Woodward Dream Cruise is steeped in automotive heritage

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Hot rods cruise Woodward Avenue during annual Dream Cruise week | Mark Rozman photos

Riding a boom in automotive enthusiasm during the 1950s and ‘60s, nearly every town and village of any size endured teenagers and young adults dominating city streets on Friday and Saturday nights in their hot rods, muscle cars, or even just in daddy’s daily driver. The boys were looking for girls, the girls were looking to flirt, and they were all showing off with the exuberance of youth. 

The most serious cruising we know of was happening near Detroit along Woodward Avenue from about 9-Mile Road to a turnaround in downtown Pontiac. Even then, Woodward was a wide thoroughfare lined with commercial development including a variety of drive-ins particularly suited the cruising youngsters separated by plenty of stop lights for drag racing.

As demographics changed along with economics, traffic enforcement and other factors, cruising waned as a weekend activity for youngsters. But the spirit never left when decades later a spark reignited the lust for cruising.

Not only is the avenue packed, but so are display areas along the route

The Woodward Dream Cruise was born in August of 1995 when a group of sports boosters in Ferndale thought it would be a good idea to honor that tradition with a cruise to raise money for a soccer field. No one expected the explosion of car people who wanted to celebrate the culture of their youth.

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The Woodward Dream Cruise, always the third Saturday in August, has become the largest one-day automotive enthusiasts’ event in the world with well over a million participants and spectators. 

As was inevitable, it has drawn the attention of automakers, aftermarket businesses, advertisers and every kind of commercial entity wanting to be part of this phenomena. The Cruise has also grown to fill most of the week with associated events.

1948 Ford cab-over dualie is just one of the unusual vehicles you might see cruising Woodward Avenue

Every inch of the roadside for miles is filled with spectators watching cars often creep along in a bumper-to-bumper parade of every imaginable automotive oddity: from a pristine Olds 442 to a raucous rat rod; from a barely-running rust bucket of a ’62 Falcon to a prima-donna Packard Darrin; from a garbage truck converted to a party cruiser to a WWII Army Jeep. 

We guarantee, you’ll see something you didn’t know existed.

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Steve Purdy has been writing about and photographing cars, both old and new, for over 30 years. His words and images have appeared in more than a dozen publications and his photos have been featured in a variety of galleries. He has been involved in radio, film and TV projects as well including the creation of his own radio show about automobiles and motorsports that is currently part of the Web-based Michigan Business Network. His first love is classic and collector cars which, he says, represent the best in automobile aesthetics.

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