Mega-celebration of classic iron cruises Woodward

Francis X. Donnelly
The Detroit News

Berkley — VROOM! VROOM! If the Woodward Dream Cruise (WHAT?) doesn’t start until Saturday (STILL CAN’T HEAR YOU!), what was all the noise along the roadway Friday?

Well, let’s just say an event billed as the biggest single-day auto event in the world tends to run longer than a single day.

American cars from yesteryear have been moseying along Woodward for a week or two. Things heated up Friday night with the annual parade of classics in Berkley.

But all that is just a noisy preamble to the big day itself.

On Saturday, up to 1 million people are expected to ogle 40,000 vintage cars parked or meandering along a 16-mile stretch of Woodward.

It’s a rolling bazaar of nostalgia that pays tribute to the birthplace of the American automobile.

“It’s a car lover’s dream,” said Tom Bailey of Bloomfield Hills. “It’s what we’re about.”

Clutching a camera Friday, Bailey took photos of Ford, General Motors and Chrysler cars at Memorial Park in Royal Oak. The pictures go into dozens of scrapbooks — remember them? — that fill a second bedroom.

Signs along Woodward asked Dream Cruise participants to stay in the two right lanes, but on Friday, they filled all four.

Residents were already sitting along Woodward watching the procession of customs, classics, exotics, muscle cars and hot rods.

Friday was a workday, so the cars of yore shared the road with modern autos. It was easy to tell the difference.

The forebears had loads of personality: tail fins, exposed engines, oversized grills, suicide doors, scoops and spoilers.

These roosters of the roadway — in their twin-turbo, gold-rimmed, chrome-plated glory — were already drawing rave reviews.

“It’s the greatest car show on earth,” says Bruce Anderson, 65, of Novi. “And you can’t beat the price.”

He has been a car fan since picking up his first issue of Hot Rod magazine six decades ago.

From Ferndale to Pontiac, the police were out Friday enforcing the rules. Drinking and peeling out are verboten.

During an event where participants celebrate their youth, some still acted like teenagers Friday.

The squealing of tires accounted for some of the noise. So did the revving of engines.

But by 8:30 p.m. not many were left to hear the motors or see the classics.

An impending thunderstorm prompted thousands of spectators to fold their tents, grab their coolers and head for home while thousands of classic cars still paraded up and down Woodward.

The bad weather was the first for the entire week up until the Dream Cruise itself on Saturday, when temperatures are expected to be in the upper 80s with a chance of showers and thunderstorms.

If you want to hear what nostalgia sounds like, you can listen to more of it along Woodward Saturday.

In honor of Bailey the shutterbug, here are some snapshots of the eve of the Dream Cruise:

‘Barbie car’ joins the fun

Pink as Pepto-Bismol, it’s the girliest car you’ve even seen, said the owner.

Two decades ago, it was in pieces in El Salvador. Now Pat Wiegand calls it her “Barbie car.”

Her husband, Ray, restored the original, mid-1950s Ford Thunderbird over three years, painted the two-seater pink and gave it to her as an anniversary present.

Pat said young girls are drawn to the car year after year at the Dream Cruise.

“They don’t see many cars they like as much as this one,” she said. “This is definitely a girly girl car.”

GM fan for life

You won’t find Performance Park on any map. That’s because it exists only during the Woodward Dream Cruise and the two days preceding it.

But Performance Park, better known as Memorial Park, was easy to find Friday. It had hundreds of vintage cars splayed throughout its confines at Woodward and 13 Mile.

Among the 500 people at the park mid-afternoon was Mark Lynch of Royal Oak.

Lynch, showing off a green 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air, is partial to its maker, General Motors. He worked for GM for several years.

“It’s had some hard times but it’s a good company,” he said. “It was No. 1 for many years.”

A dream date

Who says guys get to have all the fun?

Holly Hammerstrom Abbuhl has been cruising ever since her husband proposed to her at the Clawson Car Show 11 years ago.

As a kid, she never played with a Barbie but did have Matchbox cars.

“I love the smell of exhaust, which probably most girls don’t,” said Abbuhl, 38, of Bloomfield Township.

She, hubby Chad and their three children cruise Woodward in their black 2007 Dodge Charger R/T.

“The family muscle car,” said Holly.

(313) 223-4186

Twitter: @francisXdonnell

Detroit News Staff Writers Henry Payne, Tom Greenwood and Evan Carter contributed