Name the biggest display of automotive history to ever roll down a single street?
Normally, such an event is called a "cruise." By calling it a "cruise," it means a display of cars of yesteryear where you can expect brutal exhaust noise and the rumbling of very large engines. The vehicles on display are indeed impressive, from old-school hit rods to today's tuner specials.
Not everywhere has such as "cruise." During the "Back to the '50's" weekend here in the Twin Cities, there is normally a "cruise" of the vehicles displayed at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds to Porky's, an old drive-in on University Avenue in St. Paul. However, the construction of the Central Corridor and the closure of Porky's have altered plans for the annual event.
Still, there is one cruise that refuses to yield to any road construction or transit development. The cruise takes place in the city where the automobile remains the economic engine for a city and its region. The street is a long one stretching from the banks of a river connecting two Great Lakes to somewhere towards the center of the lower half of the state.
The Woodward Dream Cruise turns its namesake boulevard into the greatest rolling display of petrol-burning metal in the world. It has also become a huge parking lot party for the region's major corporate citizens: Chrysler, Ford and General Motors.
To do the Dream Cruise is to do so to honor Detroit's history. This is the impetus for this edition of Five Favorites. To ask, simply, what five vehicles would I drive down Woodward Avenue during the Dream Cruise?
Sadly, I can't make it this year. I have plans that weekend that involves a car – a newer one – and another automotive-related event locally. But, what if I didn't have that on my schedule? What if I went to Detroit and had to come up with five historic vehicles to show off on one of America’s greatest boulevards?
These five are pretty easy – considering my history with some of them.
1970 PLYMOUTH BARRACUDA: My father bought the original car just when the 1971s were coming onto the lot. I believe this was on a lease, but that's nothing to him. It wore a shimmering Jamaica Blue Metallic with a white vinyl roof. Inside was a shimmering blue, especially from the vinyl seats. The Torque-Flite transmission was housed in one of the coolest center consoles ever designed. Under the hood was a 318 – a 5.2litre V8 for us in today's world. My Woodward Barracuda would be exactly the same car – mint condition, of course. It would wear whitewall tires like the original did – except they would radials for today’s driving conditions. It may not be a fire breathing 'Cuda with a Six-Pack or a Hemi. It would be the prettiest Barracuda on Woodward, guaranteed.
1965 PLYMOUTH SATELLITE: This was another of my father's purchases during my lifetime. If I am not mistaken, he bought this new to replace mom's 1955 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Starfire convertible. She ended with the 1960 Chevrolet Corvair. This one was 2-door hardtop in white with a black vinyl roof and black vinyl interior. I assumed it was a 318 (5.2litre V8), but I could be wrong. Mine would be the same for historical purposes. Again, I would swap out the old Bias-plys with whitewall radial tires. There is a pattern here: If something was significant in my life, why ruin it with customization? Let it glide, baby…and the Satellite can do that on Woodward in style.
1967 CHEVROLET IMPALA SPORT COUPE: If I'm going to celebrate the Centennial of the brand on Woodward Avenue, I might as well bring one of its finest products. Of course, referencing my past helps in finding the right Chevy for Woodward. After all, the brand is sponsoring this year's Cruise. A 1967 Impala works just right – especially one exactly like the one my parents had. This would be a white Sports Coupe (the fastback model) in white with a blue vinyl interior and a 327 (5.4litre) V8 under the hood. As with the rest of my heritage vehicles, the whitewalls are radial tires instead of bias plys. Everything listed so far have been mid-sized cars, therefore this full-sized beauty would turn some heads on Woodward, right?
1970 BUICK SKYLARK GRAN SPORT 350: I'm certain some enthusiasts would admonish me for not choosing a GS 455, GSX or a Stage 1. Why? The 455 (7.5litre) V8 was already changing the rotation of the planet many revolutions ago. In the GS, it had 350HP on tap with a whopping 510 lb-ft or torque. Yet, Buick's high performance 455s had flawed engine blocks and other faux pas under the hood. The proven Small Block is more than adequate to parade one of Buick’s finest moments on Woodward. It's not about the fact that Buick made a muscle car. It is because people actually like the concept of a near-luxury quarter-miler with the gumption to challenge lesser-priced rivals. I'd take mine in gold with a black top and black vinyl seats.
2012 CHRYSLER 300 SRT8: If you have to bring a modern vehicle to the ultimate street party, you might as well go big. A Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger or Chevrolet Camaro would do. Not me. I would like to be subtle and drop a huge hammer on Woodward. Sure, it would be better to bring the fire breathing Charger SRT8 down the street, but why? I love the "wolf in sheep’s clothing concept" where you take the new 300, firm up the interior, make some subtle changes outside and induce the soul by dropping the 6.4litre V8 with 470HP on tap. I’ll take mine in black, please?
Cover photo courtesy of Chrysler Group LLC via Flickr