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Woodward Dream Cruise: A Day Near Detroit Beats a Weekend in Monterey

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 8/17/2015 Scott Burgess

It’s the single biggest automotive event in the world totaling between 40,000 and 60,000 classic cars rumbling down a historic road. More than 1 million people participate in the festivities either driving or watching the spectacle of sheet metal.

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That event, of course, is the Woodward Dream Cruise, which celebrates its 20th anniversary of officially recognizing something people have been doing for generations: getting in a car and cruising. The event almost always takes place on the same weekend as the Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance, the crème de le crème of automotive events.

Woodward Dream Cruise© Provided by MotorTrend Woodward Dream Cruise Really, to compare the two events would be unfair; the two groups rarely meet. Pebble Beach is filled with 1 percenters meandering along a golf course gawking at parked cars. Dream Cruise participants have oil under their fingernails and smell vaguely of gas after replacing a failing fuel pump during a 500-mile drive to attend the cruise. They arrive in T-shirts and shorts and flip-flops. During the course of the day, I never saw a person in a linen suit or a whale printed on anything. The only costumed people along Woodward were people in themed cars like the Blues Brothers Jake and Elwood. At Pebble, the entire crowd wears costumes; they just don’t know it.

The Dream Cruise, which really takes place for the entire week, culminates with Saturday’s cruise. It has no official start time, but veteran cruisers typically take a couple of laps along a 10-mile stretch of Woodward Avenue in the morning and then park their car for a while, then cruise some more. There’s no schedule or ceremony, it just is. Locals joke that it’s 1 million people watching traffic. It’s much more than that.

The collection of vehicles is incredible, ranging from Model T’s to McLarens. Some have just as much historical significance as those billionaires’ collectibles that are sold for millions at one of the weekend’s auctions in Monterey. Sadly, those cars will be carted off to a hermetically sealed warehouse, only to experience the damaging effects of sunlight at another show that serves tea and cucumber sandwiches.

Woodward Dream Cruise: A Day Near Detroit Beats a Weekend in Monterey

The Dream Cruise is fueled on leaded gas and hotdogs. Portable grills line the street as families gather for a roadside tailgate party that lasts all day. Spectators search for shade and $1 bottles of water as they tempt drivers to burn some rubber and risk the $300 fine police impose over the weekend. It’s an event where PBR is served without irony and you don’t need to know a country club president just to get in. Everyone is welcome at the Dream Cruise; the price of admission is simply showing up. Try showing up at The Quail without $600 or Sunday’s Pebble Beach’s Concours without $350, the current ticket prices. Security will toss you to the curb.

On Sunday, judges at Pebble Beach will pick the best of show, and there will surely be rumblings about the politics behind the winner’s selection. Along Woodward Avenue, everyone wins, as there are no judges in stuffed shirts, just a raucous applause for personal favorites. There are no rules, just opinions and endless automotive debates. The Dream Cruise is the one day a Mustang owner can approvingly nod at a Camaro. It’s a celebration of all of the love and dedication so many vehicles get from their owners.

And most owners do most of the work. That might be the biggest difference of all.

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