That's What Dreams Are Made Of
Posted by SwampyMeadows, Features Contributor,
Sunday, August 22 2004
BEVERLY HILLS (MI) -- On Saturday morning I got up at 4:45am and drove for 11 hours straight to get back home from vacation in Stone Harbor, NJ with one thing in mind -- to take in the 10th Annual Woodward Dream Cruise.
For those of you who haven't heard of it, the Cruise is a Detroit institution that even the Blackout of 2003 couldn't stop -- over 1 million car freaks showed up, despite the fact that the power had been out for 3 days. This year's Cruise was God's way of saying he was sorry about last year -- the weather was absolutely perfect and I don't know how they guesstimate these things, but I would bet that there were 2 million people there.
There for what, you ask? The largest single event of its kind and the best part is that it's totally free. Make no mistake -- this is not the Concours D'Elegance. Any and all modes of transportation are welcome. The Cruise extends from 8 Mile Road all the way up legendary Woodward Avenue to Square Lake Road (the equivalent of 19 Mile Road). While it is supposed to be a one-day event, the Cruise now encompasses almost the entire week and out-of-staters often take the week off on vacation and trailer their rides into Motown for it. Where else but Detroit could such an event take place? They don't call this the Motor City for nothin'!
I parked in my customary spot -- a half block from Woodward on a sidestreet -- and walked out to 14 Mile and Woodward and entered 'car guy heaven.' I had walked south last year to 13 Mile, so this year I headed north to Maple or 15 Mile Road. Here's what I saw in my short stroll:
-- a duplicate of the coolest car that I ever owned, a black 1964 Buick Riviera. The wheel covers on it were wrong, tho -- the owner had the Gran Sport hubcaps that didn't become available until 1965 when the GS model was introduced.
-- probably the uncoolest car I ever owned -- an AMC Pacer. To show you what a persuasive guy I was back in the '70s, I actually convinced 2 other staffers at WVUD to buy a Pacer, based only on my recommendation. Now that's salesmanship!
-- my dream car -- a Hudson Hornet. If you want to know my ultimate fantasy ride, it's a 1954 Hudson Hornet Convertible. There was one up for auction on eBay last week -- it had PS, PB, PW, a power convertible top, automatic, the works. The bidding topped out at $22,000 and still didn't meet the owner's reserve price.
-- my dad's first car -- a 1947 Chevy fastback and my dad's favorite car -- a red and white '57 Chevy.
-- One of my UD roomies' favorite cars -- a red Triumph TR 3 just like Ed Igoe had when we lived out at UH. My brother-in-law Paul Miller has one just like it.
-- my father-in-law's first car -- a Lincoln Zephyr that he got from his uncle and my mother-in-law's favorite car -- a nice Mercury Cougar just like the one of several she had in the '70s.
When I say that any car is welcome, that is totally the case -- it's an equal opportunity Cruise. I saw everything from a Lamborghini Countach and a Rolls Royce Corniche to a POS Mopar product in primer with "work in progress" painted by hand on the side of the car. While the Cruise is intended for old cars, anything with wheels -- old or new - - can participate.
Like Dune Buggies? There were a bunch of them.
Motorcycles? All over the place.
NASCAR, Funny Cars or Dragsters? They were there on display, but obviously couldn't cruise.
Into 'Tuners' (which is the new craze -- take a small foreign car and trick it out)? They had their own section.
Hot Rods, Rat Rods, Low Riders, High Boys? Yes, yup, si and oh yeah.
And yes, Chris, there were tons of Porsches.
Take a car like the DeTomaso Pantera. It was designed in Italy by Allejandro DeTomaso and imported by Lincoln Mercury in a feeble attempt to put something interesting in their dealers' showrooms in the early '70's. Panteras had a penchant to rust out rapidly. They were a mid-engine car, which made them hard to work on. Consequently, they never sold very well. There was a veritable posse of Panteras on hand, including one with its huge Ford power plant totally done in chrome.
I saw a restored school bus go by with a group of young lovelies frolicking in the Jacuzzi that the owner had installed in it. The bus is available for parties and rentals.
A nice '50s GMC pickup went by hauling a vintage 1948 Airstream Mini Wind motor home.
I ask you -- where else could you see a Henry J and a Kaiser Darrin -- 2 totally different cars which were both named after Aluminum magnate Henry J. Kaiser -- within 2 blocks of each other?
Fire Trucks, Military vehicles, antique bicycles, you name it, they were here.
I saw several of those Corvettes that have the front and rear-end treatment of the original 1953 'Vettes, but are obviously brand new. Are these prototypes or are they production models? They all seemed to have plates from Colorado or California, which makes me think the former. Somebody who knows Corvettes fill me in on this, okay?
Then there was the 1957 Chevy golf car that was for sale in the Citgo station, not far from the 3-wheeled BMW Isetta made famous by Steve Urkel on "Family Ties."
The most intriguing vehicle I saw all day was something entitled the "Tweety Thraen" which was painted Tweety Bird Yellow and was a motorcycle on the front end, but had the back end of a 1959 Chevy hardtop, with seating for two.
The beauty part of the Woodward Cruise is that it makes a totally overrated vehicle like the Hummer almost invisible. There are so many cool cars to ogle, what's another Hummer? Big, impractical and fuel-inefficient is no way to go thru life, son.
What else is there to do besides look at cars? The main diversion is to coerce the drivers to "light 'em up" or leave rubber. Cruisers who cooperate get a big cheer from the crowd. The cops on foot, bike, motorcycle and in cars play a game of cat and mouse with the drivers and they do issue tickets if you are dumb enuf to peel out when they're around. The people watching is second to none and the food ain't too bad, either. I stopped and stood for several minutes by a guy grilling hamburgers, just to take in the aroma. You could get a smoked turkey leg for $6. I succumbed to the Sausage brothers -- Polish and Italian -- from two different vendors on opposite sides of Woodward.
The only downside that I have seen is the creeping commercialism of the Cruise. More and more prime real estate -- like the Northwood Shopping Center at 13 Mile and Woodward -- is reserved for corporate sponsors and their displays instead of old cars. That's the price you pay, I guess.
What is really amazing is that in its 10 year history, there have never been any serious problems. The worst thing that happened was a woman lost control of her 'Vette several years ago and wiped out a traffic sign. That was it. This from the city that Jimmy Kimmel swore would burn itself down if the Pistons won the NBA Championship.
Take a tip from Uncle Swampy -- if you love cars, circle Saturday, August 20, 2005 on your calendar and make a point to experience the Woodward Dream Cruise for yourself. You can thank me later.
That's it "From the Swamp"