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Dream Cruise 2019 – Where Detroit Comes to Play


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By Martha Hindes
Senior Editor
Michigan Bureau
The Auto Channel

Why would ANYONE want to sit and watch old cars drive by all day?


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For anyone reared on gasoline fumes, clutch pedals, historic VIN numbers and memories of outrunning local cops on Woodward Avenue, the original suburban drag strip a couple of miles north of America’s “Motor City,” Detroit, the answer is simple.


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Why wouldn’t they?

Tell that to the owner of the peapod green Honda Element in as pristine condition as the day it was manufactured nearly two decades ago.

The “why do it” question comes up a lot from people who might never have thought that an aging hunk of metal, plastic, faux or real leather and wearing its first historic license plate was anything beyond being a curiosity. But like those with a penchant for hitting a fast ball as a seven=year-old or disassembling a battery charger to find out how it works, it’s an answer that makes total sense.

And they’re the ones likely to be reading this kind of story anyway.

The Dream Cruise, as it’s become known internationally is, at age 25. an acknowledged big daddy of vehicle cruises. Those are the daylong streams of slow moving – make that inching along – collector vehicles that their proud owners have pulled out of garages, storage lockers or maybe even a man cave barn, polished up with tender loving care and brought out to show off for a massed audience of equally fanatical wannabe collectors. They are the ones who line up along the curbs in lawn chairs, with coolers, under tents or sun shades, for as many as three days to watch the endless parade of other people’s collector vehicles cruise on by.

And those who are cruising do it with the same pride as young parents hauling out their smart phones to show off their baby’s first steps.

We’re sure a psychologist could put some reasons behind this passion for cars and trucks of all ages. Maybe it’s reminiscing about a time in life when everything was cool and exciting, the car (or truck) that dad finally relinquished the keys to long enough to feel like a real adult, and a thousand other memories or reasons that particular vehicle was so special.

A lot of car loving people must relate to this kind of thinking. By the time it’s over, about 1-1/2 million people are expected to have been on hand for this year’s official one-day Saturday, August 17 cruise that in actuality begins, with increasing attendance, about a week in advance. Quite a difference from a quarter century ago when a few collectors decided it would be great to cruise north and south again on Woodward Avenue (the nation’s first-ever road with concrete paving aptly done where the U. S. auto industry was born) and rekindle old memories.

A best guess of 40 or 50 thousand collector cars brought to show off wouldn’t be an outrageously exaggerated number. There’s no registration or official entry to be part of the cruise. People just show up and start driving. And some come a long way to attend, with at least one owner in the past shipping his car to the cruise from Australia.

Friendships and mini competitions seem to develop almost immediately between cruisers who show courtesy and patience for others jockying for a good lane. And just about every vehicle has a story behind how it was discovered, collected, pampered and loved with a capital “L.”

Head north on Woodward for a few blocks and you’re likely to see a mixture of old, new, polished and rusted-out, barely functional cars and trucks.

Take the gleaming, screaming yellow, finned Chevrolet, with the license plate “1cool56.” A woman in a contemporary Cadillac XTS calls out through her open window “Want to trade?” as I cruise by in a bright orange 2019 Mustang GT convertible lent to me for a half hour drive by Ford.

Some ancient vehicles from the Bonnie and Clyde era are so old and dilapidated they look like they’d been pulled out of an abandoned barn or from behind the remains of a shed, but by some mechanical magic are operational again.

And then there are folks like the Wilshers of Lake Orion, in suburban Detroit.

“I don’t like the white knob,” says Laura Wilsher, peering into a locked Highland Green Bullitt Mustang on display. Her husband, Will’s 2008 Bullitt Mustang (production number 751) has a silver gray knob.

“I was a Trans Am guy,” says Wilsher. “Then I saw the Bullitt Mustang and that was it. It’s the only time I ever bought a car right from the showroom floor.”

Like countless collectors, Wilsher babies his treasured vehicle with only 21,800 miles on it, storing it in a heated/air conditioned garage and never letting it get rained on.

His wife recalls one cruise they were in when a storm came up suddenly. “When he got home he jacked it up and was drying it out underneath with towels,” she recalled.

Jerry Rogers, with his son Sam, on his first Dream Cruise visit, was eyeing the bright blue Mustang GT, the centerpiece of the Ford display. He works at an auto dealership in St. Lous, Missouri. But it’s Dodge, not Ford. And his job is to test out vehicles brought in for service. He’s driven about a half dozen of Dodge’s screaming Hellcats, “but never over the speed limit and always obeying traffic laws, he emphasizes.

His son who works nearby at a Ford dealership discovered the Dream Cruise five years ago when friends set up his bachelor party here. “I’d never heard of it,” says Sam. “We had driven for eight hours and I said ?are you driving me to Canada?’” Since then he’s become a regular.

For those who wonder if this kind of show is a one-trick pony destined to ride off into the sunset with the changing emphasis on vehicles and alternative means of transporting people around, Ford, like its cross-town and international rivals, continues to invest heavily in the often maligned internal combustion engine and in vehicles with the capability of seemingly impossible feats of power, speed and dexterity and to test those capabilities to the limit.

To prove that point, Ford held a media tear down and rebuild of its 5.2-liter, 760 horsepower, 625 lb. ft of torque V-8 engine, hand-built at a plant near Detroit. This is the powerplant for the GT500 super sports car durability test vehicle Ford was displaying at the cruise.

Each session took about a half hour to show off at the Ford media center set up at the cruise.

It took place under the watchful eye of Greg Coleman, of Ford’s Powertrain Engineering. He’s the test guy meant to find out any problems before they go out for sale or, in this case, before they go out on the track.

Coleman talked about the durability testing of the GT500 at road racing tracks around the country, including Gingerman Raceway in Michigan and Virginia International Raceway. The testing is so demanding at speeds as high as 175 mph on the bigger tracks they’ve already gone through 68 sets of tires.

That might seem like an impossible dream except for the few who will qualify to bny it. But those at the cruise who chirp their tires and roar their engines when starting up have their own version to enjoy.

Coleman calls it the “Stop light Grand Prix.”

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Copyright 2019, Martha Hindes, Automotive Bureau. All rights reserved.