Dream Cruise Memories

August 12, 2002

Get all the 2002 Dream Cruise coverage here:
2002 Woodward Dream Cruise (8/16/2002)
What's that, you exclaim, a "yoostabee" about the Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise? Why, heck, how can that be? It's only eight years old.

Yeah, and the grown-ups have taken it over. This weekend's Dream Cruise, like cars themselves, isn't being made the way it "yoostabee."

The Dream Cruise "yoostabee" a spontaneous event. As a formal happening, it had its beginning in 1995 when the Detroit suburb of Ferndale at the southern end of Oakland County's Woodward Avenue combined with golden oldies local radio station WOMC to sponsor a street rod show on a closed-off business street one Saturday.

WOMC promoted the Cruise over the air and literally hundreds of vintage car owners opened their garage doors and took to the streets, accompanied by tens of thousands who lined Woodward in their lawn chairs to watch the passing parade.

Significantly, this was such a spontaneous happening that the Detroit media —TVs and newspapers — muffed coverage almost completely. One local station showed up Saturday morning about 10, shot some brief footage and packed it up. But the moving car show went on until nearly midnight.

In short, it was a word-of-mouth event among the aficionados, the car nuts and their families and friends.

We happened on it almost by mistake. The Detroit suburb of Royal Oak, just north of Ferndale, has a Farmer's Market open on Saturday mornings, a popular gathering place for suburbanites. After loading up with fresh fruits and vegetables we elected to take Woodward rather than the back streets home. And, on that particular morning six years ago, we discovered the wonder of all the great cars of the past cruisin' up and down Woodward.

It brought back memories of days past when teenagers too bored to think of anything else merely cruised up and down the boulevard from a drive-in at 10 Mile Road to a drive-in at Square Lake Road (the equivalent of 18 Mile). Impress other drivers, impress girls, try to pick up girls, try to have impromptu pick-up races and not get either toasted or ticketed.

Even as a young married, I recall cruisin' down Woodward one midnight in a borrowed 'Vette with the top down in a driving rainstorm, amidst thumbs up from other drivers. They didn't know the damn top mechanism was busted, and I'd given up on waiting for the rain to stop so we could get home dry. Still, it was fun getting that unique kind of recognition from a younger set.

Each year since, the Dream Cruise has grown. Car lovers heard about it and came from adjoining states, and then from more distant places.

As Woodward became so crowded during the Cruise that it was little more than a giant parking lot, many of the older vintage cars, the Ts and As and pre-war touring cars and coupes, dropped out because their cooling systems couldn't survive the endless idling. The Cruise became more of a modern-powered street rod and muscle car show.

By 1999, copycat cruises had developed on Detroit's East Side (the Gratiot Cruise) and Downriver. Not that those venues didn't have their own histories of cruisin' by local youths over the decades, but Woodward was the one which gained national fame because of write-ups in such magazines as Car and Driver.

This year, the communities along Woodward actually expect to PROFIT from Cruise activities such as royalties on cruise-branded merchandise and rentals of public property — after paying all the costs of extra policing, porta-johns and clean-up.

Still, it's not like it yoostabee.

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