Big changes are afoot for southeast Michigan’s largest annual event as the Woodward Dream Cruise approaches.
Officially, the Dream Cruise, which attracts more than a million spectators and 20,000 to 30,000 classic cars of all ages, makes and types, is just one day: Saturday, Aug. 19. In reality, Cruise Week has become a weeklong festival of events for fans of design, engineering and great vehicles.
Major events begin earlier than ever this year, with Dodge and Fiat Chrysler’s day of amateur drag racing and other events at M1 Concourse in Pontiac scheduled for Aug. 12.
A new sponsorship from Ford will bring other new events on Dream Cruise day, including safety lessons for young drivers.
The Dream Cruise adds at least $237 million to the regional economy and attracts more than 1.3 million people for the Saturday cruise, according to the Metro Detroit Convention and Visitors Bureau.
A whopping 26%, or 338,000, come from outside southeast Michigan, and at least 122,000 of those stay for one or more nights, filling hotels and restaurants for miles around the Dream Cruise’s route from Ferndale to Pontiac.
Those visitors spend an average of $250 a person, while the 960,000 people who live in southeast Michigan average $159 each for food, Dream Cruise collectibles and more.
“It’s a major event for metro Detroit,” said Mike O’Callaghan, the executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Metro Detroit visitors bureau. “It’s in our DNA.”
Keeping the Dream Cruise from becoming repetitive is a priority for president and CEO Tony Michaels.
“There’s nostalgia, but we also have to think of younger generations” than the ‘60s muscle car fans who originated the event in 1995, Michaels said. It helps that automakers, particularly the Detroit Three, use the event to showcase their latest performance and technology vehicles alongside the classics.
Drag race on Woodward — legally
The week starts with Dodge’s celebration of old-style muscle as amateurs drag race down one-quarter mile of Woodward Avenue in Pontiac on Aug. 12. The neighboring M1 Concourse will host a car show, stunt driving, dyno tests, simulators and more. The event drew 30,000 last year, when it was the day before the Dream Cruise. Moving a full week earlier should make it easier to attend and enjoy the spectacle of run-what-you-brung drag racing.
A celebrity drag race at 6:30 p.m. will feature Roadkill hosts and stars of “House of Muscle” and “Hot Rod Garage.”
Ford shifts the focus to modern performance cars — including the Le Mans-winning GT supercar, and 2018 Mustang — on 9 Mile Road in Ferndale on Aug. 18-19. Ford will also have displays of its performance lineup at Duggan’s Irish Pub and at Normandy Plaza, both in Royal Oak. Ford owner clubs will show their vehicles at Memorial Park in Pleasant Ridge.
Ferndale, where the idea for the Dream Cruise originated, plans three days of events beginning Thursday, Aug. 17. The agenda includes a live broadcast of Detroit Public TV’s “Dream Cruise Road Show”; vintage police, fire and military vehicles; TV and movie cars including the Batmobile, Munster Koach and Monkeemobile; monster trucks; Mustangs of all eras; and a free outdoor screening of the 1984 Bill Murray-Dan Aykroyd movie “Ghostbusters.”
The Dream Cruise officially begins at 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 18, with a ribbon cutting at Woodward and 9 Mile in Ferndale and a lights and sirens parade up the avenue in the vintage emergency vehicles.
Familiar faces in new places
One of the biggest changes for Dream Cruise 2017 is the loss of space at the corner of Woodward Avenue and 13 Mile Road in Royal Oak. Construction on a new hotel and shopping plaza affiliated with neighboring Beaumont Hospital has closed the parking lot and sidewalks that made the intersection an unofficial Ground Zero for the Dream Cruise.
There will still be plenty of action at 13 and Woodward, though. General Motors’ design staff will show their personal collector cars 1-7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 15, in Memorial Park on the intersection’s northeast corner.
The show follows a parade of the cars from Design HQ at GM’s Tech Center in Warren. It’s a chance to see the cars that designers admire and draw inspiration from, and talk to the folks who just might design your next car.
Chevy Performance will display modern and vintage performance vehicles and parts at the park Friday, Aug. 18, and Saturday, Aug. 19.
Chevrolet takes over the triangle formed by the confluence of Woodward and Old Woodward south of Maple Road in Birmingham on Cruise Day. In addition to that array of old and new Chevys, Old Woodward hosts a very eclectic collection from local car clubs that day.
The Corvettes on Woodward event, which attracted hundreds of ‘Vettes and their owners from all over the country, has been canceled. Organizer Larry Courtney hopes it will resume in 2018.
Cruise with a view
Keep an eye open for tour buses from Hagerty Insurance. The Traverse City-based company that’s the largest insurer of classic cars and wooden boats will be running two for its customers all day. Every seat is taken for the tours, which will include automotive trivia games and narration by some of Hagerty’s classic car experts.
Hagerty will also have a 1960 Plymouth Fury convertible driving Woodward. The car is the latest of the company’s employee restorations, projects where employees salvage a classic in the company garage during their downtime. The Fury just barely survived Hurricane Sandy, when the garage where it was stored flooded door-handle deep with salt water. Hagerty wrote it off for the insurance claim, but brought it to Traverse City for employee training rather than scrapping the car.
Expect more events to join the schedule between now and Cruise Week, and keep an eye open for me and other members of the Free Press Dream Cruise Team all week. The Dream Cruise is at its best early evenings early that week. I’ll be out enjoying the show. I hope to see you there.
CLASSIC CAR ADS, CONCEPT ART ON DISPLAY
Art from vintage car advertisements from the muscle car era and rare sketches for concept cars will be on display Aug. 4-Sept. 16 at the Royal Oak Historical Society Museum.
The “Chrome, Fins & Style” exhibition will also feature vintage pedal cars, including a rare 1964 Mustang. The advertising and concept art exhibition will also include work by some of the first women and minority car designers.
“This is a unique opportunity to see the ‘before and after’ artworks involving designing and selling cars. Before the cars can be produced, talented designers drew the cars that would go into production,” said Royal Oak resident Robert Edwards, who is producing a documentary on the designers of some of the mid-20th-Century’s iconic cars. “After the cars were produced, it was the advertising agencies artists who created exciting ad campaigns to entice the buying public.”
The exhibition opens with a reception 7-9 p.m. Friday that will include some of the designers. Tickets are $10 at the door.
Saturday’s Woodward Memories car show will include vehicles outside the museum and a photo display inside that re-creates some of the landmarks along the avenue from 1900 to the first heyday of cruising Woodward in the 1960s.