Story and Photos: Steve Legel
The Woodward Dream Cruise wrapped up its 17th year with a bang!
In case you haven’t heard, Woodward Dream Cruise is billed as the world’s largest one day rolling car show. The Cruise attracts over 40,000 (forty thousand, not a typo) special interest cars and an estimated 1½ million spectators line the 16-mile stretch of Woodward Avenue to watch and participate in the show. The eight local communities through which Woodward winds its way host entertainment and family activities. Local stores and restaurants do a booming business and other businesses just shut down due to the commotion, but rent their parking lots to clubs or host private parties.
The Cruise and all the cars and all the people are followed on local TV broadcasts. Hard-core enthusiasts view the cruise both by driving the stretch of Woodward and by parking and just watching the cars go by. The Detroit 3 and their various component suppliers make a substantial presence in sponsorship and display at locations along the cruise.
GM was host sponsor this year. Ford hosted Mustang Ally, a long display of mostly new generation Mustangs and in changing attitude, largely ignored other vehicles of Ford history this year. Chrysler made an impressive display at the epicenter of the Cruise (Woodward and 13 Mile road) and assembled a wonderful collection of vintage Mopar performance, and display of new production cars and new specialty vehicles (Challenger Drag Pak, Charger police cruiser and Jeep off road package vehicles, oh, and Fiats). At the Dodge display, you could have your picture taken then retrieve it online, play trivia games, and test driving skills on a simulator. Of all the Detroit 3 displays, it offers the most fun and interaction.
I alluded to the Ford Mustang display, a very nice segué into commentary on the changing character of the hobby I witnessed this year. I've been attending Woodward Dream Cruise for 12 years. I attended many Ford Charity events with my 1957 Thunderbird. As the automotive industry contracted and resources were allocated away from classic car affiliation, Ford’s move away from events featuring classic products was inevitable. In fact, the nearly absent classic Mustang or any other vintage Ford product along Mustang Alley shows the new mindset toward promoting new product, with new technology aimed at a younger, tech savvy market. While Chrysler and Chevy paid homage to heritage, make no mistake, Woodward Dream Cruise manufacturer displays are about showcasing new product.
This year’s Woodward advanced the observation that while the classic and special interest hobby is alive and well, it is also “graying.” I did not see any 20-somethings driving a 1962 Hemi Belvedere. However, auto enthusiasts of all ages were out in force. The argument can be made that Woodward should be reserved for classic cars; the contrary argument is that is it is a celebration of Detroit and all things automotive which includes daily drivers and modern muscle.
As an owner of both a classic and retro Thunderbird and of both a classic (1970 RT/SE 440 Magnum) Challenger and a new 2008 limited edition Challenger SRT8, I can see both sides of the equation. Even though both my classics have been attentively restored and should run like they were new, the past automotive technology just does not compare to the creature comfort and reliability of contemporary cars. I am fortunate, I can “do” Woodward both ways — I live here!
On that note, my good buddies Bill and Trish Pitt and I hosted nearly 50 new Challengers at the Beth El Church on Woodward at 13 1/2 mile road. Friends drove new generation Challengers from 13 states and Canada to join us. We held out over 3 days, and were visited by Scott Vandekercove (media specialist) and David Cottrell (SRT brand production manager) for tire kicking and shop talk. This year, Bill arranged a parade lap on Woodward of the 37 or so Challengers that were out and ready on the sunny Saturday morning. Challengers of all colors received applause and thumbs up from spectators already perched in their lawn chairs along Woodward Avenue. My photos of the pack don’t quite do justice to the sight. I did not see a group of Mustangs or Camaros pull off the same feat, by the way.
Further south, on Woodward, the Michigan LX Club gathered strong participation. Chargers, Magnums and 300s filled a parking area, and attendees welcomed the shade from the canopy announcing their presence. They selected a great spot south of 12 mile road for easy access to cruising and room for picnic too. The LX group is a welcoming sort, and while the cars I saw there all had deep rich shines and some were modified for performance and appearance, this club would welcome any LX platform vehicle. You can find the website with a simple internet search.
Bill and I host our gathering event every year, 2 years running. We welcome you to join us. You can contact me (Steve Legel), and if you are coming from out of town, we can give guidance for hotels and local directions.
Woodward, it’s where ya gotta be on the third weekend in August.
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