For those of us whose misspent youth includes aimless cruising on a Saturday night the Woodward Dream Cruise seems a bit incongruous. In our day crowds of people did not line the streets to watch us show off. We had no sponsors and hospitality tents, parking lots full of tailgaters or vendors selling t-shirts. What we had were youngsters in hot cars gathering socially, indulging lusts and reveling in the exuberance of youth.
The Woodward Dream Cruise was born in 1995 from an effort to fund a local ball field by a few people in Ferndale, north of Detroit at Woodward and 9-Mile Road. With modest expectations they were shocked when a quarter million people took part that first year. Within a few years, the Woodward Dream Cruise had become the largest one-day car event in the world. It seems that a pent-up lust for cool cars and cruising still existed within those 50s, 60s and 70s youngsters who were now in their golden years.
Until now your trusty reporter had not experienced the official Saturday evening Dream Cruise. The whole event has expanded into a week-long wallow in automobile culture and I had always chosen to attend at less congested times earlier in the week. Every evening Woodward Avenue, particularly from Ferndale to Birmingham, becomes a parade of special cars, and other things vehicular, with plenty of spectators and events along the roadside. I learned that Saturday night is the same, only more so.
Our friends at Ford hosted a media center with viewing towers and a large public display of Mustang history, featuring the first Mustang ever built, the 10 millionth Mustang, the original mule from the Bullitt movie and a screen showing that epic Steve McQueen film. From a front-row seat on the Ford patio, we watched stop-and-go traffic northbound on Woodward near 12-Mile Road with cool cars mixed in with white-bread traffic. These civilians, including gawkers, constitute around 80% of traffic with the rest being an eclectic mix of special vehicles. Probably half of the special cars were modern muscle cars like Corvettes, Mustangs, mixed Dodge Hemis and the like. Beyond those were classic hot rods, rat rods, pickups, miniature cars, motorcycles . . . you name it.
Some of my favorites were: the red ’66 Mustang from the LeMay Museum driven in The Drive Home cross country winter rally; a fire-breathing old rusty truck with flamethrower mounted in the rear; an orange ’55 Cadillac ambulance; a pretty, cream-color ’48 Ford resto rod; Top-Hat John Jendza’s legendary ’49 Cadillac notorious original Woodward cruiser and racer of the 50s; a 4-door ’62 Valient survivor with “For Sale” sign in the window; and a white ’65 Fury convertible with 3 lovely young ladies sitting on the boot.
The Dream Cruise is nothing like cruising in the old days, though many of the cruisers and a few of the cars were around back then. One big difference is that, now the local cops shut it all down at an arbitrary time of the evening. Like the past, though, the cops can have only a fleeting influence, as the partying continues.
© Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved