Forget Los Angeles and American Graffiti. In those balmy years bookmarked by the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the real action was on Detroit’s Woodward Avenue. And not just for those teens who could scrape together enough money for a set of wheels. Late at night, you’d often find some of the biggest names in the auto industry, like John DeLorean, prowling Woodward, testing their latest products and challenging the competition.
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It began as a small gathering of aging enthusiasts, a way to bring back to life those warm summer nights when Detroit iron provided the pulse of the American dream. As those aging children of the ’50s pulled the tarps off their long-idled GTOs, Mustang GTs, and Road Runners, Woodward Avenue transformed for an afternoon into Memory Lane. The event quite literally stopped traffic, as it will again on Saturday when the ninth Woodward Dream Cruise rolls back into town.
What started as a one-day event has been expanding annually, and so, while the formal Woodward Dream Cruise is scheduled for August 16th this year, you could find plenty of cruisers looping long stretches of Woodward the weekend before — to the appreciative waves, cheers and applause of bystanders who were already filling grandstands, lounging in the back of parked pickups or simply sitting on lawn chairs.
TheCarConnection.com has been out all week and here’s a look at what we’ve found — and a preview of more to come this weekend.
You’ll be likely to see the first few Chevrolet SSRs cruising Woodward this weekend, a perfect opportunity for the automaker to spotlight its new “halo car,” which Chevy is billing “the Corvette pickup. Well, George Prentice didn’t feel like waiting when he got hold of a ’54 Corvette a few years back. “Think of this as a forerunner of the SSR,” says the resident of St. Claire Shores, Michigan, as he tools down Woodward. Prentice’s approach was simple: lifte the trunk lid off the early Vette, then custom-design a pickup-style bed that simply slipped inside.
Jim Barkey’s ’78 Dodge is a bit more conventional, but not by much. Equipped with a tire-spinning 360-cubic-inch V-8, his Li’l Red Truck was one of just 2100 built that year. “I just like it. It’s definitely different,” he beams, cruising down Woodward with his wife. Back in the day, you’d likely not see many trucks on Woodward — unless they were making deliveries to one of the hamburger stands that served as home base for so many cruisers. But expect to find plenty of them in this year’s Dream Cruise vying for attention along with more conventional hot rods and muscle cars.