tail complete with leather saddle bags and skull and crossbones tattooed on the gas tank. So these hogs only have two-cylinders? Rev them and they sound like they could peel paint off an oil drum.
The bikers are as sensitive about bike brands as muscle car owners are about cars. A quick primer from Gary for four-wheelers like yours truly:
“Ducati is the Ferrari of motorcycles; Harleys are American muscle; and you meet the nicest people on a Honda.”
Xavier Young knew when he saw the 1938 Plymouth Coupe being towed down Woodward at the Dream Cruise last year that he wanted the car.
So he made a deal on the spot and traded the car he had with him, a 1970 Nova, for the junky classic in gray primer paint.
A year later, and the gray is gone, replaced by “the Red Pearl,” a pirate motif and three gravestones to honor his deceased parents and sister.
“I’ve been going the last 20 years and I’ve been here in this same spot,” the 66-year-old Oak Park resident said as he and his family sat along Woodward near 9 1/2 mile. “As long as I can breathe, I’ll be here.”
Ferndale north of 9 Mile might be the best spot to cruise or cruise watch. The traffic isn’t thick so you can get a clear view of the cars. Up near Royal Oak, things are too congested to move.
Scott White was one of the unlucky Warren homeowners whose basement flooded after Monday’s epic storms. But he didn’t let that stop him from coming out to cruise with his wife, Wilma, and their 1957 Chevrolet Belair.
“I came out every night except Monday and Tuesday,” he said. “I’ve been here since 7 a.m.”
White got the car 21 years ago and he and his son, Eric, worked on the car together. Eric is in the Coast Guard so he didn’t make it back for the cruise, but other family members came out with the couple.
“It’s clean, free fun,” said Wilma White.
Added Scott White: “It’s not as much about the cars as it is seeing the people and spending time together.”
When Tony Brandys served in the Army in Vietnam, he’d always wanted to come home and buy a Pontiac GTO.
“The GTO, in my opinion, was a Vietnam veteran’s car because we all wanted those when we came home,” he said.
About 10 years ago, Brandys, 67, of Chicago, had that dream fulfilled when he bought a 1966 Pontiac GTO in California.
Brandys has been coming to the Woodward Dream Cruise ever year since, but this time, he made it his mission to turn his muscle car into a tribute for veterans and those who never made it home from the war.
The ’66 GTO matches the model year that Brandys was drafted. It was decorated with a stuffed Tiger wearing army fatigues on the roof, several war paintings inside, statuettes of Vietnam memorials and a model helicopter of those that he rode in during military convoys resting on his tri-power engine.
“It’s been the dream come true,” said Brandys, who wore his old dog tags and a shirt that read: “You will never be forgotten.”
“I chose today to make this trip especially with my partner with them for all those who couldn’t be here who are on that wall. It’s really special for me to do something for the guys who never had a chance like I did.”
Brandys had several families come up to him with children wanting to pose inside with the tiger, but there was also fellow Vietnam veteran who greeted him to which to replied:
“Welcome home, brother.”
The lovely Detroit Pride Cheerleaders can normally be found around the Lions’ stadium on game days, lending their talents to Cheli’s Chili Bar and other venues. But Saturday, they brought their curves to compliment the curvy sheet metal on Woodward Avenue.
At 13 Mile, they headline the WDTW-FM (106.7) (the station that “rocks Detroit”) display while handing out their own rockin’ swimsuit calendar. The 106.7 venue is amply endowed with Challengers, Camaro’s, and Pontiac GTOs – and the girls confirmed they get weak in the knees for American muscle. A topless V8 really gets their pom-poms shaking.
A quick poll of their favorites:
Jen – A yellow 1974 Dodge Charger
Alyssa – L’il Red Express Chrysler pickup hot rod with dual semi-pipes and a 360-cid V8
Bianca – ’56 Chevy Bel Air
Alisha – 1970 Dodge Challenger
Jessica – Any Olds Cutlass
Liz – 1970 Plymouth Road Runner
Bri – Any Dodge Charger will do
These gals know their stuff. Detroit pride, indeed.
