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.

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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.

What's a muscle car without its muscle?

“I grew up out here and I just think it’s in my blood,” said Jim Kennedy, of Troy, Michigan, one of the cruisers we caught up with one year, running Woodward in his immaculate ’62 Pontiac Grand Prix.

During another pass, we found Ron Cottick, who proudly says he’s been to every Woodward Dream Cruise, most recently in a carefully restored Plymouth Valiant Duster.  “I’ve got three years into it,” he explained. “I never put that much time into anything – even my wife – but she’s demanding all my time from now on.”

Over the years we'e seen some wild and wacky cruisers, but this bathtub on wheels remains one of our favorites.

The Dream Cruise is a decidedly egalitarian event.  Those who don’t have a ’57 Chevy or a tricked-out ’32 Ford can still crawl along in the inevitable Saturday traffic jam.  Or they can pull up a lawn chair, take out a beer and stay put along the Woodward Dream Cruise route.

“Sweet,” yelled out 14-year-old Tyler Perry, as we walked along the Woodward shoulder, one afternoon, as an old Ferrari drove by.  “Awesome,” he added, for a ’65 Mustang, showing his appreciation for anything that could broadly be defined as cool.

Retired GM exec Darwin Clark restored this cruiser for one of his kids -- who subsequently discovered girls and lost interest.

“I’m breaking him in,” explained Tyler’s grandfather, Bob Wright.  The 75-year-old had plenty of memories of his own, honed during years of cruising and street racing down Woodward.  Pick a landmark and Wright will tell you a story, like the time, at that very corner, when he got pulled over for a noisy muffler and was yanked into the police station to wait for somebody to come bail him out.

Local officials and event organizers don’t always agree on the precise numbers, but it’s generally conceded that the Cruise draws at least 50,000 to 60,000 muscle cars, hot rods and other cruisers, along with as many as 1.5 million spectators who go along for the ride or line the route – which is a decidedly suburban affair, typically beginning just south of the notorious 8 Mile Road and stretching all the way to Woodward Avenue’s northern terminus, in Pontiac, Michigan.

An essential ingredient for every cruiser, a pair of fuzzy dice.

The Woodward Dream Cruise has proven to be a surprisingly resilient affair, surviving regular police crackdowns on anyone spinning tires, foul weather, even the power outage that, a few years back, shut down the eastern half of the U.S. – including the gasoline pumps petro-swilling muscle cars desperately need.

The ongoing economic crunch hasn’t helped.  The big Detroit suburb of Birmingham formally pulled out of the event, in 2009, though it remains part of the route.  Several other cash-short communities, such as the pint-sized City of Pleasant Ridge, officially ended their participation, this year.

A row of rods lined up for the crowds' approval.

But that appears to be little more than a formality.  If anything, cruisers will be happier to see a bit less of a police presence – never mind the reduced commercialization of the event.

As with any well-attended gathering, the Woodward Dream Cruise has evolved a bit, over the years.  Some of the wilder and zanier “entrants” have been driven off the streets.  You’re less likely to see a motorized shopping cart or a hot rod pulling a matching trailer – made out of an old clawfoot bathtub, with two bikini-clad blondes and one lucky guy, showering their way down Woodward.

When a power outage struck the eastern half of the U.S. it threatened to shut down the Cruise, but somehow it all worked out.

Over the years, we’ve run into folks from as far away as Australia – which happens to be another place where muscle cars retain their appeal.  Greg Cook, an annual Dream Cruise attendee didn’t travel quite so far, just 500 miles from his home in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  But that was quite a journey in his rare, final-year Edsel 2-door hardtop.

“It’s the world’s biggest car party,” he said, parking his car in a prime spot right along Woodward. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

Get set for the 16th annual Woodward Dream Cruise!

And neither will we.  TheDetroitBureau.com will continue its coverage of the 2010 Woodward Dream Cruise tomorrow.

For a look at the annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the world’s most elite classic car show, Click Here.)

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