HENRY PAYNE

Home at last: Classic cruisers welcomed in Detroit

Henry Payne
The Detroit News

A winter Dream Cruise?

Three classic muscle cars from America’s Car Museum in Tacoma, Washington, led a parade of some 30 local cruisers down Woodward Avenue on Friday morning to Cadillac Square, stopping traffic, celebrating the Motor City, and opening a week of Detroit auto show media festivities.

“These cars are part of Detroit’s heritage,” said Rock Ventures Vice President Lisa Dancsok at an Opportunity Detroit ceremony at the foot of the Compuware building. “They are tough and enduring just like us.”

She was flanked by a 1957 Chevy Nomad, 1961 Chrysler 300G and a 1966 Ford Mustang at the terminus of their epic 3,170-mile, 11-day “Drive Home” from Tacoma to Detroit.

I brought my own mid-engine 1979 BMW M1 sports car to join a cornucopia of classics that included a 427 Cobra, AMC Matador, Citroen, 1930s Ford, 2016 Chevy Camaro, and more.

Leading the way were the three red road warriors — caked in grime, but looking remarkably healthy after a journey across the Rockies, under the St. Louis Arch to Chicago and then home to their birthplace. Despite their age, the trio experienced no difficulties on their journey, except for the Mustang’s cranky behavior on cold mornings (join the club).

“I brought a lot of maintenance stuff, including snow chains for the mountains,” said museum technician Dale Wickell, who trailed the Detroit classics in a Ford F-150 with trailer. “But I didn’t have to use any of it.”

Drive Home organizer and America’s Car Museum CEO David “The Dude” Madeira (all drivers gained a road handle on the trip east) wasn’t surprised that the cars had made the journey on schedule.

“I’m ready to do it again,” he said. “We had no idea how much enthusiasm we would see across America. We saw a lot of classic American goodwill wherever we went, from small towns to big cities like Chicago.” He’s already brainstorming a sequel.

The American Car Museum believes in a “living museum” with auto artifacts that don’t just sit there but are driven to enthusiasts everywhere.

Madeira hatched the idea with Detroit Auto Dealers Association Executive Director Rod Albert, who saw the opportunity to promote the North American International Auto Show’s new reveals by bringing in their famous forebears.

The legendary Nomad is a two-door wagon inspired by Corvette. The 300G is the last in the line of NASCAR-dominating Chryslers. And the Mustang is ... well, the original Mustang. Enough said.

The train of drivers that met the Drive Home on Friday for coffee ’n’ cruisin’ were the last of hundreds of car collectors that met the trio on their tour across America.

You didn’t have to be an American muscle motorhead to join in. Rich Childs of Plymouth brought out his diminutive 1971 Citroen Dyane to participate in the winter cruise.

“My European friends are amazed that I drive my Citroen year-round,” he said. “But I was tickled that we had such good weather today because I won’t drive it in the salt.”

After a good bath, the museum classics will stay on for the Detroit Auto Show with a display in the Michelin Media Center during media week — and then in lobby in front of Hall E during public show days.

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.