William Holwig of Livonia wears his Burger King crown as he watches the Woodward Dream Cruise for his 19th year.
This will change the Dream Cruise. Forever.
Line lock – a fully automated burnout mode – will come standard on the Ford 2015 Mustang GT. That’s right, Burnouts for Dummies. No more fussing with the brake pedal. No more fears the rear end will slew you into your neighbor.
Now you can effortlessly spin your tires to dust while creating plumes of smoke the size of western wildfires (as Mustang Chief Engineer Dave Pericak demonstrated to Mustang faithful at Ford’s proving grounds this week).
Motorheads, explains Car & Driver, “once used a solenoid-actuated valve plumbed into the vehicle’s hydraulic braking system. (Such) line-locks kept full brake pressure on the front wheels while leaving the rears free to spin.”
Ford’s new electronic line-lock system delivers the same result with an electronic stability-control hydraulic unit to keep the front wheels pinned down while the rears smoke away. It’s part of the new ‘Stang’s Track Apps suite—which includes launch control and an acceleration timer.
Ford says the “electronic line-lock for 2015 Mustang GT is intended for use only on racetracks.” Sure. Tell that to the Cruisers.
Royal Oak – We’re corrupting the Italians one by one.
First Sergio Marchionne decides to build a Maserati SUV on the Jeep Grand Cherokee platform, now Fiat North America Manufacturing Chief Mauro Pino is driving a 1960 Chrysler Imperial in the Cruise.
The car-honking, back-slapping, cigar-chomping Pino has camped for the day in front of Roseland Park Cemetery on Woodward – complete with tent, grille, and a love for American iron. What else does he want after the Imperial? A Ferrari? An Alfa?
“A good cigar and a Dodge Challenger Hellcat,” he says with a big grin.
Super Mauro came over with Marchionne in 2010 to run the jeep Toledo plant , then quickly rose to head of manufacturing for the continent. His home country – wee land of the 1.0 liter-powered shoeboxes – might be horrified to find him cruising Woodward this week with a Hemi V8 under the hood and two big white, fuzzy dice dangling from the mirror.
It’s Pino’s fourth year at the Cruise and I swear he’s already got a Yankee drawl.
“We don’t just like cars, we love them. They’re in our blood.”
When a member of Detroit’s oldest dealership family says it, then it must be true.
Susan Rinke, whose family opened Detroit’s first GM dealership in 1917, traveled to Palmer Park for the first annual “Crusin’ the D,” a four-day event meant to enhance the Woodward Dream Cruise.
Rinke, 60, brought her gold 1977 Lincoln Continental Mark V to the park for fun, but to also show her support for the resurgence of the city she loves so much.
“I was born in Detroit,” said Rinke, who has nicknamed her land yacht “Das Boat.”
“There’s so much going on here. Detroit is going to make it back.”
Crusin’ the D is the brainchild of Gregory Reed, chairman of the Detroit Entertainment Commission.
“This is our first year, but I’ve been working on it for 10 years,” said Reed, an entertainment attorney.
“We want to make this a tourist destination on both the national and international level. It can become an additional attraction for the Woodward Dream Cruise; an event which will help enhance this area of Detroit and Palmer Park itself.”
The vibe at the Crusin’ the D is different than the WDC. More relaxed, laid back and well, soulful. Cool jazz is in the air along with the aroma of food grilling on barbecues mere feet away from the Palmer Park pond ringed with weeping willows.
There’s no charge to park and the memories are free.
Some Dream Cruisers don’t mind a little rain. For others, the thought of a single drop is enough to keep them indoors with their cars safely tucked away in the garage.
If you fall into the latter category, you may want to head out to Woodward now.
Sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-to-high 70s could give way this afternoon to scattered showers and a thunderstorm or two, according to Dan Thompson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service White Lake Township station.
“We’ll have just a slight chance of thunderstorms in the evening after 5 p.m.,” said Thompson. “There’s a little bit better chance of rain overnight, about a 40 percent chance.”
