Dare to dream: Car enthusiasts take in Woodward

Francis X. Donnelly
The Detroit News

Berkley — Classic car buffs were treated to a 400-auto procession in downtown Berkley Friday night. For those who liked their rides with a hint of danger, 100 vintage police and fire vehicles rolled through Ferndale.

Sh'Boom, an annual Dream Cruise favorite, rolls along Woodward in Royal Oak Friday evening.

But the twin shows were the mere preamble to what’s coming.

The Woodward Dream Cruise, which is the biggest auto event in the world, takes over Metro Detroit on Saturday.

Everything about the cruise is big: a million people are expected to ogle 40,000 classic cars along a 16-mile stretch of Woodward.

“It’s always a lot of fun,” Gary Hall of Huntington Woods said Friday as he watched cars pass by on Woodward in Ferndale.

The 23rd annual Dream Cruise is many things to many people: a road party, car show, manufacturer display, a meandering drive that’s more about the journey than the destination.

But mostly it’s a trip to the past, a time when American cars ruled the world, and all roads led to Detroit.

The vintage cars along Woodward on Saturday will show Motown know-how in all its souped-up, tricked-out glory.

Prius owners can stay in Brooklyn.

“We were known around the world for our cars. We still can be,” said Ken Clark of Rochester, a proud owner of a 1955 Packard Patrician.

It’s hard to contain all these roosters of the roadway to one day so, per usual, the party started a little early.

On Friday night, thousands of people lined 12 Mile in Berkley to get an early gander of old-style automobilia. The annual Classic Car Parade did not disappoint.

Among the 400 vehicles that caught the eye of resident Brent Alexander, 57, was a 1955 Chevy pickup, fire engine red. The make and color brought back memories of his first car. Some of those memories can’t be shared in front of Alexander’s son, Pat, 6.

“Good times. It brings you back,” said Brent.

As for Pat, he was waiting for the parade to end so he could begin enjoying the aftermath. The bill featured games, a kids inflatable zone and a good food court.

“It will be good,” pronounced the youngster.

With a patient Pat watching, the 400 classics ran along 12 Mile from Coolidge Highway to Greenfield Road.

Meanwhile, a mile or two down Woodward, another town was doing its own pre-cruise shuffle.

The Ferndale Emergency Vehicle Show, AKA the Light & Sirens cruise, traversed along Woodward from Nine Mile to 11 Mile. The 100 emergency vehicles included vintage police cruisers, fire engines and even a paddy wagon.

Talk about Friday night lights.

“It’s cool. I like the old style more,” said Barbara Bell of Royal Oak.

Bell allowed she liked a man in a uniform. Natch, she liked their vehicles as well. Speaking of uniforms, the vehicles were escorted by Ferndale police.

Meanwhile, Nine Mile featured other goodies for the car-obsessed. East of Woodward featured a ribbon-cutting event for the cruise, while Nine Mile west of Woodward had Mongoose Pro Monster Trucks.

If Saturday is the official start of the Woodward Dream Cruise, and the two events Friday the unofficial beginning, then the past week or two was the unofficial unofficial start. For vintage cars have been perusing Woodward for at least that long.

Their numbers began small and steadily increased through the days. Saturday will be a deluge. Hall is looking forward to the flood.

“It’s the greatest show on earth for a car guy. And I’m a car guy,” he said.

For Hall and others, there will be an endless stream of customs, classics, exotics, muscle cars and hot rods. A 16-mile river of asphalt will boast Corvettes, Mustangs, GTOs, Camaros, Barracudas, Firebirds and Thunderbirds.

They look forward to getting lost amid all the scoops, spoilers, tail fins, exposed engines, oversized grills and suicide doors.

Clark will be both a part of the madness and a spectator. When not driving his Patrician, he’ll be lollygagging roadside to see all the other treats passing by.

“It’s a unique time,” he said. “Where else can you see all this in one spot?”

He’s been a regular at this car fest for more than a decade. He especially loves meeting others who feel like he does about automobiles.

For many of the gearheads, this visit to their pasts make them feel young again, they say. They’re almost tempted to repeat some of the rebellious stunts of their youth, such as peeling out.

Laying rubber is specifically prohibited, so the less adventurous may settle for racing an engine or two, said Alexander. But he hopes nobody gets in trouble on what’s supposed to be a fun day.

“Boys will be boys,” he said.


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Twitter: @francisXdonnell