Woodward Dream Cruise Celebrates the Partnership Between Road and Cars

Share Article

A history of the Woodward Dream Cruise and the partnership between road and cars by the Road Commission for Oakland County. This includes details about Detroit's Woodward Avenue's history and the start of the Dream Cruise.

Poignantly, the Oakland County Road Commission is celebrating our Centennial Anniversary during the Dream Cruise this year as the oldest road agency in the State of Michigan.

With the Woodward Avenue Dream Cruise taking place this weekend in Oakland County, it is important to reflect back on the history and importance of Woodward Avenue (M-1) as we celebrate this great roadway in America and its partnership with the automobile.

Commissioner Greg Jamian, Board Chairman of the Road Commission for Oakland County stated that, “Poignantly, the Oakland County Road Commission is celebrating our Centennial Anniversary during the Dream Cruise this year as the oldest road agency in the State of Michigan. We are also paying tribute to the partnership between the road and car along Woodward Avenue where it all began,” Jamian further added.

In 1848, when the bumpy, old log road gave way to smoother planks, young carriage drivers would race along Woodward Avenue from tavern to tavern. By 1958, the roadway was used for unofficial street car racing. The wide width, median and undeveloped adjacent land attracted a variety of drivers with a competitive itch to race.

Woodward Avenue became a vital pathway in the 1950s thru 1960s for Detroit's most important industry; the manufacturing of automobiles. Woodward was the only street where automobile engineers “street tested” new models, adding unique significance to the popular phrase, “cruising Woodward.” Perhaps this is why the U.S. Department of Transportation has listed Woodward Avenue as an “Automotive Heritage Trail.”

During this time, "Woodwarding" became the craze as teenagers discovered the thrill of taking the family car out for a spin along the boulevard from Ferndale to Pontiac. Cruisers gathered at drive-in restaurants, such as Totem Pole drive-in restaurant at Ten Mile Road in Royal Oak and Ted’s Drive-in at Square Lake Road in Bloomfield Hills. Muscle car competitions also hit their heyday in the mid-1960s. The media took note of the phenomena sending correspondents from Car and Driver, Motor Trend and CBS World News to cover the action on the strip.

The trend continued until new car safety standards altered car design in the 1970s. The majority of the cars on display were available and prevalent during the 1950s, 60s and early 70s prior to the OPEC oil embargo, which led to the Corporate Average Fuel Economy regulations of 1975. This spurred the growth in production of more fuel-efficient and less powerful automobiles. It was at this time that the “cruising” lost popularity.

In August 1995, a small classic car cruise was planned along the historic route in Oakland County as a fundraiser for the local Nelson House soccer team. The path spanned from Pontiac to Ferndale and all the way to the State Fair Grounds inside the Detroit city limits, just south of 8 Mile Road. That year, over 250,000 people participated—nearly ten times the number expected. Less than 20 years later, it is the world’s largest one-day automotive event.

“For most of the year, Woodward Avenue is a regular road; used as a point of reference for directions or to distinguish "east siders" from their west side counterparts. But the Woodward Dream Cruise draws about 1.5 million people and over 30,000 classic cars each year from around the globe. It generates more than $56 million in economic impact to the Detroit Metropolitan region each year,” states Jamian.

Today, the cruise celebrates the history of Woodward Avenue and a love for cars. While the cruisers are often mid-century American cars, each year a wider variety of participants has joined. You can now see exotic cars and prototypes mixed in with classic icons while taking in roadside food and entertainment. But whether you are a Corvette cruiser or a Fiat fanatic, one thing is for sure; there is nothing like the smell, sounds and views of a V8 engine on this historic roadway.

# # #

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Miranda Mayuiers
Visit website