Woodward Dream Cruise 2012
This annual rolling car show pays homage to American dream machines.
If fat-fendered cars make your rockin’ world go ‘round, then the Woodward Dream Cruise is your sort of party. The largest one-day automotive event on the planet, Woodward is all about real people and real cars driving on a real road.
So what brings an estimated one million people and more than 40,000 cars to Detroit? Six lanes of urban boulevard, packed for almost the entire 16-mile cruise with everything from classic antiques to modern muscle cars and everything in between. Once a street-racing haven and always a cruising scene, Woodward Avenue runs straight through the Detroit suburbs and into the heart of American car culture.
This is a populist affair. Since the scenery isn’t anything special, the endless parking lots and grass verges are perfect for plopping down a couple of beach chairs and watching the chrome go rumbling by.
Started in 1995 as a fund-raiser for a local soccer field, the Woodward Dream Cruise has built on what’s been driving up and down Woodward for decades, mainly muscle cars. Fans of the American V8 are the mainstay of Woodward, and the thunder of eight big pots and a lumpy cam is the real soundtrack of the show.
These days at Woodward every angle of the automotive hobby is represented. Cruisers, racers, lowriders, military vehicles, street rods, antiques, Class 8 tractors — they’re all on Woodward. But mainly it’s red, white and blue, 4-speeds and twice pipes.
There’s no charge and the cruise officially runs on the third Saturday in August from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. In reality, there is so much action that Woodward actually runs for several days heading into Saturday. With the crowds out for the weekend’s main event, some veteran Woodward watchers have taken a preference to Friday night — the scene is just as intense. The more adventurous can mix right in, there isn’t a barricade in sight and Woodward Avenue remains open to all traffic.
While free-form cruising is why people plan vacations around Woodward, there are numerous organized displays and activities. It is Motown, after all, and the major carmakers set up extensive displays of their show and project cars. Typically these are so large that each manufacturer needs multiple displays along the route. Food and drink are plentiful, along with plenty of cruisin’ rock and roll. It’s a candy-apple family scene.
With this much horsepower running loose, a bit of right-foot expression is bound to break out. In years past more enterprising spectators would sling buckets of water, the better to facilitate massive, smoky burnouts. Today an all-hands police presence, along with a volunteer radio net, keeps tire squeals to a gentle roar.
No one can begin to see all of the Dream Cruise because of its multi-mile scale. That didn’t stop us from trying, so hang an elbow out the window and cruise through the galleries, while a zephyr of warm night air and rockin’ radio tunes carries you down the boulevard.
Longtime Road & Track contributor Tom Wilson’s credits include local racing championships, three technical engine books and hundreds of freelance articles.