Notes from the 2019 Woodward Dream Cruise

My perspective from cruising on and near the famed Avenue.

Todd Lassawriter, photographer

We were having a frozen custard Sunday evening, the day after the Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise, along with eight or 10 others enjoying their desserts on the outdoor benches, when a retirement-aged couple finished their cones and got up to go to their ride.

"I want to thank you for admiring my classic car," the husband said, pointing to the clean white 1997 Buick Park Avenue angle parked before us. "It has 154,000 miles on it," the man said, answering a question from the crowd.

As for the two bicycles on its trunk rack, he explained, "those are for emergencies."

A day earlier, on Woodward Dream Cruise Saturday, bikes came in handy for savvy observers of the quarter-century old event. Classic-car owners must risk radiators as they crawl up and down the boulevard as thousands of car lovers watch from parking lots and grass strips. Some might look at the day after as a quickly cured hangover, with most of the Dream Cruise signs and viewer barriers and T-shirt stands having disappeared by brunchtime, but there are still a few hot rods and muscle cars roaring past the Custard Cup stand near the corner of 14 Mile Road and Woodward. For those of us who are observer-participants, Sunday warns of the impending end of summer. There may be an evening or three between now and the Labor Day weekend when we all retreat Up North—northern Michigan that is—but there won't be scores of observers in folding chairs smiling back at our Bugeye Sprite's cheery face.

It has been a short summer, blunted both by too much rain in June and July, and my never-ending efforts to get the 1960 Austin-Healey Sprite running more reliably than it ever has. Thanks to big help from friends Keith Price and Automotive News reporter/British car guru Richard Truett, my wife Donna and I entered the Bugeye for our first time in the annual Berkley Cruisefest Parade Friday night in the eponymous Detroit suburb.

The Berkley Cruisefest Parade begins with hundreds of cars gathering in a cemetery at Woodward and 12 Mile and then promenading west about a mile to Greenfield Avenue. Donna and I were sandwiched between a 1950 Chevrolet two-door sedan with a Powerglide up front and a 1971-ish Chevy Camaro SS behind. Metro Detroiters like American cars whether from General Motors, Ford, or pre-Fiat Chrysler, but our smiley Sprite gets lots of attention in the form of waves, thumbs-up, and photos.

Some people in the audience less well-versed in foreign autos asked what we were driving. "Is that a Fiat?" is a common guess.

I don't know what kind of transmission the Camaro had, but I had some envy for the leading Chevy's Powerglide as we inched along in first gear all the way. The Bugeye didn't much appreciate this either; it was stumbling and didn't like running above 3,000 rpm or so by the time we pulled off the parade route and got back into normal traffic.

I cleaned off the spark plugs Friday night, and our car ran much better on Dream Cruise Saturday, though with ambient temperatures well into the 80s, we found spots to cool it off three or four times on the run from 9-1/2 Mile and Woodward to the equivalent of 16 Mile and back. The lesson is that whether you're running Lucas, Prince of Darkness, electrics or not, it's more fun to be part of the Cruise than it is to be in the audience. It's hard to pass up the fun of participating, risk and all . . .

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