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California Dreaming – or Detroit Cruising?

Woodward Dream Cruise and Pebble Beach Concours bookend a classic car weekend.

by on Aug.15, 2015

A classic Chevy Nova with its shaker hood up takes a break from cruising Woodward Ave. All photos by Len Katz unless otherwise noted.

There’ll be plenty of thunder in Detroit today, even though the skies are only partly cloudy. The rumbles are coming from the city’s main drag, Woodward Avenue, where as many as 1.5 million people, and tens of thousands of muscle cars, hot rods and exotics stage are out for the annual Woodward Dream Cruise.

On the other side of the Continent, the crowds will be building all over the Monterey Peninsula for a weekend of excitement wrapped around the tony Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, considered by classic car fanciers the crowning event of the year.

We're a Classic!

The Dream Cruise and the Concours highlight two very different aspects of the automotive world – and underscore the fact that America’s love affair with the automobile has hardly diminished. But what’s a gearhead to do – unless you have a private jet ready to whisk you from one to the other?


Cruising Down Memory Lane

Detroit’s Woodward Dream Cruise turns 20.

by on Aug.16, 2014

A "flamed" hot rod, one of from 40,000 to 60,000 classic muscle cars, hot rods, sports cars and other collectibles expected at the Woodward Dream Cruise.

For Bob Wissman, standing on the corner of Woodward Avenue in Royal Oak, Michigan is a trip down Memory Lane. As a teenager in the 1960s, even before he was old enough to drive, he’d hitchhike along Metro Detroit’s main drag, hoping to catch a ride in a Ford Mustang, a Pontiac GTO or, if he was lucky, a Chevrolet Corvette.

Woodward Ave. was Ground Zero for muscle car fans and, back then, you’d even catch some executives, like General Motors’ legendary maverick John DeLorean, showing up late at night to street test a new performance car against their competitors.

The Last Word!

The days of cruising are long past – well, not entirely. As summer enters its dog days, the echoes of screeching tires and the resonant roar of big V-8s can be heard up and down Woodward Avenue, a crescendo building by the day as the Motor City gets set to celebrate its heritage with the annual Woodward Dream Cruise.


Crawling Through Motown at the Woodward Dream Cruise

Reliving "Happy Days" in the Motor City.

by on Aug.19, 2013

Bill Mann takes home a trophy for his restored 1970 Dodge Charger R/T at the Woodward Dream Cruise.

Any other day, it might have been a major headache for the Motor City, but if anyone was frustrated by the traffic that jammed Detroit main thoroughfare they were well advised to keep it to themselves as the annual Woodward Dream Cruise rolled into Detroit.

The Saturday event, now in its 19th year, attracted more than 1 million visitors from all over the country, indeed, more than a few from overseas, to watch an estimated 40,000 to 60,000 classic hot rods, muscle cars and exotics cruise – make that crawl – down Woodward Avenue.

Keep on Cruising!

Even after nearly two decades, the Woodward Dream Cruise continues to woe fans with its mix of cars old and new.  “I saw the new Viper,” said a youngster from Livonia, Michigan who would only give his first name, Dominic.

The sighting of the still rare Chrysler sports car was one of the highlights of the Dream Cruise weekend for many fans as traffic slowly moved along Woodward Avenue, an eight-lane boulevard that stretches from the Detroit riverfront to Motown’s northern suburbs.


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.


Woodward Dream Cruise Grows Larger – Longer

One-day event now lasts an entire week or more.

by on Aug.17, 2012

More than a million people are expected for this weekend's Woodward Dream Cruise.

All photos in this article courtesy Len Katz.

Neither storms, nor blackouts, nor economic downturns – never mind over-zealous law enforcement – has failed to dampen the spirit of the Woodward Dream Cruise, the annual gathering of muscle cars, hot rods and more than a few truly undefinable vehicles now recognized as the world’s largest single-day automotive event.

In fact, the Cruise has become more than just a formal one-day gathering.  For at least a week before the formal Saturday, August 18 event, thousands of cruisers could be found gathering along a 17-mile stretch of Woodward Avenue, Detroit’s main thoroughfare, by noon.  By evening, when traffic might normally lighten, it would drag to a stop – to the cheers and applause of those watching from the sidelines.

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The Woodward Dream Cruise began almost by accident when, in 1995, plumber Nelson House decided to stage a classic car show hoping to raise some money for a soccer field.  But rather than the usual, static display, House proposed the seemingly radical idea of having participants actually drive up and down the 8-lane Woodward Ave., just as many of them did when younger, back in the 1960s and 1970s.


Big Change in Store for Classic Woodward Dream Cruiser Garage

From service station to serving food?

by on Aug.17, 2011

Columnist Mike Davis sits in front of the Vinsetta Garage during better days. Photo by Len Katz.

There’s curious news for the Dream Cruise coming to Detroit’s Woodward Avenue this weekend.  An icon of the muscle car era will be going through a dramatic change.

Last December, the historic Vinsetta Garage unexpectedly shut its doors.  Perhaps nothing along the city’s main boulevard was more closely associated with the era of muscle cars – or the annual Woodward Dream Cruise that draws tens of thousands of classic cars and over a million spectators to line the long route.  So, many were worried that the retro-classic garage would be knocked down for yet another strip mall or chain restaurant.

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But according to a report in The Detroit Free Press, the 91-year-old facility will reopen next spring as a moderately upscale restaurant – but one likely maintaining the familiar Vinsetta Garage façade and logo.

The old building, with its long disconnected Shell Oil gasoline pumps, has been a familiar site to Woodward motorists, formal (as in Cruisers) and informal (mere commuters), for decades.


Forward Into The Past With The 2010 Woodward Dream Cruise

Classics, muscle cars and hot rods ready to take back the streets.

by on Aug.20, 2010

What's a hot rod without some flames?

Decades ago, before urban sprawl, the largely rural Woodward Avenue was a place where young drivers could congregate, after hours, to grab a root beer and burger at any of a dozen “joints,” then cruise the night away in their new muscle cars and chromed-out hot rods.

These days, as Detroit’s main local artery, the Woodward corridor is crowded with commuters and shoppers, the same sort of routine traffic flow you’d find on urban roadways all over the country.  For most of the year, anyway, But, come tomorrow morning, things will be a bit different.

Forward into the past!  This weekend brings the return of the legendary Woodward Dream Cruise.  Marking its 16th year, the Cruise celebrates the golden days of muscle cars, music and the seeming simplicity of a now long-gone era.

The photos accompanying this story are some of our favorites from over the years covering the Dream Cruise.

Cruise for News!

The event began almost by accident when, in 1995, a local car club decided to skip the usual static display of vehicles parked with their hoods open.  Muscle cars are meant to be driven, they concluded, taking their event on the road – up and down a 16-mile stretch of Woodward Ave.

The idea quickly caught on, each year growing bigger and bigger, as more and more folks pulled the tarps off their classic muscle cars and hot rods and, on the third Saturday of each August, headed for the old cruise route.