Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise 1995

Detroit, "The Motor City", celebrates its products both formally and informally. One of the most informal has been simply cruising, just motoring for its own sake. In Detroit, cruising's main locations are its main thoroughfares, the spokes of Detroit's wheel that radiate from the downtown riverfront in compass directions from northeast to west. Woodward Avenue heads north-northwest to the city of Pontiac twenty-five miles from downtown Detroit. In the 50s and 60s, the eight lane boulevard section of suburban Woodward Avenue from "The Pole" to "Ted's" was the place to cruise. "The Pole" was the "Totem Pole", a pioneer drive-in restaurant, two and a half miles north of the Detroit city limit sign. "Ted's" restaurant marked the northern end of the course at Square Lake Road just south of Pontiac. This was the pavement of choice for cruising, flirting, showing off a new or customized car, informal drag racing, stories of races won or lost, and hearts won or broken parked on a shaded gravel crossroad named Trowbridge.

Promoter Nelson House's idea for a fund raiser remembrance cruise left his hands and took form of its own becoming by name the "Remember Woodward Dream Cruise". By the August 19, 1995 date, six cities, a major "oldies" radio station, WOMC-104, and countless businesses had selected their contributions. But none had anticipated the magnitude of the response. By mid-afternoon of that August day, the cruising strip of Woodward Avenue was a sunbaked first gear idling parking lot of cars of every make and color. Electric Orange Chevrolets and Purple Buicks with passengers in matching purple bikinis were joined by classic Ferraris, a Fiat 600, and the unthinkable, real running British cars, from Morris Minor to Rolls Royce. No one had to look far for a sample of the car he or she cruised Woodward in.

If a cruiser's 1961 Ford Galaxie 500 Sunliner convertible had been black, he might have to settle for looking at a red one in 1995, but that was the extent of the compromise of recollection needed, so great was the turn out of classic cruising machines. 1961Ford Galaxie 500 Sunliner
The southernmost suburban community on Woodward Avenue of Ferndale closed its main street and registered over five hundred cars in its "car show".
1960 Cadillac A 1960 Cadillac convertible drew spontaneous spoken praise. A woman younger than the car and not as tall said out loud to no one, "That is beautiful." She said it twice.

Next to the Cadillac an owner was polishing his cream colored early 50s Lincoln with the GM Hydramatic transmission Ford used in its luxury car before the Ford-o-Matic was ready. A professional looking woman photographer seemed to be documenting every car in the show. A dwarf male shouldered a large S-VHS video camera, panning across each car's polished or rusty flanks. A forest of lawn chairs began on the Ferndale Woodward Avenue sidewalk. Each was a best seat in the house to watch the growing parade of cruising cars from 1960 Buicks with fins to rumbling hot rods and motorcycles. No one seemed self-conscious or even much conscious of others. All eyes were on the cars, whether is was an all original dull green 1950 Fluid Drive Chrysler, a white 1969 Mercury Cougar with a 351 engine, or a 1930s Cadillac with modern drivetrain, tilt wheel, and air conditioning.

More than a mile off Woodward, downtown Berkley ran its city sidewalk sale and hosted cars in a bowling alley parking lot. A green Ferrari asked directions to the next parking site. A perfect looking black and brown two- tone 1959 retractable hardtop Ford, with its top in mid-fold, drew awestruck comments on its quality appearance, while cute hygenists passed out promotional items for their employer, a nearby dentist.

Dozens of people crossed on foot with each green traffic light at Thirteen Mile Road and Woodward Avenue to see the cars in a city of Royal Oak park on the east and the "Northwood" shopping center on the west. In the west lot was a restored green 1955 Plymouth V-8. On the east grass was a restored green 1955 Plymouth V-8 station wagon with a newer "B" engine shoehorned into the engine bay. An "LH" Chrysler New Yorker displayed identical motors driving the front and rear wheels, as a potent version of four wheel drive. In the shopping center lot, a group of girls in poodle skirts and cat eye sunglasses sang "Mr. Sandman" into four modern microphones that fed two rattly University "Soundcaster" re-entrant horn speakers from the 1960s, with the accompaniment of a senior citizen on a computerized keyboard instrument. The grass at the side of Woodward Avenue was dotted with home video cameras on tripods as the rumbling of engines grew.

At the northern end of the "Dream Cruise", upscale Birmingham's Shain Park displayed a Ferrari 308, Dodge Vipers, and a 1956 Cadillac Eldorado Seville, alongside a 1949 Packard, proudly without a hint of restoration, while cars streamed in from Woodward. The green Ferrari with directions from Berkley found a place with a plain but brilliant red 1962 Plymouth Savoy V-8 with Torqueflite from Canada, countless Chevys with Powerglides and Turboglides and stylist Harley Earl's wide fins or Earl's successor Bill Mitchell's muted ones, a DeSoto and a Dodge with Fluid Drive, and a 1955 Buick Century Convertible with Dynaflo.

The sun shone all day on cars and games on Woodward. In the middle of the cruise strip, tiny Huntington Woods catered to kids with a hoola-hoop contest, while a pre-teen girl tried to incite drivers to squealing tires by endlessly squealing herself from the curb to every passing classic car, "Light 'em up." A few drivers would rev their rumbly motors in modest reply. The cream 50s Lincoln leaked anti-freeze in its parking spot. It was not the only car on the cruise to overheat. One of the WOMC-104 DJs dropped by, accompanied by the "Pink Ladies", in black t-shirts proclaiming them the "Pink Ladies", to host a promotional give away of tickets to a production of the show "Grease" scheduled for October. A lady, looking the part of the original owner, idled a 1950 Fluid Drive DeSoto fore and back to get out of a tiny parking spot, pulling strongly at the reluctant unassisted steering and flicking the long column mounted shift lever from reverse to the four-speed semi-automatic's low range with a rapid down-up movement revealing the casual touch of total familiarity with the unique Chrysler gear lever positions. WXYZ-TV's reporter, Bill Proctor, gave two live inserts, covering both the cruising cars and the hoola-hoop kids, for his station's 6 o'clock news. Across Woodward Avenue, WJBK-TV-2 interviewed car owners. WKBD-UPN-50's reporter arrived in Huntington Woods to record his impressions riding with a video cameraman in a restored Pontiac GTO convertible.

WXYZ-TV's truck mounted antenna mast was lowered and the two heavily laden Chevy Suburbans with help from cruise officials made wide arcs into the "Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise" and hissed toward the next cruise story with throttles wide.

There is information on the Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise at the official Dream Cruise Organization Web Site.

There are lots of pictures of the Woodward cruise plus live internet coverage during the event at the Chevrolet Web Site.

Text by David Carlstrom Copyright August 19, 1995. Photos by David Carlstrom Copyright August 19, 1995. Web Page Created by David Carlstrom. Last Modified: 4/2/2011