They came, they saw, they cruised.
What began as a fundraiser two decades ago has transformed into the world's largest one-day automotive event as cars owners and enthusiasts, like Xavier Young, continue to descend on nation’s first paved road for the annual Woodward Dream Cruise.
“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 on Saturday as he and his family sat along Woodward near 9 ½ mile for the 20th Woodward Dream Cruise. “As long as I can breathe, I’ll be here.”
Young brought his 1938 Plymouth Coupe, that he restored from a junky classic in gray primer paint to a pirate-themed head-turner that reads “The Red Pearl” alongside three gravestones to honor his deceased parents and sister.
Young’s Plymouth was one of an expected 40,000-plus classic cars to make the nostalgic cruise along the 16-mile cruise route, which spans from Eight Mile in Ferndale to the Loop in Pontiac.
The daylong event ended around 9 p.m. when police started clearing out late night cruisers and directing congested traffic away from the major roadway. Many headed for their cars early as dark clouds and light rain rolled over Metro Detroit by late evening.
The Cruise ended with no significant incidents, according to Oakland County Sheriff’s Office Command Center. The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office will release official attendance figures on Sunday, officials said.
Others like Patty and David Furlin made the trip from out of town. The two made the 5 ¾-hour drive to the cruise from Kenosha, Wis., so David Furlin could get his fill of classic American Motor Corporation cars.
“We try to come every year. It’s pretty crazy,” Patty Furlin said sittingin a lawn chair watching cars peel out in Birmingham.
But old school models weren’t getting all the attention. 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 a stunning, yellow and black Chevrolet Stingray with a Detroit News logo in Birmingham.
“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.
A cruise car doesn’t always have to cost an arm and a leg. Kentucky resident Steve Fisk brought his 22 ½ foot long, extremely rusty 1951 Buick Flxible hearse/limousine.
“I foundin 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!’”
Flood is ‘distant memory’
Despite, widespread flooding on last Monday that drenched southeastern Oakland County and other areas, Dream Cruise spokesman Louie Katsaro said organizers projected up to 1.5 million visitors would attend the 20th annual cruise.
“The flood is a distant memory,” Katsaro said. “We don’t think it put a damper on the spirit.”
Organizers, however, released a statement prior to the cruise to let the public know it was still going to happen after being contacted several times with concerns about floods that shut down portions of five Metro Detroit freeways and causing several damaged basements in thousands of homes.
Scott White was one 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.
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.”
Cruisin’ the D vibe
South of Eight Mile, specators lined Woodward for the first annual “Crusin’ the D,” a four-day event meant to enhance the Woodward Dream Cruise.
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.
Susan Rinke, 60, whose family opened Detroit’s first GM dealership in 1917, came out to show support for the Detroit cruise,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.
“We don’t just like cars, we love them,”said They’re in our blood.”
Staff writer Tony Briscoe contributed to this report