The rain should be done by the time folks wake up Sunday morning, he said. Next week will begin a pattern of unsettled weather, although there shouldn’t be any big rain like the deluge that flooded freeways and homes last Monday. Temperatures will hover around the upper 70s for the beginning of the week and increase to the low 80s later in the week, bringing thunderstorms as well, said Thompson.
How far would you come to see the Woodward Dream Cruise? Six thousand miles?
That’s how far Yonathan Golomt and Tom Alpa – two 14-year-olds from Israel – traveled to see their first Cruise. Well, OK, they didn’t just come for the Cruise. The pair are staying in Oakland County with the Schellenberg family after attending Camp Tomahawk (boy scouts) this summer on a foreign exchange program.
But sitting in their first Corvette convertible may have been their trip highlight. After ogling my stunning, yellow and black Detroit News-badged Stingray in Birmingham, they finally screwed up the courage to try it on. It fit them like a glove. Who knows, maybe they’ll open up a Chevy dealership in Tel Aviv when they go back.
“A very cool car,” said Tom before turning his head back to a Woodward teeming with muscle cars. He’d never seen anything like that before either.
Birmingham — GOOD MORNING, BIRMINGHAAAAAAM!
Here’s to you, Robin Williams, the funniest comic I ever saw and star of “Good Morning, Vietnam” among other classics. And here’s to you, cruisers, as you hit the road in your classics early Saturday. I rattled some windows with the Detroit News Corvette V8 as I headed over Long Lake to the Cruise at 8 a.m.
The temperature was just 54 degrees. No problem. Come warm your hands by the Vette’s four smokin’ pipes. Filled up my Detroit News Corvette C7 V8 at the corner Mobil, then filled myself up with a fresh OJ at Little Daddy’s next door. I shoulda had a V8.
It was 8:30 a.m. and Woodward was already abuzz with classics. At Long Lake and Woodward, Oldsmobiles streamed into the Charter One bank parking lot to join their fellow Motor City Rockets – Metro Detroit’s oldest Oldsmobile club (MotorCityRockets.com).
We have a nice relationship with Charter One,” said Rocket member Jill Woodward of Howell. “We give money to their Parkinson’s charity and they let us use their lot.”
It’s one of the much under-appreciated aspects of the Cruise. A lot of money is raised for charities up and down the Woodward strip. Woodward and her Olds mates were setting up at 6:45 a.m. this morning and anticipate 40 Oldsmobile by noon – some coming from as far away as Windsor.
I parked my Stingray next to Doug Width’s ’54 Olds 98 Starfire – GM classics past and future. His car looks as fresh as if it had just rolled off the assembly line 60 years ago. It’s morning in America and the sun is shining brightest on Woodward Avenue.
Berkley — Given the dodgy (no offense to our friends at Dodge) weather forecast for this afternoon, last-night’s spectacular, clear, 70-degree nigh was a must to attend.
I spent the night at the charity Champagne Cruise in Berkley, a major fundraiser to help Forgotten Harvest feed the area’s poor, but one couldn’t help but feel for the middle class homes directly in back of Woodward as well.
Down Catalpa and Coolidge and Harvard and Cambridge and every block I saw north of 11 Mile, virtually every home had stacks of mattresses and furniture and sofas in their front lawn –- the flotsam of the week’s floods.
One can only hope that the celebration of cars and horsepower just blocks away on Woodward gives these residents temporary respite from their troubles.
It’s easy to spot Kentucky resident Steve Fisk at this year’s Woodward Dream Cruise.
He’s the guy driving the shaking, flaking “Whatinthehellisthat?” That’s the reaction most people have when they encount Fisk’s ride of choice: a 22 1/2 foot long, extremely rusty 1951 Buick Flxible hearse/limousine.
“I found it about a mile back in a farmer’s field on a bunch of rocks on a gully about five years ago,” said Fisk, who works as a trim carpenter.
“As soon as I saw it I knew I had to have it. Paid $750.”
The engine was beyond any kind of repair so Fisk installed a four-cylinder engine, new tires and that was about all she wrote to get the black beauty/beast back on the road.
