ROYAL OAK, Michigan – What kind of cars and trucks are you likely to see on Woodward Avenue this weekend? You’ll see the sort of classic cars and trucks that will never appear at the Pebble Beach Concours, because those are trailered, not driven.
Hard-core cruising begins by the previous weekend, during evenings, though. By Saturday, many cruiser cars will be parked at the various retail business lots fronting the wide north-south avenue, between Ferndale and Birmingham, and again up in Pontiac to the north.
One problem we’ve had for years is shooting photos of these cars while on Woodward on the Big Day. You’ll see them in one or two lanes closest to the curb, but with too many modern minivans and SUVs surrounding them, dominating your photo.
This crowding makes it nigh-impossible to get any kind of speed during the peak hours, roughly 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, and with these old cars and trucks, you have to worry about the efficacy of your radiator and fan. So I went out during a couple of weekdays in search of some interesting cruising machines and their owners. Here’s what I found:
1954 Chrysler New Yorker Town & Country (top)
OWNER: Murray Couch of Porter, Texas
SPECS: Rat Rod, with 354 cubic-inch Hemi V-8, 727 automatic transmission, 1963 Mercury nine-inch rear end.
HOW MANY DREAM CRUISES?: “I’ve owned it six years, and been to Dream Cruise three times with this car. I’ve been coming out here about 10 years. I drove this from Texas.” (It has air conditioning.)
HE SAYS: “I wanted a rat rod. Everyone had a rat rod, I had a bunch of nice-looking cars. I found the body and frame. There was no engine, transmission, suspension. A guy in Normange, Texas bought 10 cars out of Abilene. This is the only one he couldn’t sell. He sold it to me for $500” (but it took Murray three donor cars to build).
I SAY: Possibly the most sublime car on Woodward this weekend.
CRUISE OR PARK ON SATURDAY?: “I’m going to cruise, then park at the car wash” (north of 13 Mile, on west side of Woodward, near Duggan’s).
1967 Pontiac GTO
OWNER: Ken Grace of West Bloomfield, Michigan
SPECS: Original and stock, with 360-hp, 400 cubic-inch High-Output V-8, four-speed manual gearbox. “Other than radial tires and secretly hidden XM radio, she’s real stock.”
HOW MANY DREAM CRUISES?: Ken has owned the car for 18 years, and brought it to Dream Cruise each of those years.
HE SAYS: “I had a ’66 GTO in the ‘60s, when I was young and single. I absolutely loved it. I got married and went from a GTO to a Vega. My wife told me to find one. It took me three years. I wanted a convertible, a ’66 or ’67, it didn’t matter, and a four-speed.”
I SAY: I couldn’t resist featuring this iconic muscle car in the year of its 50th birthday.
CRUISE OR PARK ON SATURDAY?: “I have to park. It’s impossible to cruise. You have to worry about overheating. If it was just cruisers (on Woodward on Saturday) we could do it.”
1963 Ford Fairlane 500 2-door hardtop
OWNER: Jerry Worful of Detroit
SPECS: 302 cubic-inch V-8, “probably more than 300 hp,” Toploader four-speed manual, GT40 heads, 1.6:1 rocker arm ratio.
HOW MANY DREAM CRUISES: Owned for 20 years as of last February; “basically 20 years on Woodward.”
HE SAYS: “I wanted a car, and this guy had a car that was all-original. He had bought it for his son, but the son’s friends laughed at him because it wasn’t an S-10 or Camaro. He paid $3,000; I gave him $1,500.”
I SAY: It’s a good, less-expensive alternative to an early Mustang.
CRUISE OR PARK ON SATURDAY?: “I’ll be home at the garage, working. I restore stainless steel aluminum trim for classic cars.”
1971 Oldsmobile 98 Luxury Sedan 2-door hardtop
OWNER: Tony Yauch of Warren, Michigan
SPECS: All original, with 455 cubic-inch four-barrel V-8, dual exhausts, three-speed automatic transmission, 44,500 miles.
HOW MANY DREAM CRUISES?: “I’ve owned it 13 years. I’ve come to Woodward with it all 13 years. Bought it at 13 Mile and Woodward, where the Kroger used to be.”
HE SAYS: “I paid $6,600 for the car. I think I got ripped off.” [Sticker price new was $6,671.34 with options.]
I SAY: There’s nothing more evocative of the pre-OPEC embargo era than a 5,000-pound, 225-inch-long full-size-plus luxury car with two doors.
CRUISE OR PARK ON SATURDAY?: “Cruise it during the week, then park it and run my ’07 Mustang convertible on Saturday. [The Olds] needs at least 93 Octane to make it run. I can’t keep dropping $80 into the tank.
Jeep Quicksand 2017 Moab Easter Safari Concept
OWNER: Fiat Chrysler of Auburn Hills, Michigan
SPECS: Chopped, extended-wheelbase Jeep Wrangler with aluminum doors, redesigned grille, 392 cubic-inch Hemi V-8 crate motor, ‘drag chute’ rear recovery rope, Warn winch, Moon tank, staggered 32-inch front outer diameter, 37-inch rear outer diameter BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain tires.
HOW MANY DREAM CRUISES?: If certain unnamed people can sneak this and five other Moab concepts out, this will be its first.
I SAY: A good way to build anticipation for the imminent unveiling of the all-new, aluminum-bodied 2018 Jeep Wrangler. Described as an “off-road dragster,” it’s the perfect Jeep for the Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise. Just don’t ask its driver to try smoky burnouts with those tires.
CRUISE OR PARK ON SATURDAY?: Watch for it on Woodward Avenue this Saturday. If it’s not raining.