As automotive bucket-list items go, the Woodward Dream Cruise needs to be on your list, right next to attending the Pebble Beach Concours, driving the Pacific Coast Highway, taking in the Indianapolis 500 and showing your car at Bloomington Gold.
What began 20 years ago as a simple fundraising idea for a youth soccer field has mushroomed into what, in most measures, is the largest single-day automotive event in the world. Held each year on the third Saturday of August, the Dream Cruise attracts literally tens of thousands of cars of all types and upwards of a million spectators. No kidding.
Running from the suburb of Ferndale, at Detroit’s northern border, and looping around the city of Pontiac, about 16 miles up Woodward’s tree-lined, multilane boulevard, the sheer scale of the Dream Cruise must be experienced to truly understand its scope. In other words, you think you’ve been to some big car events, but this one is in a league of its own.
It’s bigger than that, too, because while the Dream Cruise officially takes place only on that third Saturday of August, enthusiasts start hitting the street for a solid week leading up to it, filling Woodward in the evenings, after work hours. And between us, those days ahead of Saturday are the best for catching cars in action. Saturday is a spectacle like no other, but the preceding days definitely offer more cars and fewer families in minivans.
We hit Woodward this year in search of the best Vettes and weren’t disappointed. As has been the case in recent years, the unofficial kickoff activity for Vette fans has been Corvettes on Woodward. Approximately 500 cars gather at the Kingsley Inn, just north of the city of Birmingham, on the Wednesday before the cruise, for a social hangout before swarming onto Woodward in the evening. There’s a charity component to it, too, which is admirable, but the real draw, of course, is the cars and everything from solid-axle models to C7 Z06s participated.
Downtown Birmingham on the day of the cruise has traditionally been a hotspot for Corvettes, too, particularly for C1 and C2 cars. While the cruise keeps moving on Woodward Avenue, the idyllic downtown, with its upscale shops and restaurants, offers a more traditional static display of vehicles, only a block away. It’s a nice alternative for those who’d rather stroll than roll.
No matter how you take in the Woodward Dream Cruise, it’s an event that should be experienced at least once by every red-blooded enthusiast. Automotive events don’t get any more bucket list-worthy than this.
We worked hard, pounding the pavement and rolling with the top down, to find 25 of the best Corvettes – and the stories behind them – along Woodward. Check out the accompanying photo gallery to see how we made out.