More than anything else, the Woodward Dream Cruise is about self-expression

’32 Ford Coupe

Muscle cars are a big deal at the Woodward Dream Cruise. Especially given the role that they played in Woodward’s history and establishing its primacy as a car guy destination. As described in a previous article, this is where the OEMs brought their latest and greatest to test and battle unofficially.

But Woodward’s wider theme is self-expression – witness the countless donks, imports, hot rods, trucks and vans that have been customized. While some mods are mild tweaks, maybe wheels and paint, some defy description. Check out the Cosmic Cruiser, for instance. Following are 10 hot rods, trucks and vans that we enjoyed and wanted to share. They might not be your taste, but you’ve got to respect the work and vision.

  1. An ominous sky and a more ominous hot rod, a ’32 Ford Coupe roars by with a tunnel-rammed Chevy Small Block and dual quads. (photo by Josh Scott)
    ’32 Ford Coupe

  2. This International pickup truck shows off a custom intake that disappears into the firewall. Might not be turbocharged, but it might. Best not to challenge it… (photo by Josh Scott)
    International pickup truck

  3. Pretty, classic Deuce (’32 Ford) rolling north on Woodward Ave, on Thursday, August 18. Notice how light traffic is? That’s because the Dream Cruise is two days away. (photo by Josh Scott)
    ’32 Ford

  4. Standing so close to the road as this 1956 Ford F-100 screamed by, our photographer risked deafness to bring you this shot. The word “loud” does not do it justice. (photo by Josh Scott)
    1956 Ford F-100

  5. A 1936 Nash is the art deco canvas for traditional scallops-into-flames. It was lined up for Roadkill Nights Show-n-Shine on Friday, August 19. (photo by Josh Scott)
    1936 Nash

  6. Set up for drag racing, this T-bucket doesn’t have doors or a proper roof (or roll bars for that matter). All you get is a massive engine, massive rear tires and just-long-enough wheelie bars, which you’ll need. (photo by Josh Scott)

  7. This little VW dragster and 1939 Ford Tudor Coupe are lined up to enter the M1 Concourse for Dodge’s Roadkill Nights racing. (photo by Josh Scott)
    1939 Ford Tudor Coupe

  8. The Willys Jeep Truck was built from 1947 through 1965 and was restyled only once, in 1950. This one appears more suited to a muddy trail than Woodward, sporting large aftermarket tires, but then again everything is at home on Woodward. (photo by Josh Scott)
    Willys Jeep Truck

  9. One of the wildest rides spotted cruising Woodward (or anywhere) was the Cosmic Crusier. It originally debuted on the show circuit in 1978 and has undergone multiple changes since, including four additional wheels. Today, it’s powered by a 600hp, 454-ci LS6 V-8 and is over 36 feet long! (photo by Josh Scott)
    Cosmic Crusier

  10. The most surprising thing about this lime ’32 Ford is that it’s actually powered by a 302-ci Ford engine, rather than the ubiquitous Chevy Small Block. It was also one of the cleanest Hot Rods cruising Woodward. (photo by Josh Scott)
    ’32 Ford

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The Woodward Dream Cruise: Top tips for first-timers

Vinsetta Garage on Woodward

On Aug. 15, the Woodward Dream Cruise is motoring into its 21st annual year, bringing approximately 1.5 million people and 40,000 classic cars from around the globe straight to the heart of Michigan. Not only is it a grand event for the masses that shouldn’t be missed, but it is also for a good cause — more than 50 local charities benefit from the sales of official Dream Cruise merchandise and refreshments each year. Word of the event has spread far and wide, and we have gathered some tips and tricks from Dream Cruise pros for first-time attendees.

[Video: Check out scenes from the Woodward Dream Cruise]

August in Detroit is hot, hot, hot!

If it is like the last few years, it is going to be sunny and hot. Plan accordingly. Don’t forget your sunscreen, drink lots of fluids and seek out shade when possible.

