ROYAL OAK — The Woodward Dream Cruise is partly about the excitement of seeing cars — muscle cars, sports cars, historical cars — that at one point throughout history were a common sight along the avenue.
It’s about greasy food stands normally reserved for the midways of carnivals. It’s about the classic music emitting from loudspeakers along the cruising route, which used to be played brand new on the radios in the vehicles.
But as organizers of the event will tell you, the cruise is also about family.
For years, Joe Lambert, 61, has had his yellow 1959 Austin Healey Sprite on display with hundreds of other classic cars inside Memorial Park.
“It’s become a tradition,” he said.
And while coming to the cruise with his wife, son and daughter has become a tradition, the 2013 Dream Cruise marked the first time the rest of his family joined him in showcasing their own cars.
His wife, Carol Lambert, had her red 1965 convertible Ford Mustang parked alongside his. Two cars down, their son and daughter-in-law, Christopher and Rachel Lambert, parked their very own 1954 Chevrolet 210.
And like the 497 other classic cars that were expected to sit at the park near the intersection of 13 Mile Road and Woodward Avenue Aug. 17, each have memories attached to them.
For Carol, her Mustang was a surprise birthday gift from Joe in July.
Joe had been hunting for a mid-1950s Chevrolet but was unable to find one. During his last trip seeking out the vehicle type, he was on the west side of Michigan. Unsuccessful again, he was leaving the garage when he spotted the Mustang covered in a thin-enough layer of dust that the Red Wings-red paint job — Carol’s favorite team and color — was still shining through.
He bought it and kept the car parked in a detail shop.
When her birthday came, he had it parked in the neighbor’s driveway.
“He put me on a scavenger hunt, Carol recalled.
“Look for something red,” he told her after giving her the keys.
When she finally spotted her present, the first words out of her mouth, well, cannot be printed in the Review, but they were words of joy.
“And I could have won a bet on that,” Joe said, regarding his prediction on her reaction.
Two cars down at Memorial Park sat Christopher and Rachel’s teal 210. They bought the vehicle three months earlier.
The couple received a 1968 Lincoln three years earlier as a wedding gift.
“That thing was a beast,” described Marie Lambert, Joe and Carol’s daughter. “It was too big almost to fit into a standard garage.”
Also, the car didn’t run properly. So they sold it, and throughout the next couple of years, saved up money to buy another classic car.
“We used to come down here every year and have envy for all the people who have beautiful cars,” Christopher said.
When they found the Chevrolet on Craigslist, they immediately imagined themselves driving down Woodward come August.
“We got it with all intentions of being able to drive in the Dream Cruise,” Rachel said.
Carol said it creates a sense of pride when someone walks to your car and begins to ask questions in awe.
“It’s exciting to just have someone look at your car,” Carol said.
Joe said people will identify with the car, and it will spark a memory.
“All day long people will come up to you and say, ‘That was my first car. I had one of those. My dad had one of those. Somebody I knew had one of those,’” Joe said.
And to the Lamberts, the stories of family behind the cars are what the Woodward Dream Cruise is all about.
“It’s the thrill of it all,” Carol said.
Behind the Lamberts’ trio of classic cars was a baby who, Joe said, was receiving more attention than their cars.
Under the shade of a nearby tree, Christopher and Rachel’s nearly 1-year-old daughter, Madeline, sauntered, creating three generations of Lamberts enjoying the Dream Cruise.
The families said that one day, she’ll inherit all their classic cars and the stories that go along with them. Until then, they said she’ll just be a car kid.
“Next year, we’re hoping to get her a poodle skirt so she’ll be dressed the part,” Rachel said.
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