Auto-palooza 2022: The Dream Cruise gets ready to rock Woodward

Posted by Talbot Payne on July 27, 2022

Birmingham — Here comes Detroit’s annual auto-palooza.

The annual Woodward Dream Cruise presented by Ford will rock M-1 on Aug. 20 with the glorious music of thousands of V-6s, V-8s, V-12s (and even a few electric motors) as the epic, rolling auto enthusiasts’ gathering celebrates its 27th year. The event caps off a week of festivities — starting with Roadkill Nights in Pontiac Aug. 13 — that includes charity events, car club parades and the Detroit Three showing off their latest wares.

Stretching across 16 miles — and nine participating Oakland County communities from Pontiac to Ferndale — the Dream Cruise attracts some 1.5 million people to Woodward to watch the world’s biggest rolling car show with more than 40,000 vehicles offering everything from Granddad’s restored ’50s sedan to the latest Hummer EV to classic muscle cars to the Batmobile.

Two Plymouth Satellites roll down Woodward near Square Lake Road and Woodward Avenue at the Woodward Dream Cruise on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021.

“We’re the grand finale of the week,” said Dream Cruise President Michael Lary, whose day job is Ferndale director of special events and projects. “Everything is coming together this year. Our biggest challenge is always Mother Nature.”

Rain or shine, the official event is the highlight of an unofficial summer of cruising along “America’s main street” as enthusiasts gather to celebrate the automobile on weeknights and weekends. The Cruise really gets rockin’ a week before with Motor Trend Presents Roadkill Nights Powered by Dodge at M1 Concourse in Pontiac.

Parallel to the M1 Concourse Car Club at the intersection of South Boulevard, Pontiac closes down a section of Woodward for street legal drag racing. Some of the country’s top drag racers are invited to bring out their rocket ships — past participants have included everything from dragsters to V-8-powered Priuses — for a daylong competition down a 1/8-mile track.

Drag racing at 'Roadkill Nights Powered by Dodge' on Woodward, across from the M1 Concourse in Pontiac.

There will also be a Grudge Match competition with a bracket-full of hot rod shops — Tavarish, Westin Champlin, Demonology among them — squaring off with drag racers built for the event from Dodge Direct Connection parts.

Behind the Woodward grandstands, attendees can also enjoy a variety of experiences on M1’s 87-acre property. Take a tire-smoking, tail-wagging, supercharged Dodge Hellcat thrill ride on M1’s 1.5-mile race track and skid pad. Or digitally pilot a Hellcat on a simulator. Or ogle displays of Metro Detroit’s finest hot rods, muscle cars and trick trucks while noshing a hot dog and cola.

“If you’ve ever dreamed of watching street-legal drag racing down Woodward Avenue, come to our event,” said Motor Trend’s Eric Schwab. “Going strong for seven years, the event has something for everyone whether you’re a drag racer, car enthusiast, or just looking for a fun day with family.”

But wait, there’s more.

Roadkill Nights kicks off a Dodge “Speedweek” with reveals each day from Aug. 15-17 including a new Hornet plug-in hybrid vehicle and muscle car EV concept as Dodge winds down production of its legendary Hellcat V-8 and redefines itself as an electric brand. For Saturday’s Cruise, Dodge will have a display near Pontiac with fan activities and more eye candy.

Dodge isn’t the only manufacturer with a big presence at the Cruise. With so many car people on Woodward, the event is catnip for companies seeking to show off their latest toys.

Ford is also going electric and will show off its new F-150 Lightning pickup and Mustang Mach-E at its Ferndale activation. Ferndale is also home to Mustang Alley, a sprawling buffet of every generation of the iconic pony car — and the largest car show on the 16-mile stretch of the Dream Cruise.

Ford Mustangs line 9 Mile Road for the famed Mustang Alley in Ferndale on Saturday, August 21, 2021 for the Woodward Dream Cruise.

