More than 40,000 classic cars and a million spectators are expected for the Detroit area’s Aug. 17 Woodward Dream Cruise, the world’s largest automotive event. There are countless ways people experience what is officially a one-day, free event—but it’s preceded by several days of unofficial car shows and activities.

Historically, cruising Woodward was the cool thing to do on hot summer nights in the Motor City in the 1950s. The unofficial cruise meant squealing tires and throaty engines along the strip’s hangouts and drive-ins, including Ted’s, the Totem Pole and Wigwam, The Varsity, Hollywood, Suzie Q’s and Big Boy. It was called “Woodwarding.”

The cruise became a sanctioned event in 1995 according to, and now, a dozen communities play host. At the 25th annual cruise, visitors will find memories of—and likely see—ducktail hairstyles, poodle skirts, varsity jackets and high school rings. Muscle-car lovers will crane to ogle GTOs, Mustangs, Camaros, Firebirds and ’Cudas. Motorheads will reel off the dimensions for big blocks, hood scoops and hemis.

All kinds of parade lovers will turn out to feel the nonstop noise of this self-made parade of vintage vehicles, restorations, hybridized tuners and one-off motorcycles and hearses.

Some will set up lawn chairs to watch automotive history cruise by. Others will hold up numbers, Olympics-style, to rate the cars. Owners will park their wheels and pop the hoods along the route for roving bands of buffs.

There is even something for the sneaker set, who burn rubber in a non-automotive fashion, with a 5K Cruise in Shoes. To register for the run/walk, visit by Aug. 14.

Photo credit: Bill Bowen

Joe Grimm can hear the Woodward Dream Cruise from his home and has been seeing cars tuning up for the August classic since June. His latest book about Michigan is “The Faygo Book.”


Joe Grimm is co-author of “Coney Detroit” with Katherine Yung, which makes him one of the biggest hot dogs in Michigan. Grimm went to high school with Scott Lukas and prefers a coney dog made with a poppy seed bun. As a student, Joe Grimm biked from the Detroit area to Mackinac Island for more bicycling on one of the only places in the United States that does not allow cars. Today, one of his favorite overnight Mackinac resting places is the Island House Hotel.