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A Brief History of the Woodward Dream Cruise, Detroit’s Classic Car Convention

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Classic 1978 Chevy Nova Coupe shift knob

Ever since the 1995 inaugural event, numerous people have officially gathered outside Detroit to cruise in their classic cars down Woodward Avenue every August. Unofficially, though, Woodward has been part of car culture and its predominance in the Motor City for decades.

With over 1.5 million people estimated to attend the upcoming 2017 Woodward Dream Cruise, it’s an opportune time to look back on the history of the largest automotive gathering in the world.

Headed to Woodward? Get ready for the long drive with these road trip tips

How the Woodward Dream Cruise Came To Be

history of the Woodward Dream Cruise

Chevrolet is a major sponsor of the annual Woodward Dream Cruise, including in 2015

In the 1950s, with the popularity of hot rods and muscle cars on the rise, the wide and oft-empty Woodward Avenue became a popular venue for unregulated street racing. As the metropolitan area around Detroit grew with more and more dealerships, garages, and parts suppliers, the strip of concrete became a haven for the hottest vehicles around.

Jump ahead nearly 40 years and the neighborhood of Ferndale is in need of funds to build a community soccer field for children. Plumber Nelson House, the mayor, and some volunteers have the idea to hold a fundraising cruise. The event, held on August 19, 1995, drew nearly 10 times the number of attendees more than expected. The event immediately became a beloved mainstay in the community calendar and attracted more and more people from across the nation–not to mention making gobs of money for the Detroit economy.

The annual event takes place on the third Saturday of August, this year falling on August 19th. It attracts nearly 50,000 classic cars from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. Enjoyable both for participants and spectators, the sidewalks and streets of northwest Detroit are filled with people showing up for the 12-hour cruise that stretches over 15 miles, between Pontiac and the Detroit city limits.

For the biggest gathering of the best cars you’ll ever see, Woodward is the place to go.

Source: Detroit Historical Society

Spending the Weekend in Michigan? Cruise over to Grand Rapids for these fun activities