I’m on a pilgrimage. Last year I ventured to the lanes of Detroit and discovered a treasure, a holy place for gearheads: the Woodward Dream Cruise. It’s 20 miles of automotive brilliance of every creed, color, and nationality. Every year Detroit’s Woodward Avenue, which runs from GM’s turf, Pontiac, all the way down to Fordland in Dearborn, is packed with metal, all of it fashioned into the most beautiful shapes you can imagine.
Last year’s trip was unforgettable and induced a vow from my lips that I would be back. I’m a man of my word. This year’s cruise starts tomorrow, but I took off early to visit some family. It seems like Woodward ran out to meet me.
Friday, August 10th – I set out after work and drove into the night. It turned out to be the best time of day to traverse the breadth of the Midwest, and I saw little traffic, even in St. Louis, where the pearly and orange gates of the express lane, or as I like to call it, the Blessed Narrow Path, were open.
I also discovered that audio books, no matter how poorly recorded, compress drive times like that can crusher bolted to your garage wall. I rolled into my little hometown in Indiana at about 3am, having listened most of the trip to G.K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday.
Saturday, August 11th – After a forgotten night of travel-drugged sleep, I went outside to see my friend Troy and the ’52 Buick Super sedan he’ll receive as his fiancé’s dowry, as it were. Troy and I picked up some lifelong friends, Greg and Kim, got pizza for lunch, then set out for Tom and Carol’s.
Kim’s mom and stepdad, and good friends of mine, Tom and Carol own a demolition and excavating business, which means they end up with a great deal of cool stuff. They were having a sale, and I came away with some excellent artifacts, including (but not limited to) a 1914 Stutz Bearcat Jim Beam bottle, still sealed; a 1950 repair manual with instructions on how to fix every American car built between 1935 and 1950; a program from the 1973 Indy 500; and a gigantic model of a P-47 Thunderbolt.
We also took a look at Carol’s daily driver, a 1st gen 302 Cougar. The interior wasn’t perfect, and it was unfortunately an automatic, but it was a brilliant canary yellow and the headlight shrouds worked perfectly. The sound is beastly and beautiful.
Sunday, August 12th – After church and a chill day, Troy and I happened upon a local classic car club, casually meeting at a Dairy Queen. They sat in their meet shirts and shot the breeze, joking about giving a trophy to the guy who couldn’t get his 40’s-era Chevy flatbed started. Troy and I wandered around, ogling and snapping pictures of: a 2nd generation Impala convertible, all black; a 40’s Ford pickup with a slick, wood-paneled bed; a ’49 Ford Coupe; a Studebaker pickup with an SBC swap, and the one I’ll never forget: a 1970 Torino. It had everything under that paint, which must have been drained from the arteries of a Pegasus. Rear window louvers. Hurst T-grip shifter. The personal autograph of Bill Shenk. And, unbelievably, a 429 Cobra Jet with a shaker scoop. It was nearly perfect in appearance, and utterly perfect in exhaust tone.
Wednesday, August 15th – Troy and I headed down the road to pick up some brake pads for his beloved ’96 Grand Prix. On the way, we stopped at his cousin’s shop, which specializes in classic interior restoration. Under a mountain of protective foam rubber sheeting, he had a 1936 Auburn convertible, one of the last Auburns ever. He was almost finished with the restoration, just fabricating the cloth top. The iconic side exhausts needed to be bolted on, but the curious vertical supercharger was intact, sitting next to the massive straight eight, looking bored.
I got a call later that night from my friend Corey, who lives in Detroit. He said the Cruise is already well underway, and it took him and his wife half an hour to roll down a few blocks of Woodward. I could hear a jubilee of V8 music in the background.
As I headed out of Smalltown, Indiana this morning, I saw a perfect Boss 429 Mustang at a local dealership. I didn’t have time to get out and take a look, but I didn’t mind. Detroit is on the horizon. Stay tuned.