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Woodward Dream Cruise Ready to Roll

Annual event expected to draw over 1 million to Detroit.

by on Aug.16, 2013

The Woodward Dream Cruise, Detroit’s annual celebration of the automobile, officially revs up with a roar this weekend – though the Motor City’s main thoroughfare has already seen thousands of cruisers take to the streets for practice runs this past week.

If past is prologue, as many as 60,000 classic muscle cars, hot rods and antiques – along with some even odder wheeled creations – will roll down Woodward for the 19th annual Dream Cruise. Organizers and community officials also expect to see anywhere from 1 million to 1.5 million spectators, including a steadily growing number from out of state who will have traveled to Detroit specifically for the Dream Cruise,

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The event began almost by accident when suburban Detroit plumber Nelson House suggested his car club stage a rolling event rather than the usual car show with a collection of muscle cars and hot rods statically lined up in a parking lot.  The inaugural event in August 1995 was expected to draw perhaps 40,000 collectors and fans. At least 250,000 showed up.

A Dream Cruise fan collects his memorabilia. Photo: Len Katz

While there are lots more police and plenty of vendors hawking “official” Woodward Dream Cruise merchandise, the event seems to have lost none of its sometimes, gritty spontaneity over the years. ”

You can see more great looking classic cars on Woodward 45 minutes than you can in a whole year back home,” one visitor from Wisconsin told reporters during the informal pre-cruise activities of the past week.

Detroit’s three automakers will have a relatively low key appearance during the event, though the Chrysler Group’s Ram division plans to use the Dream Cruise to unveil a high-performance concept truck. Chrysler also is promising to have lots of old and new Vipers cruising Woodard, as well, and resident Chrysler buffs always bring out a huge number of classics from the ’60s and ’70s for the event.

(For more on the Ram Dream Cruise concept truck, Click Here.)

Is this heaven? Flame on at the Woodward Dream Cruise. Photo: Alice Hudder.

Automakers like Chrysler have picked up their presence since the depths of the recession when the industry hit a decades-low point and sponsorship money was tight. But the betting is that the Woodward Dream Cruise can serve the same purpose as a motor sports sponsorship, suggested Ralph Gilles, President and CEO of the SRT Brand and Motorsports and Senior Vice President of Product Design.

Race fans get to the track early and they have the time to do some car shopping,” Gilles said during a panel discussion that recalled the days when Woodward Ave. was best known as a meeting point for Detroit’s muscle car fans and hot rodders who’d show up late at night to see whose Mustang, GTO or Charger ruled the pavement.

“It’s the start of a conversation with the customer,” said Gilles. “They’re not going to buy a car on Monday but it’s a start. It absolutely works, but you’ve got to win.”

It's a...er...Woodward Nightmare Cruiser? Photo: Alice Hudder.

Meanwhile, Ford, which has banked on the Mustang to win over the Cruiser set will be staking an even higher presence as it launches a year-long celebration for the classic pony car, which will celebrate its Golden Anniversary next April. Ford has set up a massive display, dubbed Mustang Alley, in the suburb of Ferndale, where the Dream Cruise began. It expects to attract more than 800 Mustangs, including at least one from every year since the original ’64-1/2 model debuted.

Chevrolet also will have a big reason to celebrate during the Dream Cruise as it prepares for the official sales debut of an all-new Corvette Stingray.  Among other automotive celebrities it plans to host over the weekend will be Linda Vaughn, who became something of a legend to the original muscle car crowd as the 1960s-era Miss Hurst Golden Shifter, as well as champion IndyCar race driver Will Power.

While the Woodward Dream Cruise is officially a one-day event, cruisers can be seen running the long boulevard every night for weeks ahead of the formal gathering. Each evening, after the rush hour slows, crowds gather along the curb, setting up lawn chairs, breaking out tailgate parties, and settling in for a night of watching for their favorite models.

“This is car-gasm,” laughed Bob Motter, of Oak Park, Michigan, one of the members of the original Dream Cruise steering committee, back in 1995.  Mutter expects to be back out in his own ’67 Mustang. “We never expected this,” Motter told TheDetroitBureau.com. “It was supposed to be a one-time fundraiser, but our plans went sidewise” In this case, in a positive direction.

Paul A. Eisenstein contributed to this report.

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One Response to “Woodward Dream Cruise Ready to Roll”

  1. Jorge M. says:

    The cruise is cool and all but you really don’t get to see many of the cars up close and personal, especially since the event has gotten so large. Car shows where you get to see the cars in detail and then they have a cruise at a specific time of day is more fun for me and most folks that I know who actually care about the design, workmanship, etc. and not just the beautiful paint jobs.