Woodward Dream Cruise roars until the rain

Michael Wayland, Henry Payne, Melissa Burden, Michael Martinez, and Tom Greenwood
The Detroit News

Shining classics, exotics and vintage cars of every make revved up and down the boulevard at the 22nd annual Woodward Dream Cruise on Saturday, though an early evening rainstorm threatened to call an early end to the retro revelry along M-1, suddenly turning the Dream Cruise into more of a sea cruise.

Earlier in the day, thousands of spectators under tents and sunbrellas snapped pictures with smartphones and cameras as the rolling wave of cars thundered by. Officials expect 45,000 cars and a million onlookers throughout the day.

Ferndale once again turned into a pony car lover's paradise at the 2016 Dream Cuise.

About 950 Mustang enthusiasts showed off their Ford muscle cars along a stretch of Nine Mile just east of Woodward Avenue as part of the 18th annual Mustang Alley.

Chris Lane epitomized the range of pony cars on display with his personal collection of an original model year 1964 Mustang and a 50th anniversary 2015 'Stang, both Wimbledon White.

"I like the heritage," said Lane, a West Virginia resident who was attending his first Mustang Alley. "I'm a Ford enthusiast."

Butch and Marie Mohre of Lansing sit in front of their Mustang II Cobra in Ferndale on Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016.

Lane owns about seven cars, and bought the original 1964 Mustang -- identical to the one shown at that year's World's Fair in New York -- from a seller in West Virginia. He's only had to change the tires on the mint-conditionecar.

Farther down Nine Mile, Butch and Marie Mohre sat behind their white and blue 1978 Mustang II Cobra. The second-generation Mustangs were built off Ford's Pinto platform and released shortly after the 1973 oil embargo, making the low-horsepower pony cars not very popular.

"They're the stepchild of the Mustang but they're coming into their own again," Butch Mohre, 56, said.

Ford plans Sunday to celebrate the Mustang II in an event in Dearborn. Mohre, who put about $30,000 worth of work restoring his car, plans to be there.

Steve Caesar, a 49-year-old from Ithaca, also plans to be there.

He owns a white-and-tangerine 1978 Mustang II King Cobra he says he spent about $10,000 restoring.

He said he modified the V-8 engine but tried to keep as many original features as possible.

"It's a nice car," he said.

Farther north along the cruise route, things were hopping in Pontiac. The M1 Concourse has brought an anchor spot to the north end of the Cruise like Mustang Alley has in Ferndale. "I've never seen it this busy this early," said Golan Mapes, 71, who has been coming to his spot here at Woodward and South Boulevard for a dozen years.

Mapes has a front row seat to the action in his 1956 Ford F100 pickup with a monster 4.6-liter engine under the hood.

North of St. Joseph Mercy Oakland hospital in Pontiac, the road was black with rubber for one-eighth mile, evidence from Friday night when 350 muscle cars legally drag-raced on the street.

In Birmingham, which has a  reputation for exotic car eye candy, Chevys ruled the day.

Chevrolet took over the city’s downtown near Woodward, showcasing its new cars and paying tribute to its heritage with classic cars – particularly Camaros, which are celebrating their 50th birthday.

John and Greg Hack, both of Commerce Township and sporting Camaro T-shirts in Birmingham, have been coming to the Dream Cruise together for about 20 years. The father-son duo are self-proclaimed “Chevy guys,” with Camaro leading the charge.

“I’ve got two of them (1991 and 2015) and I actually took his old one (a 1983 Z/28) when I was 16, so I got into that whole muscle car scene,” said Greg Hack, 34. “We had a father-son project with it to make it street-able and reliable. We had time bonding in the garage that way and that sparked this whole thing.”

John Hack, 66, says the Dream Cruise he grew up with and knew “is absolutely nothing compared to what it is today.” He said it’s commercialized a lot, and “there’s nothing wrong with that.”

“I noticed that it’s more about the family generations,” Greg Hack said before driving off in his 2015 Camaro 1SS 1LE. “I see from little kids to older generations – you get that full spectrum all in one day … No matter how old the age, you give them a little rev and it puts a smile on their face.”

The skies turned cloudy in the late afternoon, and sprinkles began falling at 13 Mile and Woodward. The light rain led employees to put tarps over some of the FiatChrysler display vehicles, but the gearheads motoring up and down Woodward didn't seem deterred.

The Cruise pulled in cruisers from far and wide.

