Emergency Vehicle Show brings lights, sirens ... action

Henry Payne
The Detroit News

Ferndale — More than 100 emergency responder vehicles — ranging from a 1923 Ford paddy wagon to a 1966 Hollywood Batmobile replica to a modern 2014 Ford Explorer — launched the Woodward Dream Cruise Friday night under gorgeous blue skies matching officers’ blue uniforms.

The 15th annual Ferndale Emergency Vehicle Show, aka the “Light & Sirens” cruise, was escorted (appropriately) by a fleet of Ferndale Police Department cruisers. The parade of vehicles followed the Dream Cruise’s opening ribbon-cutting for a cruise from 9 Mile to 11 Mile and back.

Leading the pack was a 2015 Jaguar F-Type convertible in full Hazel Park police colors. Its throaty V-8 roar honored this year’s fallen cop — Dep. Grant Whitaker, who died in a vehicle crash in December. Driver and Hazel Park reserve officer Joe Roeder, 48, was at the wheel for the 13th year.

“Thanks to Elder Jaguar-Land Rover, we honor the brave officers who fall in the line of duty every year,” he said.

The F-Type might be useful in chasing down Dream Cruise muscle car scofflaws too. But an ex-Michigan State Police Mustang GT and its powerful 5.0-liter V-8, now owned by Mike Patterson, should also be up for the task. Painted blue, the stealthy ’Stang is otherwise unidentified by lights so that it might sneak up on wayward hot shoes.

And if he catches anyone, they might be loaded in a 1923 Ford Model T paddy wagon from the Detroit Police Department.

Fully restored by Richard Baker, 70, the big, black, boxy paddy wagon was one of many employed by Detroit’s finest to round up the bad guys in the Roaring ’20s. Some of those officers might have been Bakers, as Richard comes from a long line of police officers.

Interrupting the sea of black and blue vehicles was a bright red 1928 fire engine based on a Ford Model A. From a small Indiana police department, the fire engine was one of a few vehicles driven in from out of state, including a 1969 Plymouth cruiser from the Los Angeles Police Department.

Lights & Sirens began in 2001 as a way for Ferndale to kick off the Dream Cruise and attract people downtown. The inaugural show featured nearly 60 vehicles and has grown ever since. The event proved so popular that it has been the official start of the Cruise every year since.

The brainchild of Ferndale Police Officer Ed Ungerman, the event is now run by Anthony Rzucidzio, a retired Ford security officer.

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Email him at hpayne@detroitnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @HenryEPayne. See all his work at HenryPayne.com