“A lot of people are amazed that we drive it everywhere,” said Fisk, 52. “I’ve been accused of trailering it but I don’t. I even have a sticker on the back window that says: ‘Trailer? We don’t need no stinkin trailer!'”
Fisk, along with four of his friends, have rented four rooms in a motel on Woodward, just steps away from the cruise.
“I remember seeing the cruise reported on TV years ago and told my girlfriend we were going to go to it and she just laughed,” Fisk said. “But here we are for 19 straight years.”
She’s your beauty and you’ve put a lot of cash and sweat equity into her, which all culminates in the Woodward Dream Cruise. You know the car looks great but you’re the pilot, what does it look like to spectators?
That’s where Ed Lane of Lane Photography comes in. Lane offers a WDC week service where he’ll take digital photos of your pride and joy as she struts her stuff on M-1 (we’re talking cars here, not girlfriends and wives).
“We’ll arrange to go where they’ll be at and capture them as they drive by,” said Lane, whose photo studio is on west 9 Mile, just a few doors from Woodward
“Or we can do it later in the week if they don’t want to interrupt their cruising.”
Lane only does digital photography, no video.
Cruisers can select their photo from a number of digital images at a cost of about $20 per photo.
Lane can be reached at (586) 405 7471.
Kevin Sherwood and his 2003 Toyota Celica GT were among the early standouts at the Woodward Dream Cruise. The 52-year-old Royal Oaker was a crowd favorite at the Cruise in Shoes run ahead of the official start of the Cruise, but it was his love of the patriotic crusader that really turned heads. Runners posed with Sherwood and his car “Flying Colors” after the race.
There’s some rumbling and revving along Woodward Avenue early Saturday as the 20th annual Dream Cruise has car junkies and classic car owners mingling under a sunrise peeking its way behind cloudy skies.
Greg Chaudoin of Rochester was at 12 Mile Road and Woodward in Royal Oak to get a glimpse of cars from yesteryear. His choice for seating was … a bit unusual.
Margie Olds and daughter Rebecca Olds also were at Woodward Dream Cruise at 12 Mile, and they were dressed for the occasion.
The car scene is just revving up but there have been several eye-catchers rolling down the Avenue. Here are a few beauties:
For many Dream Cruise fans, the best time for cruising is the night before, and the best place to see some cars is along 12 Mile in Berkley. The city’s classic car parade between Coolidge and Greenfield was a hit with the crowds along the route.
Berkley Mayor Phil O’Dwyer led the way.
People young and old were delighted by the display.
Elvis is alive and well and driving a Crestline.
Here’s an example of a cruiser and the police working together. This 1966 Dodge Coronet 500 was getting quite a few cheers, and then it suddenly sputtered and died in the middle of the parade route.
But no worries! A nice officer was there to give them a little push.
“It’s nostalgia for people my age,” said John Heggie, who lives down the street from the parade route in Berkley. “It’s nice to see quality because it’s something you don’t see much of now.”
If the turnout on Friday evening is any indication, then Saturday’s Dream Cruise is going to be another monster.
By 7:30 p.m. Friday northbound Woodward was a parking lot from just north of Interstate 696 all the way to Maple Road. Tens of thousands of cruisers and cruiser wannabes jammed M-1 under perfect driving conditions.
The epicenter of it all was from 13 Mile to 14 Mile, especially at Duggan’s (and the Shell service station almost directly across Woodward) where it was wall to wall spectators and whitewall to whitewall classic cars.
Spectators lining Woodward showed serious intent, erecting canopies and digging into well stocked coolers within arms reach of their lawn chairs. It didn’t matter if the coolers contained beer, near beer or root beer, the idea was just to have a good time.
The only moment of panic was in front of one business when the sprinkling system sprang to life, sending spectators scrambling. There’s no telling if it was an accident or deliberate, but almost everyone thought it was funny (well, everyone who was safe and dry.)
Cruise week has begun and fans of classics, vintage cars and hot rods are lining up along Woodward Avenue to catch a glimpse of some beauties.
U.S. Rep. Gary Peters hung out in Birmingham Wednesday with some folks from the Historic Vehicle Association and the finest automotive specimens the non-profit could offer.