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Detroit’s Woodward Dream Cruise – The Mecca for Real Car Enthusiasts

by George on August 30, 2010

Detroit is the automotive world’s Mecca. Travel to the annual Woodward Dream Cruise, occurring the third Saturday every August, is the holy pilgrimage every car nut worth his salt would have on his bucket list, if not his annual calendar. It does not matter which automotive icon(s) you worship, everything from the esteemed Aston Martin to lowly Yugo is at this event – in abundance. What makes this possible is two things: scale and location.

Notwithstanding Detroit’s notable civic challenges, such as a high school graduation rate hovering in the vicinity of 25%, it remains the hub in the world of motion. The city gave birth to the automotive industry and remains the world’s largest asylum for car nuts of every ilk. Sure, there are more effete locales that celebrate automobiles, but nowhere is the automotive culture more eminent than Detroit and its surrounding suburbs. Anyone driving its wide boulevards from stoplight to stoplight would figure that out in a New York minute.

The scale of the Woodward Dream Cruise can be difficult to comprehend. We’re talking about a gaggle of some 30,000 cars that stretch 10 miles through nearly a dozen towns with nearly a million spectators. It begs the question: how does it work? Pavement – it’s all about the pavement.

Woodward Avenue is a six-lane boulevard running three lanes each way in a north-south orientation from the very center of Detroit, one of the poorest cities in the nation, to just outside of Bloomfield Hills – one of the wealthiest in the nation. The trip from squalor to splendor is about 21 miles. The Woodward Dream Cruise itself covers 10 miles of this expanse, running from Ferndale, just north of “8 Mile Road” – made famous by the movie of the same name, to Bloomfield Hills. The route, as you might imagine, excludes the squalor, but it does include a lot of pavement. Picture six lanes of muscle cars, street rods, exotics, and yes, some regular cars, moving north and south on that pavement.

Along the route of the Woodward Dream Cruise are simply miles of static displays – car clubs of every type from vintage Cobras, Studebakers, and AMC’s to Rolls Royces – encamped in the parking lots of local businesses that typically close for the one-day Woodward event. Many, many more cars are seen cruising up and down Woodward like a perpetual motion parade event. So, the event is a confederation of parking lots, each replete with a grouping of cars you would typically die for, bordered by a wide boulevard filled with six lanes of noteworthy American muscle or European exotics doing an endless loop up and down the road. Simply everything from the sublime to the ridiculous is in attendance.

Ever seen a right-hand drive Gremlin (a true 1 of 1)? A new Corvette ZR1? Ever wonder what a ’63 split-window C6 Corvette would look like? Perhaps a Saleen S7 or Aston-Martin DB9 is more your style? For the more esoteric-minded, how about a city dump truck street-rod with a living room where refuse used to be compacted? Perhaps the military-vehicle enthusiast would no doubt enjoy a 1941 Ford Jeep (yes, Ford made Jeeps too) or the 1951 Wyllis Jeep with a .50 caliber machine gun, no? How about an AMC Javelin factory drag car (1 of 52 produced)? Would a city block long stretch of AC Cobras interest anyone? How about one of those cars that can also be used as boats? Would a muscle car enthusiast enjoy seeing a ’69 Z-28 with 24,000 original miles, a 1970 Hemi Challenger, or a Boss 429? Yes, these are just some of the things I saw while enjoying the Woodward Dream Cruise this year.

This is a loosely-structured event. There is no admission – your only expenses will be parking, food, and drink. Presuming that you would pack a lunch and bring a cooler, well, the only cash outlay would be for parking and whatever event trinkets catch your eye. There are vendors and restaurants on Woodward Avenue and the side streets, and all of the towns along the route provide port-a-johns and other support services. You can expect the local establishments that are open to be doing a brisk business given the number of spectators present.

If you want to drive your car down Woodward – feel free – but be aware that the local police are intolerant of any misbehavior. Although in years past spectators would create impromptu “bleach pits” that drivers would use to create billowing clouds of tire smoke (sometimes even a cop in his police cruiser could be persuaded to lay down some rubber), a couple of poorly-executed burnouts in years past has resulted in a zero-tolerance attitude among the local police departments against any such gratuitous displays of power. This is perhaps the only warning you will get.

The 2011 Woodward Dream Cruise is scheduled for Saturday, August 20, 2011, from 9am to 9pm. If you really want to be part of the largest show/cruise on the planet, or lay serious claim to being a car enthusiast, put this date on your calendar and keep track of developments on the Woodward Dream Cruise web site.

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