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Tuesday, November 30, 2021

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    Cool classics jam Woodward on a steamy Dream Cruise Day

    Birmingham — The Woodward Dream Cruise came roaring back Saturday, a rolling reminder that if you love cars, the third Saturday in August is your Super Bowl.

    If you love the Super Bowl, conversely, don’t bother bringing it up with Steven Ross.

    “I’m a car guy,” he said, standing alongside his Montana red 1960 Chevrolet Impala along Old Woodward, and he was in good company — an expected 1 million to 2 million spectators, including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, as the Cruise came back from a pandemic-related cancellation last year.

    Cars cruise down Woodward Avenue in Royal Oak on Saturday.

    “Let’s put it this way,” said Ross, 64, of Bloomfield Hills. “Some guys can talk sports. I don’t know a thing about sports. You want to talk classic cars, I could talk all day.”

    A few yards away, the world’s coolest traffic jam proceeded as expected on a steamy day that topped out close to 90 degrees. A surprisingly rare Dream Cruise fender-bender and a stalled 1957 pickup each delayed traffic briefly, but if COVID-19 could only stop the Cruise in theory, a wreck involving two non-classics was just a speed bump.

    A rat rod rolls down Woodward Avenue in Royal Oak early Saturday morning.

    Ross was among thousands of drivers and spectators who came out anyway in 2020 after the Woodward Dream Cruise committee scrubbed the event. Woodward is a public road, after all, so the only measurable impact was smaller crowds and no portable toilets.

    Ross took advantage of the smaller turnout to switch cars and drive more, bringing out his 1969 Pontiac Firebird and 1931 Ford Rat Rod. With the Impala at the 26th Dream Cruise Saturday, he wore a T-shirt that said, “No, I’m not the original owner.”

    A family makes its way around Ford Mustangs along 9 Mile Road for the Woodward Dream Cruise on Saturday, August 21, 2021.

    Joseph Waterman, 80, of Livonia also drove a ’60 Impala — and he is the original owner.

    Waterman’s is white, with whitewall tires and 145,000 miles on the odometer. The red-and-white houndstooth interior is original.

    As for his reddish-brown mop of hair, not so much. “Hair Club for Men,” he said.

    Joseph Waterman, 80, of Livonia is the original owner of this 1960 Chevy Impala. Here he checks under the hood during the Woodward Dream Cruise on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2021.

    The Impala has always been a weekend car, he said, and it’s sturdy enough that he drives it to Indiana every year for a car show, though the carburetor failed at last year’s unofficial Dream Cruise and he needed to be towed home.

    This year’s turn for a tow fell to Ron Pannecouk of Algonac, whose pristine 1957 Ford F-100 pickup stalled between 11 Mile and Catalpa in Royal Oak.

    “It just quit. I think it’s a fuel issue,” said Pannecouk, 81. Spectators quickly pushed the white-on-yellow truck off the road, and Bradley and Donovan Brennan of Troy Auto Care hauled it away on a flatbed.

    Ron Pannecouk, right, of Algonac had his Dream Cruise cut short when his pristine 1957 Ford F-100 pickup stalled between 11 Mile and Catalpa in Royal Oak.

    “We come out once or twice each Cruise,” Bradley said.

    Pannecouk’s AAA membership includes long-range towing, so he rode home with the Brennans. His long-term flame, Linda Bekes of Sterling Heights, caught a ride with a friend.

    “We love it,” she said of the F-100. Said Pannecouk, good-naturedly, “I don’t love it so much right now.”

    Getting juiced

    Tow trucks aside, there was something for everyone along Woodward, even if it was just juice boxes. Two pre-kindergartners sat with their dad under a blue awning, alongside a deep blue Pontiac Bonneville convertible, happily sipping as they faced away from traffic.

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