Sometimes it seems we get on a theme for a period of time, and I realize we often find events with wheels, but the third weekend in August was the best weekend of automobiles we have had. The main event of the weekend was to go to Detroit for the Woodward Dream Cruise. We had been to this a few years earlier passing through, but this year I wanted to spend the day checking out the events.
We left Columbus before dawn, arriving in downtown Detroit by 9 AM. Most of the cruise takes place in suburban Oakland County, but I had read that the Ford Piquette Avenue Plant had an event the day of the cruise. The Piquette Avenue Plant is a museum in the second home of Ford, and is known as the birthplace of the Model T. It is the oldest automobile factory building in the world open to the public, and has been open as a museum since 2001. On this day they were going to have a cruise of classic cars up Woodward through the city to Oakland County.
As I drove up in my Audi S5 to the front of the factory the attendant said ‘are you cruising with us today’? When I commented that I thought it was for classic cars, he said mine was easily cool enough to come along, which of course brought a smile to my face. But still initially we parked in a vacant lot across the street (being inner city Detroit there are many vacant lots), crossed the street where we signed in, and followed a lady inside to see the factory. Little did I realize we were going to start out on a freight elevator, the same elevator that took finished Model T’s out a hundred years earlier!
Already mesmerized we walked out onto the old wooden floors to see a large collection of Model Ts, Model As and others displayed down the production floor. For a car guy this was like being where the telephone, radio and television were perfected, only all in 1 place! I stood there imagining what it would’ve been like full of machinery, noisy and smelly, but re-inventing the world as we now know it. In addition to the vehicles the museum did a great job of displaying photos and other artifacts explaining the production there.
On the third level were even more cars represented, this time from various periods including a 1964 Mustang and a early 2000s reproduction GT.
As we left the building the attendants again asked if I was coming along – of course. The parking lot was filled with American muscle, from hot rods to tricked out Mustangs, as well as a few old Model Ts, which were honored to lead the parade. The Detroit Police had been contracted to lead the parade and off we went, all these classic American with my German ‘hot rod’.
The drive up Woodward goes through much of what most people think of Detroit, blocks upon blocks of vacant lots or burned out buildings. But we also passed a couple of really nice looking neighborhoods. As we drove everyone walking along the street would wave, shout and take pictures because very few of the cars in town would come into this area.We had as much fun as they did, taking photos of the neighborhoods, going through every red light (probably a good thing), until we reached the edge of town and joined the rest of the Woodward Cruise crowd.
As we continued north our parade did a U turn and went through Palmer Park. As we drove it seemed more cars joined in. Once you reached Ferndale the street becomes 4 lanes each way with a huge median strip for those Michigan left turns (U turns). From this point there was a traffic jam for 10 miles, but one of the best looking traffic jams you will ever see.
The Woodward Dream cruise has no rules about who can and can’t drive up and down the street, so you get a mix of about 70% cruisers and 30% your normally frumpy Honda just trying to go to the grocery store. The cruise is the world’s largest one-day automotive event, drawing 1.5 million people and 40,000 classic cars each year from around the globe—from as far away as New Zealand, Australia, Japan and the former Soviet Union.
Every parking lot was having some sort of event, Chrysler had a Mopar display in a shopping center, Ford had Mustang Alley down 9 Mile Road. With the afternoon getting late and rain coming in we decided to move on, but not for home as we had more cars planned for the next day.
Leaving Detroit through the southeastern Michigan countryside, we eventually stopped in Angola Indiana for the night, stopping briefly on some country road to stand where Michigan, Indiana and Ohio come together.
The next morning we made our way to Auburn, Indiana, first touring the National Auto and Truck Museum. This museum is in some of the remaining production buildings of the Auburn Automobile, including the Service and New Parts Building, and the L-29 Cord Building.
The Service and Parts building, built in 1923, was used for test – driving automobiles, factory service and distribution of parts to distributors and dealers all over the world. The L29 building was built in 1928-29 for assembly and storage before shipping, and was innovative in it’s use of skylights that opened to provide ventilation.
Also here is an extensive toy and model cars and trucks display from the 1800s to present day. In the lower level in an extensive truck display include a custom built GM vehicle called the Futurliner, one of 12 large dual-front wheeled display vehicles that crisscrossed the country in the early 1950’s, part of a General Motors promotion called the Parade of Progress.
Next door is the beautiful Auburn, Cord, Dusenberg Museum. This building functioned as the Corporate offices as well as an extensive showroom, with the showroom section exceeding even the Packard Museum in Dayton for a stunning display of automotive brilliance. Never have I seen more beautiful cars in a magnificent setting.
The upper level feature more of the 3 brands over the years. The Dusenberg’s particularly were stunning cars with their long hoods and art deco feel. The upper level also houses the design studios that were used, complete with some of the original desks and designs. This museum and these automobiles truly are works of art, highly recommended to anyone who appreciates either.
As we made our way to our last stop of the day we passed through Fairmount, Indiana, home of James Dean. They play it up, as most towns do their famous sons or daughters, but in the end it is just a simple little town in the middle of cornfields.
Finally we reached the small town of Alexandria, Indiana where we had an afternoon of watching go cart racing through the streets of the town. These small karts can hit speeds of 80 MPH down the 3 block long straights.
There were a number of classes for both adults and kids, with the racing close and fast. But you can only have so much fun over two days with things with wheels, and ours came to an end, so we headed off for the 3 hour drive back to Columbus.