Who wouldn’t be impressed by a yellow 1969 Road Runner so hopped up the driver can’t even see out the windshield over the custom built intake rising more than two feet above the hood?
I mean it has more shiny chrome add-ons and additional power than a sci-fi movie space ship! Yet, it’s so retro, over-the-top and unabashedly American, it is irresistible.
It was our first stop along Woodward today and is just one of the thousands of head turning automotive projects that have been pulled out of storage or rushed from the garage after last minute adjustments and cleaning to make it out to Woodward Avenue this weekend.
The owner is one of the originators of the 18 year old traffic jam/Motor City heritage.
Ralph Haney and his buddies first came up with the idea of a big car meet up and down Woodward in 1995. It started slow and he remembers designing the first t-shirt that sported a Corvette and the saying "Remembering Woodward Avenue."
But it didn’t take long for the Dream Cruise to explode, as loudly as his Road Runner engine, onto the Royal Oak and Ferndale Landscape.
And if you ask guys like Haney a question you seriously need to want to hear the answer because it will come in mind bending, detailed jargon.
Of his Plymouth he told me today, "it has a 671 blower. On top of the 671 blower are 2 Holly 660’s. It has a 275 shot Nitrous oxide system on it so if you can’t go fast enough with the belt motor and you can’t go fast enough with a belt motor and blower you can hit a button and you get 275 more horsepower by hitting the bottle!"
You get the idea they’re a tad obsessive compulsive regarding getting from point A to point B quickly and with an inventive flourish to boot!
It is this uniquely American energy that drives the drivers along Woodward Avenue not only on the big Saturday night show, when the metal monsters literally take over all eight lanes, but even in the weeks and days before. What we see in these waning days of summer every year now is Metro Detroit’s DNA on display for the world.
Whether it’s a purple AMC Javelin restored to perfect working order, a panel wagon chopped up with mag wheels and springs so high it leans farther forward than MSNBC, or a Model T so lovingly preserved you can’t help but sigh in combined awe and wonder.
Joining in on the fun are quirky vehicles like a 70’s vintage Volkswagen Micro-Bus pulling a trailer containing an exact replica of it in miniature --for a child to drive.
I saw a moped with giant motorcycle tires and the laugh of the day came from John Equinozio who was driving around his 1915 T-Bucket Ford/Dodge custom hybrid. He had Looney Toons characters on the three inch wide fan belt that made his 1957 392 Hemi engine rumble to life and the carburetor air intake had painted on eyes that nearly quoted Humphrey Bogart "here’s looking at you kid." He had pictures of what it looked like when he bought it 53 years ago in Canada. He told us "I paid $210 over there for this, all I got was the body, the wooden wheels and they didn’t charge me a duty to bring it cross. The man said there wasn’t enough there!" It was a piece of junk then, it’s an amazing piece of lovingly restored and rebuilt machinery that gives John more pleasure than anything else in life.
This is Detroit, this is who we are. It’s an acquired taste that outsiders might not understand.
There are so many retirees making this thing go it makes you worry about the longevity of this fascinating and loud festival of engineering, imagination and bravado.
Years ago, when the Vinsetta Garage was thee mechanic shop of the Dream Cruise and not a restaurant, one of the techs told me that the difference between a classic and a piece of junk was very simple: rust! The difference between the Dream Cruise being a special event or anachronism is one very simple thing: The Spirit of Detroit!
This is who we are, it is who we were and this is the window into Metro Detroit’s soul.
Have fun everyone!