In the 1950s, cruising swept the nation. American streets became impromptu racetracks as soon as the police turned their backs. Young people piled into friends cars and cruised their main streets with a new sense of freedom. Pent-up desires after the hardships of World War II plus a booming economy fueled a car-buying frenzy. To lure buyers to their particular makes and models, automobile companies targeted the youth market by focusing on design and performance.
No place was that more relevant than on metro Detroit’s Woodward Avenue, the cities number-one cruising destination and home of the worlds automobile industry. Barely 50 years earlier, Henry Ford rolled his first Model T off the assembly line at Piquette and Woodward, just south of where cruisers, dragsters, and automobile engineers ignited each others excitement over cars. This unique relationship extended into the muscle car era of the 1960s, as Woodward Avenue continued to reflect the triumphs and downturns of the industry that made Detroit known throughout the world.
Planning for a 1995 Dream Cruise began in Ferndale in November 1994 as a fundraiser for a community project – most immediately a new soccer field. Resident Nelson House headed the committee, supported by the City Council. Hopes were that a few hundred “muscle cars” would be on display July 15. Then the next day was to be a parade on Woodward, from Marshall to Woodard Heights.
Some 500 cars appeared, the public was enthralled, economic prosper were promising and five other communities along the Woodward Corridor – Pleasant Ridge, Royal Oak, Huntington Woods, Berkley and Birmingham – wanted in on a 1995 Dream Cruise, which would extend from the site of Hedges Wigman (10 Mile) to Ted’s Drive-In (Square Lake Road), the original 1950s cruiser “strip.”
Woodward – once a Native American footpath, then a planked military road, next a route for 1890s inter-urbans, and then a main road for the first Fords from Henry Ford’s Highland Park assembly plant – has endured for generations. The Dream Cruise, rain or shine, continues to evoke an iconic highway, southeastern Michigan development, the auto industry, and a way of life.