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Rain doesn't outmuscle crowds at Dream Cruise

Tom Greenwood
The Detroit News

The 2016 Woodward Dream Cruise has ended and everyone knows what that means: Christmas displays going up at Costco.

Cruise goers shield themselves from the rain and watch drivers head down Woodward.

OK, not really, but the end of Saturday’s high octane orgy on Woodward always shines a light on the coming fall and the slow ending of soft summer nights when anything was possible.

As in years past, the 2016 WDC was again one huge party for both spectators and cruisers, despite hit and run afternoon and evening thunderstorms that sometimes threatened to turn the dream cruise into a sea cruise.

And once again, thanks to a pervasive and persuasive police presence, the cruise was unmarred by any noteworthy incidents, according to F/Lt. Mike Shaw, of the Michigan State Police Metro Post in Oak Park.

“We didn’t have any real problems,” Shaw said. “Plus the rain probably helped.”

The cruise, which stretched from Eight Mile to Pontiac brought in cruisers from all over Michigan as well as friendly folks from Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee and Ontario, Canada.

Former Detroiter Donald Smith drove his snappy red Mustang all the way from Deer Park, Texas just to be part of the WDC.

“I moved to Texas when I was 22, but I decided to drive up for the cruise,” Smith said.

And two cars behind him was Smith’s daughter Gretchen Thomas, and granddaughter Lauren, who also drove up from Texas in another snappy red late model Mustang.

“We live just outside of Houston,” Thomas said. “We arrived in metro Detroit a week ago Saturday and have been staying with relatives. It’s wonderful to see all these great cars.”

There were many times during the day when Woodward looked like one long snakey parking lot, with vehicles (many of them non-classic/collectible cars) creeping along at about 2 mph.

This was especially true between 13 and 14 Mile roads with the area near Duggan’s Irish Pub (13 1/2 Mile or 42 degrees, 31’ 24” N and 83 degrees 11’ 30” W for the really, really precisely inclined.)

Heavy rains and high winds began moving into the metro area at about 3 p.m. causing some of the estimated 1 million viewers along M-1 to temporarily seek shelter or break down their shade providing canopies.

Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard estimated that betweenn 900,000 and 1 million people participated in the cruise or spectated, acknowledging that the weather probably prevented some folks from coming out. On the positive side, there weren't any major accidents or incidents, and no arrests related to the cruise.

"I think it went pretty well," Bouchard said. "We're sad some folks got rained on, but everybody had a lot of fun."

Around 200 officers worked the cruise for the Oakland County Sheriff's Department, with another 200 working all along Woodward, he said.

St.  Clair Shores resident Jim Ciesliga has his 1949 International Harvester pickup (KB2 model) registered in Arizona.

The come and go weather really didn’t bother Jennifer Wilson and Jim Ciesliga who both own rough and tough 1949 International Harvester pickup trucks.

Wilson found her truck on an Indian Reservation in Nevada while Ciesliga discovered his mouldering away in a field in Kentucky. They each paid $5,000 for the trucks plus a few bucks more to fix up the working parts, but made sure they kept banged up, beat up, rusty but trusty exteriors just the same.

“I had the undercarriage and the lights upgrade, plus I dropped in a big block Chevrolet engine blown out to 468 cubic inches,” said Wilson, who lives in Macomb County and works for a company that repairs trucks.

“I also own a 1939 LaSalle. The pickup truck is my every day driver, except during the winter when I get around in a 2016 Lincoln.”

Ciesliga did practically the same thing to his 1949 pickup, also dropping in a 468 cubic inch Chevy big block plus fixing upgrading the suspension.

But he left the diamond in the rough exterior alone.

“Anyone can repaint their truck, but why would anyone want to paint over that well earned rust and patina?” said Ciesliga, who lives in St. Clair Shores.

By 8 p.m. another line of clouds quickened into the area, blocking the setting sun and darkening the road.

By 8:30 p.m the building black and gray clouds were offset by hundreds of flashing red and blue lights stretching along M-1 as police prepared to end this year’s dream cruise by shuttling cruisers onto side streets.

Were there a million spectators lining Woodward as predicted?

Probably not because of the iffy weather, but the numbers easily reached into the hundreds of thousands.

Were there an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 rod rods, rat rods, street rods, pony cars, muscle cars, classic/collectible cars, Bugs, Goats, Cudas, Stangs, 442s, pickups, Hemis, woodys, low riders, kit cars, low boys, roadsters, hearses, T-birds, trailer queens, Model As and Ts, Indians (Pontiacs), rockets (Oldsmobiles), Gremlins, Chargers and Mercs?

You bet your asphalt there were.

Get complete coverage of the Dream Cruise here.