You learn early on that you can’t really experience the Woodward Dream Cruise. Take any other car show, even a race, and set it before your mind. You remember certain things about it, right? Little samples of your weekend. You picked examples of what that outing really meant, certain entries, stunts, or performances that truly represent it for you. You dug into those standouts, dissecting them with your eyes, printing them on your brain forever. Twenty years from now you’ll describe with precision the flawless beauty of that particular muscle car, or the way Mr. So-and-so made that unbelievable pass.
Partly due to its format, and partly to its scope, this method isn’t an option with Woodward. I first got an inkling of this while cruising and told my friend Corey so. “You can’t really take it all in,” I said, trying to catch a glimpse of a Caterham Seven or Ford GT40 rolling by past the median. “You just have to sortof skip across the top of it.” The Dream Cruise is 20 miles of eight lanes of cool cars of every era. You’re not going to see them all, and you’re not even going to get a great look at any of them, save the ones parked.
And there were plenty of stationary beauties. After cruising for over two hours (which I’d resolved at first to only be an hour), we finally parked so I could get a closer look at a McLaren F1 we saw along the way. We found a free spot a few blocks west of Woodward and hoofed it, camera in hand, until a masterpiece of yellow and black caught my eye.
I first read of the 1970 Buick Gran Sport GSX Stage 1 over a year and a half ago, writing one of my first bits for Streetside, about hood-mounted tachometers. I saw the honey-bee color scheme, I saw the little bump on the bonnet. It was a perfect example, thrusting me into a 1969 showroom, soft-lit through big, modern windows with a golden, Pacific brilliance. There wasn’t a fingerprint on the paint or a crease in the leather. We had to go.
That’s when I finally admitted what Woodward really is. It’s not an event, something to be understood and filed away in memory with searchable keywords. It’s an idea. It’s rather like a mountain range or a moon or a well-chartered nation. You know you’ll never get to see it all. You can’t get pictures of every car. You can’t listen to each individual exhaust trumpet. When we got to the drag, the McLaren F1 was gone, but I almost didn’t care, because a real Falcon F7 was in its place, next to a bare, bodiless tub and chassis that make up its lightweight foundation.
Woodward is a broad, blanketing experience. You find you enjoy it more if you just take joy in the fact that you know it’s there, that it’s really happening, that we live in a world and a country in which such a thing is not just possible, not just legal, but encouraged and even celebrated, and that you get to be a part of it, even if you’re driving a Japanese car with a puny little (if turbocharged) 2 liter engine. If you get to experience the Woodward Dream Cruise, don’t try to chew it all up. Don’t take it apart. Just run your heart over it, like a gloved hand over the pristine coat of that GSX.
We took a lot of pictures anyway. Enjoy.