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'03 Dream Cruise Short Circuited


2003 Woodward Dream Cruise

2003 Woodward Dream Cruise

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2003 Woodward Dream Cruise Index by TCC Team (8/18/2003)
Since its modest beginning just nine years ago, the now famous Woodward Dream Cruise (WDC) had never been dampened by serious rain. Nor had it suffered a complete electrical blackout along its storied sixteen-mile route through the suburbs of Berkley, Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Bloomfield Township, Ferndale, Huntington Woods, Pleasant Ridge, and Royal Oak, Mich., that link Detroit to Pontiac.

WDC ’03 would be the exception. And for home-grown enthusiasts like us, the impact of the blackout created a Dream Cruise memory we’ll not soon forget. No matter how hard we might try.

Secret agenda

2003 Woodward Dream Cruise

2003 Woodward Dream Cruise

Enlarge Photo
Our agenda the last four years has been to park our ’67 Corvette in one of 50 spots in downtown Birmingham reserved by the Michigan Chapter of the National Corvette Restorers Society (NCRS). For this fine group, it’s their annual picnic. For us, it’s one good reason to belong, though we’re too busy and live too far away to participate in other club activities.

We deliver our share of the food, meet and greet a few NCRS folks, then set off walking to see what we can see. As car-nut kids in the ’60s, we cruised this famous strip, munched burgers and fries, flirted and socialized, and cruised up the road to the next drive-in. Some (including Detroit “factory” engineers) used the eight-lane avenue for impromptu contests of horsepower and nerve between the lights. Others set up lawn chairs and watched.

These days, most of those with cruise-worthy cars divide their time between showing them off and watching the massive rolling car show to take in as much of it as possible. We tried cruising once but now prefer walking — at least on WDC Saturdays — because those lights remain functional, traffic typically creeps a few feet at a time, clutch legs begin to cramp, and coolant temperatures elevate in the mid-August heat, sometimes beyond containment.

Woodward has grown to an eagerly anticipated auto enthusiast orgy attracting some 40,000 collectible cars and trucks and 1.7 million people, according to organizers. Its financial impact is said to be north of $127 million, based on each of those 1.7 million averaging $75 over WDC week, which begins on the previous Sunday and accelerates to the Saturday finale.

If that holds true, a couple of others must have spent $150 apiece to counter our day of fabulous freeloading.

Blackout 2003

2003 Woodward Dream Cruise

2003 Woodward Dream Cruise

Enlarge Photo
This year’s event was severely challenged by the record blackout that pitched much of the northeast U.S. into darkness and TV/air conditioning withdrawal on the afternoon of Thursday, Aug. 14. Cruise activities were canceled that night and cut back on Friday, since Detroit and its northwestern ’burbs remained dark throughout that day.

Turning in that evening, most didn’t know what Saturday would bring. Thankfully, power was restored to most of the area between Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. While the crowd seemed somewhat thinner (not necessarily a bad thing), Saturday’s cruise came off pretty much as usual.

Following a mile of walking, sweating and spectating in the humid heat, and armed with guest credentials, we stopped at the Athens Coney Island GM WDC headquarters. Inside the air-conditioned diner, we scarfed down a burger, fries, and Coke...just like the old days, except the average age was older, the Coke was Diet and the food and drink were complimentary.


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