Ford will have a second display in Berkley, where it traditionally shows off its latest performance vehicles. Past cruises have showcased everything from the mid-engine Ford GT to the 7-electric-motors Mustang Mach-E 1400 (as in 1,400 horsepower).

Further north on the avenue will be Chevrolet’s Birmingham display. Expect the new, 670-horsepower Corvette Z06 — engorged with the most powerful, naturally aspirated V-8 production engine ever produced —  to anchor a lot-full of the brand’s car and truck offerings.

Chevrolet will have a big presence at this summer's Woodward Dream Cruise.

But wait there’s even more. Gatherings of car clubs, old friends and old jalopies will meet up and down Woodward.

M1 Concourse will host its second annual Woodward Dream Show on Friday, August 19th in Pontiac with some 600 examples of the Cruise’s finest vehicles. In particular, the event will celebrate 90 years of the 1932 Ford “Deuce”, 100 years of the Lincoln brand, and 55 years of the Pontiac Firebird.

The Dream Show is “a dedicated facility for the auto enthusiast,” said custom-car design legend Murray Pfaff, whose 2022 Dodge Charger and Imperial Speedster – last year’s Best Hot Rod Custom Car – will be on display. “You can see the level of detail put into the shows from the different classes of cars to the curated displays and attentive staff.”

Pfaff will be on a panel at the Dream Show including designers Kevin Byrd, Adam Genei, and Steve Mank. Tickets for the Show are $50 if you are over 18 years of age, $25 for 13-17, and free for kids under 12.

One of the biggest gatherings will be at the Cruise’s epicenter, Memorial Park at 13 Mile and Woodward, where a variety of car clubs congregate. You’ll see anything from a hot pink 1955 Ford T-bird to a 1,000-horse Chevy Nova dragster to a striped 427 Shelby Cobra.

Shoulder-to-shoulder down Woodward will be clubs like the Woodard Tri Five Cruisers, which celebrates Chevrolets made from 1955-57, at Beaumont’s Urology Center parking lot just south of 13 Mile.

“We’re going to have a record turnout this year. We’re expecting 51 Tri Five Chevys,” said Roger Posey, who is president of the 20-year-old group. “We’ve got pickups, Nomads, wagons, even a 1955 Bel Air souped up with 800 horsepower.”

Groups like Tri Five are the backbone of the Cruise, with members attending in 2020 during the pandemic even as risk-averse corporations backed out with the official event canceled. With the pandemic in the rearview mirror, Posey says Tri Fivers from all over the country will be coming this year, including members from Florida and New York.

Dream Cruise president Lary confirms the classic car extravaganza is back to normal. “No one has mentioned COVID as an issue this year,” he said. “As an outdoor event, the cruisers never stopped cruising. This year we’ll be having our usual, traditional event.”

People watch the Light and Sirens parade on Woodward Avenue at the Ferndale Dream Cruise in Ferndale, Mich. on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021.

Ferndale officially kicks off the Dream Cruise on Friday, Aug. 19, with its annual Emergency Vehicle Show, 5 p.m. ribbon cutting, and Light ‘n’ Sirens Cruise. In addition to those familiar events, Ferndale will also have a Storyland of Floats featuring Detroit Thanksgiving Day parade floats, live rock music and an electric go-kart play zone for the rug rats.

Other community events along the route include a classic car parade in Berkley and the Pontiac Classic Car Show on Friday, and a Saturday Ford Bronco Show in Pleasant Ridge. Find more info at the official website.

Beside offering fun, nostalgia and camaraderie, the cruise benefits charities like the D-MAN foundation, which raises money to help provide transportation for disadvantaged kids. D-MAN signs up convertible muscle car cruisers, then loads in disadvantaged children so that they, too, can join the procession up and down Woodward.

“This event is all about providing the opportunity for our wheel-chair bound friends to get out of their chair and cruise down Woodward in a convertible,” said the foundation in its annual call for drivers who bring out Mustangs, Camaros and Ferraris.

Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at or Twitter @HenryEPayne.

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