Ferndale — If you didn’t know Ford was sponsoring the 2017 Woodward Dream Cruise, you found out as you passed Nine Mile.
If the more than 800 Mustangs lining the barricaded street weren’t enough, Ford Motor Co. used its nearly 20-year tradition of Mustang Alley to showcase every vehicle in its lineup, push T-shirts, celebrate the company’s pony car culture, and show off the crowd-favorite GT supercar.
“You will see every generation of Mustang out here on Mustang Alley,” said Mark Schaller, Ford Mustang marketing manager. “It’s nice to really celebrate car culture, which is really what this is all about.”
While Ford has parked hundreds of Mustang enthusiasts along Nine Mile for almost two decades, this year is the first time the company sponsored the entire cruise. The Dearborn-based automaker replaced crosstown rival Chevrolet, which pulled its sponsorship earlier this year after six straight years of sponsorships.
That gave Ford a chance to boost its presence. While the Blue Oval dominated a roughly mile-long stretch of Nine Mile, Ford had a handful of new features around Royal Oak, too.
And it was hard to spot a pedestrian through Ferndale who wasn’t carrying some piece of Ford merchandise.
“I was excited about Ford picking that (sponsorship) up,” said 53-year-old Adrian Green, an Eastpointe resident. He got to Mustang Alley at 7:30 a.m. with his brother-in-law to peruse the cars. “I’m a Ford man. They put on a good show every year.”
For Schaller, the sponsorship was a chance to put the beloved Mustang in even more of a spotlight.
“In the past, there might have been people who didn’t know there was a Mustang Alley,” he said. “That’s the nice part. Now we’re bringing even more people down.”
By 9:15 a.m., pedestrians had already filed into Mustang Alley, and by lunchtime, the place felt like a street fair. Coupled with the classic cars lurching up Woodward a few blocks away, Ferndale was packed.
A steady crowd clustered around the silver Ford GT the company had displayed on a rotation platform. The supercar is Ford’s most exclusive vehicle: Ford received 6,506 applications for its 2017 model, of which only 500 were sold.
For many, the Dream Cruise was the only time they’d see the speedster in person.
But the plethora of Mustang muscle wasn’t lost on anyone.
“This is one of those brands,” said Schaller. “You can’t do this with a lot of brands. Mustang has such a strong passion that people are willing to wait in line just to park their car on one street with almost 1,000 cars just like theirs.”
And for a guy who’s driven nothing but Fords for as long as he can remember, the Woodward Dream Cruise weekend is a bit of a reward.
“It’s an ego boost, that’s for sure,” said Mark Fedders, a 69-year-old Macomb resident. He sat behind his 1967 S-Code Mustang GT for several hours, watching passersby admire the sleek white vintage vehicle.
Fedders, a Ford retiree, said he bought the car in 2014 at an auction. Saturday was the second time he’d parked the car on Mustang Alley, and getting some smiles, thumbs-up and questions about the car lets him know he made the right choice in buying it.
“There was a time there after I bought it that I thought ‘What did I do?’” he said, laughing.
Fedders drives the car often now, and it beats years of driving Ford “grocery-getters,” he said. He’s also happy to see Ford take on the sponsorship role.
“They stepped into a void, and I’m really proud they did,” he said.