ROYAL OAK, Michigan– Youthful enthusiasm for the automobile is alive and well, if you count can’t-wait-to-get-a-license young people like my 14-year-old nephew, Jeff Dziadulewicz. He came to Metro Detroit from Milwaukee with his grandparents last weekend to experience the world’s most interesting traffic jam, the Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise.
Though possessing the cool demeanor teenagers need to get by in high school these days, Jeff couldn’t suppress a big smile when I demonstrated first a Nissan GT-R’s power, then our Four Seasons Chevrolet Corvette Z51’s on short freeway blasts just west of the Dream Cruise on Saturday.
“Could you do it again?” he asked, before I found an offramp for the return runs.
Jeff likes the power and the speed, controlled and safe, of course, and he likes both the curvaceous styling of the C7 and the wedgy lines of the GT-R. He prefers (from the passenger seat) the Corvette’s full manual seven-speed to the twin-clutch automatic of the GT-R (I have promised to teach him how to be proficient with a clutch pedal). He’s awestruck by the Nissan’s reconfigurable display screen with readouts for turbo boost, lateral acceleration, etc. While the techno-cool Nissan GT-R twin-turbo V-6’s 545 hp beats the tactile Chevrolet Corvette naturally aspirated 6.2L V-8’s 460 hp, the sound of the V-8’s exhaust note wins out over the 3.8L turbo’s.
Jeff reveled in all the cruisers on Woodward: the occasional Ford Model T or A, a century-old Fiat touring car making the rounds, as well as all the Ford Mustangs, C1 and C2 Chevrolet Corvettes, Dodge Vipers, and Porsche 911s. (See the gallery for more photography by our own Patrick Hoey.)
Both the crowd visiting Woodward for the Dream Cruise and their cars and trucks have gotten more and more diverse over the years, though there are too many modern sport/utilities and minivans splitting up the field. There’s a rising call among the classic car cognoscenti to restrict Dream Cruise Saturday’s cruisers to worthy cars and trucks.
That would be impossible, though, for two reasons. First, who decides what’s worthy? Is a 2014 C7 or a Nissan GT-R, or any other late-model sports car? Would any era of Miata qualify? I think they should; they’re all interesting, handsome sports cars outside the mainstream. The second problem though, is that Woodward is a public road, paid for with tax dollars (though General Motors and others sponsor the Dream Cruise itself). Signs along the most popular sections of Woodward Avenue directing drivers that the two right lanes on each side of the eight-lane boulevard are for classic cruisers, only. But that doesn’t work so well.
There are no trailer queens at this show, but many of the cruisers spend most of their time – a few spend all of their time – with their cars parked in front of the myriad businesses along Woodward Avenue or in the nearby downtown streets of Birmingham. This helps prevent overheating (which was not a problem with temperatures barely reaching the high 70s last weekend), and lets the owners relax while spectators walk up and ask about their cars.
The disadvantage is that it’s not really cruising, although it’s far more laid back than having your car judged on a golf course overlooking the Pacific.
It’s a pretty good way to enjoy Dream Cruise, actually; take a lap on Saturday morning, then park your pride and joy at one of the many lots along the way (pre-arranged, of course, as parking space rental has become a big business here). The locals will have spent all week cruising up and down Woodward in the afternoons and evenings. The out-of-towners usually have Friday night for cruising, and the more experienced visitors will have procured spots for Saturday.
Anachronistic as the Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise is, it’s also a harbinger of things to come. In a decade or so, you’ll need an autonomous car, bicycle or public transportation to make your urban commute, saving the driver-operated automobile for transportation in rural areas and between cities, and for sport, and for annual celebrations of our culture such as this event. I have no doubt that Jeff will participate in all aspects of this transportation mix, but he’ll also want to drive his own car as often as he can.