It had become the fulfillment of year-long anticipation, the week before the 15th annual Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise event on Sat., Aug. 15, for the greatest car show on earth. It’s held right here in the Metro Detroit area starting south in Ferndale and extending the 15 miles north to Pontiac. It is without question the biggest car show in the world.
Classic cars, roadsters, hot rods, jazzy old pick-up trucks, and sleek babies from the ’50s and ’60s with their ragtops down. Forty-thousand colorful, fast, and noisy cars doing the drive parade down M1, the great Woodward Avenue, witnessed by over a million folks lining the streets. Food booths and cruise wear hawkers filling the curbsides. Fifty million bucks in profit infusing the local economy.
Tiger tails hanging out of Pontiac GTO trunks, Carole Shelby’s envied Cobras, Lee Iacocca’s Mustangs, and custom Vettes are everywhere.
Just hold your breath and keep saying “Ahhh, that’s a beauty, wish it were mine.” You can’t help repeating “Wow.”
Vivid oranges, shades of red and magenta, purples, neon yellow, and greens are the colors of choice for many dedicated hot rodders. None of that sedate silver, black, and white presently popular on new model cars. These greasers want to be noticed. Vrrrooom! Glass pack mufflers, super chargers, and racing slicks are the name of the game.
Chrysler Prowlers, Pontiac Solstice, the new Dodge Charger, Mustangs, and Trans Ams are even allowed in this classic lineup. Could you not stay home with your Bentley and Rolls?
Where do they all come from? The economy has been ripped badly in Michigan but the classic car owners just keep rolling on. They are not about to let high gasoline prices, job loss, or apparently anything else get in the way of displaying their “four-wheeled babes.”
If anyone needed this day(s) of car joy, it was Michigan. We put this world on wheels. The car industry created hundreds of thousands of jobs for the whole world and we really took a hit when we allowed all those foreign cars into this country back in the 1960’s. Yes, it is a free country, but that government program “Dollars for Clunkers” should not be applied to buying foreign cars, and I don’t care if they are made in the U.S. Their home office is not.
When I look at the General Motors Headquarters on Jefferson Ave. in Detroit, so magnificent and tall on the beautiful Detroit River, I wonder what wrath of God brought it to the point of bankruptcy. The problem was government regulations plus dull design engineers. What are they doing now about car phone use and texting while driving? Can they control that threat to life?
We sit with our car parked in our usual spot in front of a friend’s house on Woodward. It’s a big, private lot and we wave to the cars as the parade goes by. We station ourselves there from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and I wonder to myself: Is this what Bill Saroyan had it mind when he wrote Inhale, Exhale? Racing fuel, leaded and unleaded gas fumes fill the air we breathe. It’s a bad ozone day but nothing can tear us away.
The coolers are filled with food and drinks for friends. The tent and umbrella table are up. The barbeque is hot. Lawn chairs are ready. Our heads turn from side to side scanning the ’33 Plymouth Coupes, the gorgeous 1950 Burgundy Mercury that has been chopped, dropped, and channeled. The elderly Lake Orion couple in their pearl white ’53 Ford convertible is here again, as is the two-tone salmon ’57 Chevy convertible. The ’36 Ford convertible coupe, the ’59 Cadillar Eldorado, the Hudsons, the Studebakers, and Willys all become a blur.
One guy said it like this: “My wife said it was either her or my classic car, and I told her ‘So long, been nice knowing you.’” Without a doubt it’s a man’s day in the sun, but women classic owners are increasing. I have a self-assigned responsibility to crane my neck looking in open garages, barns, and farm fields for old cars. There is nothing that cannot be restored to its original beauty plus some.
I can’t say the Dream Cruise is just for Michigan classic car enthusiasts. It has become an international event with cars coming from other states, from abroad, and of course it includes our Canadian neighbors. We have been to many beautiful classic car shows in neighboring Ontario. One man container-shipped his Hudson from New Zealand.
Long live the Woodward Dream Cruise. Sha-na-na-na-na, sha-na-na-na-na na. That’s 50’s talk for let the good times roll, no matter what your age is.