What do you get when you combine an all-day traffic jam with roadside parties, car shows and manufacturer displays?
Here’s a clue: It happens along Woodward Avenue.
That’s right, the annual Woodward Dream Cruise, that rolling bazaar of nostalgia, finally arrives on Saturday — although cruisers have been warming up unofficially along M-1 for days and even weeks.
For one day, the world is eight lanes wide, 16 miles long and crammed with the wondrous vehicles of yesteryear.
From Ferndale to Pontiac, 40,000 cars will be ogled by a million onlookers. It amounts to the biggest one-day auto event in the world.
It’s only natural such an extravaganza should be held in our backyard, said residents. After all, we’re the birthplace of the American automobile.
This year’s event is special for several reasons.
One, it’s the 20th Dream Cruise. Two, it’s the 50th anniversary of the car driven by Steve McQueen and James Bond: the Ford Mustang.
Mike Rey has been in love with the Mustang since he was 8. He owns two — a 1993 GT convertible and 2005 GT fastback.
“I live, eat and breathe the Mustang,” said Rey, 43, of Brownstown Township.
His favorite car will be sharing the road with customs, classics, exotics, muscle cars and hot rods.
The flotilla of chrome and steel will be parked or meandering along the ribbon of asphalt.
It’s a testament to a time when all roads led to Detroit.
The princes of the highway were Corvettes, GTOs, Camaros, Barracudas, Firebirds and Thunderbirds.
These were little cars with big engines, packed with hot-stepping Hemis that were souped up and tricked out.
The roosters of the roadway had scoops and spoilers, oversized grilles and suicide doors, tail fins and chrome bumpers.
On Thursday, two friends of Steven Chait were lovingly inspecting the engine of his red 1994 Jaguar XJS in the parking lot of Como’s Restaurant at Woodward and Nine Mile.
“We come every year,” Chait, 62, of West Bloomfield, said about himself and his two buddies. “It’s a lot of fun.”
The fuel-injected faithful didn’t wait until Saturday for the party to start. Some have been out all week.
Here are some who were around Thursday. Gentlemen (and women), start your fantasies.
Past meets future
The Dream Cruise celebrates the classics of yore, but this year’s event is evidence that we are living in a second Golden Age of the muscle car.
From the radically new 2014 Corvette Stingray to the much-anticipated sixth-generation Ford Mustang to the LED-lit Cadillac CTS that has more front neon than a Fox Theatre marquee to the Dodge Hellcat with its staggering 707 horses, Woodward is as abuzz about the “now” as it is about the “then.”
“I can’t wait to see it,” Mark Darling of Clinton Township said of the 2015 Mustang. “I hear it’s even better-looking in the flesh than in the pictures.”
Darling owns a 2003 Mustang Cobra powered by a colossal, blown 4.6-liter V8. It sat next to a friend’s 2005 Mustang GT V8 north of 13 Mile.
Make no mistake: Corvettes, Camaros, and Mustangs are the kings of cruise. But there is plenty of room for everyone’s classic on Woodward. A 1965 VW Beetle in Herbie-the-Love-Bug livery dominated a nest of bugs across from the Donut Cutter south of 12 Mile.
“They made dozens of Herbies for every movie,” says owner Lynn Anderson of Clinton Township.
Anderson’s car isn’t an original movie vehicle, but her friend Tony Orlanzo owns three in Florida. Alas, she says, he won’t be making the Cruise this year.
But some 200 other Bugs with the Michigan Vintage Volkswagen Club (www.mvvc.net) will — all gathering at the northwest corner of Square Lake and Woodward on Saturday.
A couple’s thing
Think the cruise is just for macho guys? Think again. Larry and Bev Jenks have been coming to Woodward for years — with Bev dragging Larry along in their gorgeous white 1969 Chevy Chevelle.
“She’s probably more eager about this than I am,” said Larry as he pulls up the car’s hood, revealing a massive, 392-cubic inch V8 underneath.
Bev says the couple sold their ’69 Nova a couple of years ago to buy the Chevelle, their dream car. They take the whole week off to cruise and hang out in a parking lot across from Pasquale’s Italian restaurant north of 13 Mile.
What is Bev’s daily driver? A 2011 Camaro. Vroom!
Long search pays off
Bob Geib was 17 and working at a gas station in 1971 when a man pulled up one day in a 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air.
“I was pumping gas so I was looking around for the gas tank,” said Geib. “The guy says, ‘It’s in the tail light.’ That did it for me.”
The Warren resident spent decades looking for his own ’56 Bel Air and now, at 60, he’s finally bought and renovated the car of his dreams.
Geib parked his Bel Air along Woodward near the Shell gas station at 13 Mile in Royal Oak Thursday evening, joining hundreds of other cruisers and classic car enthusiasts.
A Grand beauty
Tom Geloneck spent most of his life lusting after the Pontiac Grand Prix and wanting one of his own.
“In 1962, I was just out of high school and I asked my dad to co-sign on a used one,” said the 70-year-old St. Clair Shores resident. “My dad would not co-sign for me.”
In 2002, he finally found his dream car. The ’64 Grand Prix came with an original motor, chassis and rear end with the same serial numbers, something that’s rare for a car that old. He calls her Marilyn after Marilyn Monroe because, “she was sexy and the car is sexy.”
“She’s a magnet,” he said of the Grand Prix. “Now I’ve got my beauty.”
Catching a cab
Larry Hanlon has been to 19 Dream Cruises and he says it never gets old. Originally, he had a 1939 Buick, but when he saw a completely torn-up 1965 Rambler taxi cab in a junkyard, he offered to trade on the spot.
“The front fenders were in the trunk,” said Hanlon. “It was completely rusted out.”
Now, Hanlon drives the taxi cab with pride along Woodward, enjoying the atmosphere more with each passing year.
“Every year it gets better and better, bigger and bigger,” the 72-year-old Roseville resident said.
Woodward Dream Cruise
What:An annual daylong classic car parade that attracts more than 40,000 muscle cars, street rods and other vehicles. Those not driving a classic are asked to stay out of the two right lanes next to the curb.
When:9 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday
Where:A 16-mile stretch of Woodward from Ferndale to Pontiac
Cost:The event is free, though if you aren’t cruising, you’ll need to pay to park in a public lot.
Source: Woodward Dream Cruise Inc.