The early bird gets the worm.

Show up early — to everything — and be prepared to walk. It’s best to pay for and reserve your parking spot months in advance. Once you find a parking space, keep it —they are gold. Cruise early and then park by early afternoon. By midday, traffic is thick and cars commonly overheat, especially large-engine vehicles. Thursday and Friday are good cruise nights, and some folks recommend getting there extra early to do a few laps before 9 a.m., then parking before getting stuck in the full bumper-to-bumper action.

So much to see, so little time!

If you want to park and walk in to enjoy the show, there are a lot of parks, churches and business complexes that will have paid, monitored lots going east and west of M1. If you haven’t reserved a spot or made arrangements, gas stations just around or south of 696 usually don’t mind you parking awhile, but you are likely to get kicked out of anything north of 12 Mile Road.

Vinsetta Garage is the spot to go for good eats on Woodward, but it’ll be packed, all day, every day. Try showing up at 11 a.m. when they first open, especially on Thursday, and you should get seats in a decent amount of time. Duggan’s is also popular for its food and view of the Avenue; you can show up early and watch the cars cruise from the 2nd floor. And right next door to Duggan’s is Pasquales, a great Italian restaurant. Also try Athen’s Coney, Redcoat Tavern and Hunter House for other unique-to-Woodward dining.

[Video: Learn the history behind Woodward’s iconic Vinsetta Garage]

Ferndale is a significant place to visit during the cruise. It has an entire street festival based around the cruise that is fun for the whole family, along with some excellent restaurant options.

First timers may want to find a spot at the epicenter of the action, mainly between 13 and 14 Mile roads. Pontiac is also becoming a more popular spot to hang out and watch; it is the northern turnaround area and will be less crowded than other places along the route. Downtown Royal Oak, about a mile east of Woodward, is a good location to eat and relax if you want to stay close but be away from the crowds.

If you’re in the Bowtie Brigade, 15 Mile and Maple Road is your mecca. Birmingham will have displays of supercars and your higher-end fare, and in previous years they could be found near Pasteiner’s auto book store between 14 and 15 Mile. The Blue Oval legions converge at 9 Mile, and MOPAR was late to the Woodward party, but they had a small setup near Vinsetta Garage last year.

The big day:

Find a place for your lawn chair on Saturday and watch the cars cruise by — let the cars come to you. Pack a lunch if possible. Some Woodward veterans recommend not cruising at all on Saturday, but instead get up extra early and find a place to park on the main drag. This allows you to relax, watch the cars go by and talk about your car with all of the people passing by.

Woodward leads straight into the heart of the Motor City. Downtown Detroit is awesome, and Highland Park is home to the old Model T plant. The cruise ends promptly at 9 p.m. just south of 9 Mile Road, and large sections of the strip get cut off, so plan on leaving early if you need to be somewhere. Getting off of Woodward before 9 p.m. is ideal if you want to avoid a massive traffic jam on the side streets.

There’s an app for that:

The Woodward Dream Cruise now has an app for Apple and Android products so you can have the event schedule, area maps with hotel and restaurant locations, and photo uploads right at your fingertips. Find it at

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Photo Gallery: The Iconic Woodward Dream Cruise

Woodward Dream Cruise

Officially, the Woodward Dream Cruise is a 12-hour event held annually on the third Saturday in August. Organizers say approximately 40,000 classic cars from around the globe cruise past some 1.5 million spectators on that day alone. Unofficially, the Dream Cruise – held on legendary Woodward Avenue in Detroit – is a weeklong celebration of the automobile, with most of the activity occurring along a seven-mile strip from Birmingham to Ferndale. You’re sure to see everything from Motor City muscle, sports cars and classic rides to modified hot rods and whacky homemade creations. Never been? Wondering if it’s too good to be true? Trust us: the Woodward Dream Cruise is the common man’s concours – a rolling car show of enormous and sometimes outrageous proportions that should be on every car lover’s bucket list.

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