Woodward Dream Cruise More than just a car show

How the dream for a soccer field in Michigan grew into the world’s largest one-day automotive event – stimulating the local economy and cherished family memories.

Back in 1995, Ferndale, Michigan’s, mayor and local resident brainstormed a way to raise funding for a local children’s soccer field. They opted to organize a one-time classic car “cruise” up and down the streets of Woodward Avenue in the little city that borders Detroit. With initial estimates of 25,000 attendees, organizers were stunned to welcome more than 250,000 people. And so, the Woodward Dream Cruise was born.

Today, the world’s largest one-day automotive event draws nearly 1.5 million people as well as 40,000 muscle, collector and special-interest vehicles of all kinds to the Motor City each year.

The Woodward Dream Cruise celebrates the era of classic American cars, right in the birthplace of the American automobile. Taking place along a 16-mile stretch of Woodward Avenue, from Pontiac to Ferndale, Michigan, the event has become an annual rite of summer for many - including ZF employees.

A family affair

For mother-son duo, Nina and Dominic Palazzolo, this event is an annual family outing. “Our family has always had a passion for cars and, over the years, we’ve continued to add cars to our collection,” explains Nina, an executive assistant at ZF. “This year I had my 1970 Mercury Cougar Eliminator and Dominic had his first car, a 1964 Mercury Comet, at the show.”

While the cruise has evolved over its 23-year history, the event is still reminiscent of the ‘50s and ‘60s when people would show off their cars cruising down Woodward Avenue. In addition to cruising there are a number of other activities that take place during the event, including vehicle displays, safety and technology exhibits and lots of food and music. There seems to be a gathering of long-time attendees around each corner, admiring and critiquing the vehicles as they pass by while swapping stories about their first experiences on the legendary road.

“My father always referred to Woodward as the historic and often mythical road he would race his 1966 Tri-power Pontiac GTO at in the 1960s,” remembers Neb Stevanovich, engineering program manager at ZF. “Today, I have a 1995 C4 Corvette with a ZF 6-speed manual transmission. Each year I look forward to taking it out for the Dream Cruise and feel proud to wear my ZF polo when I drive it.”

Reviving Metro Detroit

The benefits of the event are not only felt through the enjoyment of those who attend, but the local economy as well. According to the Metro Detroit Convention and Visitors Bureau, this year’s Cruise is expected to inject nearly $240 million into the metro Detroit economy – an annual impact rivaled only by the North American International Auto Show. What’s more is that about 26 percent – or roughly 338,000 people – will come from outside the region, introducing out-of-towners to all that metro Detroit has to offer. The historical event will once again serve as a place for car lovers from all over to form new memories.

“I have cruised Woodward in everything from a family sedan to a classic convertible to a Winnebago – it’s all about the experience and the memory,” shares Neb. “I’ve had a passion for cars since I was a little boy, holding the service light for my dad in the garage as he worked on his car. In fact, I bought my Corvette specifically to have something to work on and share with my own son like my dad did for me.”

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