Spotted among the classics on Woodward were license plates from Oklahoma, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio and Arizona.

Among those who came from realllllllly far away was the Smith/Thomas family, who were cruising in Royal Oak.

Donald Smith drove his snappy late model Mustang to Metro Detroit all the way from Deer Park, Texas.

A few cars back from Smith was another snappy red late model Mustang, which was driven into Yankee-land by Smith’s daughter, Gretchen Thomas.

Riding shotgun, and filling in as the dashboard drummer, was Thomas’ daughter, Lauren,

Mother and daughter live just outside Houston.

Both Smith and the Thomases arrived in the metro area last Saturday for their first ever (but hopefully not last) WDC.

Cool decals seen on various WDC cruisers: “Born to protect and preserve the blues.”

“The head nurse spoke up And she said leave this one alone.”

“There’s nothing quite like having a stiff one in your hearse,” seen on the window of South Lyon resident Will Dorr’s 1949 rat rod/truck hearse.

Nothing says ‘Murica like pickup trucks, and two of the saltiest pickups were parked side by side along northbound Woodward on Saturday during the WDC.

Both were 1949 International Harvesters and each was rustier than a head of old lettuce and tougher than a 50 cent sirloin.

“I bought my pickup from an Indian Reservation in Battlefield, Nevada,” said Macomb Township resident Jennifer Wilson.

“I repair trucks for a living, so buying this truck was a perfect fit. It had originally been a farm truck in California. I saw it online and purchased it for $5,000.”

Wilson had the truck (a KB1 model) professionally upgraded, but kept the overall “been there, done that and it shows” look of the durable, hard-working machine.

“I had the lights and undercarriage upgraded and had them drop in a big block Chevrolet engine blown out to 468 cubic inches,” Wilson said.

“I just basically gave my checkbook to the guys who did the restoration. It’s my everyday driver except for the winter.. Then I drive a 2016 Lincoln.”

Parked next to Wilson’s pickup was another 1949 International Harvester pickup (KB2 model) owned by St. Clair Shores resident Jim Ciesliga.

“I’ve had it for about a year now,” said Ciesliga, a semi-retired building contractor.

“I found it in a field in Kentucky and bought it for $5,000, but I sure have a lot more than that sunk into it.”

Ciesliga formerly lived in Arizona and that’s where the truck is registered.

“It’s registered there because I have a pretty historic plate,” Ciesliga said.

“It reads ‘A-197,’ which means it was only the 197th license plate produced in Arizona in 1949.”

According to Ciesliga, the pickup has been fully restored (including the installation of a big block Chevrolet engine that puts out about 500 HP), except for the body and paint.

“I really like the way it looks after more than 60 years on the road,” Ciesliga said.

“Anyone can take an old pickup and give it a great paint job, but just look at this one. Why would anyone want to paint over that rust and that beautiful patina?”

Jerry and Elaine Croy, former Metro Detroit residents who now live in Indianapolis, were all smiles sitting on Woodward watching cars cruise by in Birmingham.

“We’re both car people and we grew up here in Detroit around cars,” said Jerry Croy, 65, owner of a 2011 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport convertible. “Just the diverse group – you see everything – and we like talking to all the different car people.”

The two participated in the Corvettes on Woodward event earlier this week and both have fond memories of cruising Woodward and Gratiot when growing up.

“I came in my girlfriend’s VW Bug up to Ted’s Diner, and then later a ’70 Opel GT,” Elaine Croy, 65, reminisced.

Gary Grant, owner of a custom 1948 Plymouth coupe named “Orange pearl,” has made Woodward and just north of 15 Mile, his Dream Cruise home.

“I’ve been coming here for 18 years,” said the 69-year-old Livonia resident. “I was here this morning at 5:30 getting this spot. I’ll be here until 10  until it’s dark. Every year you’ll see me here.”

Grant, a Vietnam veteran, celebrates the car extravaganza with other veterans every year.

Father and son Scott and Bogdan Riezk of Clawson were stationed in lawn chairs at Sixth and Woodward in Royal Oak. It was their first trip to the cruise.

Seventeen-year-old Bogdan's favorite car has been the Dodge Challenger Hellcat. They plan to stay "as long as I can keep him here," Bogdan said of his dad. "I can stay all day to be honest."

Tony Michaels, executive director of the Woodward Dream Cruise, was happy about how things were going so far. “It’s all about smiles, people enjoying our community and the history of our vehicles,” he said.