Detroit may not seem like the ideal summer vacation destination for some, but for a growing assemblage of car aficionados, the third Saturday of August means visiting the Motor City region to take in the acclaimed Woodward Dream Cruise.
Named for the iconic street splitting east and west Detroit and connecting to its suburban neighbors, Woodward Avenue attracts tens of thousands of custom and collector cars, including street rods and muscle cars. From 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., the suburban portion of the thoroughfare (Ferndale to Pontiac) is transformed into a parade route, allowing participants to showcase their vintage rides. Woodward is also the first concrete roadway in America.
Originally started in 1995 as a fundraiser for a Ferndale soccer field, the Woodward Dream Cruise has morphed into the world’s largest one-day automotive event. But it goes well beyond a one-day extravaganza as related meets leading up to the cruise are held, along with additional cruises in Pontiac, Bloomfield Township, Berkley, Ferndale and other locales.
You can expect to see classic cars such as the Pontiac GTO, AMC Javelin, Buick GSX, Chevrolet El Camino, Mercury Comet, Dodge Polara, Ford Fairlane, Plymouth Barracuda, Olds 442 and many others on hand. Indeed, if you have a classic car you are invited to participate; there are no fees charged to watch or cruise the event.
Through the ensuing years, America’s car manufacturers have increasingly used the Woodward Dream Cruise as a platform to tout new products and to exhibit classic models. This year, the all-new 2016 Chevrolet Camaro will have its first public reveal, three months after it was initially presented at a closed media event on Belle Isle. Chevrolet is the presenting sponsor for this year’s Woodward Dream Cruise.
Chevrolet will have a dedicated display set up at Woodward and Old Woodward Avenues in Birmingham, where the new Camaro and other Chevrolet products, including the 2016 Volt, as well as coupe and convertible versions of the 1955 Bel Air will be featured. On the Wednesday before the event, a “Design on Woodward,” event hosted by General Motors will feature more than 100 personal vehicles from GM’s design team. That display will be located at Northwood Plaza followed by a “Chevy Performance” display at the northeast corner of Woodward Avenue and West 13 Mile Road on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
On Wednesday, Dodge will kick off its own festivities as ROADKILL Nights “Powered by Dodge” takes over a custom-built 1/8-mile drag strip at the Pontiac Silverdome from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Participants will duke it out in their personal cars for drag racing honors. On hand will be customized 1967 Dodge Dart and 1968 Dodge Charger models, with both cars outfitted with a 707-horsepower Dodge SRT Hellcat powertrain. A “Viper Owners Night” on Wednesday, a “Dodge Night” on Friday night and Dodge-sponsored rides on Saturday are among the other events related to this year’s cruise.
The Ford Motor Company is sponsoring the related Ferndale Dream Cruise, kicking off three consecutive days of cruising beginning on Thursday. On Friday, the 15th Ferndale Emergency Vehicle Show will have its ribbon-cutting at 5 p.m. followed at 5:30 p.m. with its “Lights and Sirens Cruise.” Thus far, Ford has not announced what cars it will show, although its display on East Nine Mile will be set up next to the Mustang Alley display on Saturday. Might Ford display its GT super car at Woodward?
As always, the Detroit area has numerous automotive-related destinations worth checking out besides the Woodward Dream Cruise.
The Fort Piquette Avenue Plant in Detroit is the birthplace of the Model T and welcomes visitors on Wednesday through Sunday, throughout the year. Open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the guided tours provide detailed information about America’s first mass-produced automobile and the history surrounding it. Ford fans might also consider the Ford Rouge Factory tour in Dearborn, where the aluminum-based Ford F-150 pickup truck is built. Rouge tours are held every day except for Sunday.
Detroit’s tallest building is the 73-story Detroit Marriott, part of the glass-wrapped Renaissance Center overlooking the Detroit River. Owned by GM and serving as the automaker’s global headquarters, the “Ren Cen” offers free tours twice daily Monday through Friday on a first-come basis. The tour showcases new, concept and vintage GM vehicles and includes a glass elevator ride to the top to take in the inspiring views of Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.
Other automotive destinations worth exploring while in southeast Michigan include the Walter P. Chrysler Museum in Auburn Hills; the Henry Ford Museum, Greenfield Village, the Automotive Hall of Fame, all in Dearborn; and the Detroit Historical Museum on Woodward Avenue.