Woodward Dream Cruise
|The Original Woodward Dream Cruise|
As a retired automotive engineer, the annual Woodward Dream Cruise here in Michigan each August represents the perfect time to reflect back on the cars and trucks that I had the privilege to work on as well as own over the years.
The 2018 Cruise was exceptional in that Debby & I were invited to the Roush Racing pavilion right on Woodward north of 13 Mile Road, literally at the epicenter pictured in the aerial photo below of the annual automobile pilgrimage.
We were invited by a fellow Ford retiree who now works for Roush. An informative blurb about the Company and it’s founder, Jack Roush, can be found by clicking on this link.
In addition to the ample food and refreshments that we enjoyed, Roush had set up elevated bleachers right on Woodward offering a perfect vantage point to observe the classic cars passing by. Most brought back some memory or another that I’d like to share with you in this blogpost.
An old Thunderbird was spotted which was like the first test car assigned to me upon starting work at Ford in 1973.
As a member of a team to develop an improved air conditioning system, Ford recruited me from Frigidaire in Dayton, which was the General Motors division responsible for GM's A/C system. At the time, Ford purchased many of their air conditioning parts from Frigidaire, and it irritated boss Henry Ford II that he had to pay his prime competitor for these parts. He directed our group to fix the problem, and after a couple years, we were quite successful. For example, the price of one part came down from from $110 per car to $55 while being 50% lighter. Plus we totally eliminated a $10 part, while also cutting the power draw from the A/C by 50%. I earned a patent on that idea!
To this day, Ford does not buy a single part from GM, or any other competitor for that matter. By 1977, I had moved into the management ranks at Ford so was able to lease my first Thunderbird, a two-tone red on white beauty like shown below that I recall driving down to Columbus for the Loramie Redskin State Basketball Championship game, which we fortunately won! To this day, we still have a Thunderbird; this 2004 model with only 6000 miles that we drove in the cruise this year.
Next to come along was a yellow Plymouth Satellite that looked a lot like a car my sister first drove, but when I texted her a photo, she said it was a yellow Plymouth Duster. I think she eventually totaled that yellow beast, if memory serves, but she was Ok! Her boyfriend at the time, now husband, had a really cool Plymouth Road Runner.
As a Ford guy, Mustang’s have always been one of my favorites, kindled by my first exposure to the pony car in the spring of 1964 at Eagle Park in Minster documented in this previous blogpost. We also had a yellow classic, our first ’68 Mustang, like this one that my wife drove. And Roush was exhibiting some really cool Mustangs in their corral, including one honoring their founder called the Jackhammer.
Probably the most popular vehicles in each cruise are the Corvette’s. The most iconic ‘Vette is the split window coupe, one of which I owned years ago. It sure was fast and loud with a big block engine and side pipes.
My favorite Corvette was a maroon ’65 convertible pictured below. This vehicle came into my hands after my brother-in-law married my wife’s sister and she wanted new furniture. So the Vette had to go, but on the condition that he could someday buy it back from me at the going rate. Whenever my brother-in-law and his family visited, he always gave his kids rides in the Corvette, but when it came time to give his wife a ride, for some reason the car wouldn’t start! Somehow it knew! Fast forward about 20 years, after babying that car for all that time, I received a call from my brother-in-law about a week before the Dream Cruise that he was ready to buy back the ‘65. Sad day for me; happy day for him! He’s since given the Vette to his son, who cruises around Russia, with his kids.
A blue ’59 Chevy came rolling past just like my first car, a hand-me-down from Dad. It even had the same black wheels and whitewalls. Hated that car!
A ’62 Chevy was also spotted, a lot nicer than my red Impala that I bought used from a high school classmate’s brother documented in this previous blogpost.
A gold ’69 Chevy Nova SS was my first new car, purchased for $1800 after trading in the ’62.
The Nova was special as I met my wife while driving that car. We had it for our first year of our marriage before a fraternity brother bought it. He eventually trashed it, then crashed it, so no classic life for that memorable car!
Look for more Dream Cruise photos and memories next week.