Royal OakAugust 20, 2012
Woodward Dream Cruise runs strong in 18th year
By Chris Jackett
C & G Staff Writer
Complete with a Pink Panther stuffed animal, John Yatros’ pink 1955 Crown Victoria was one of several eye-catching classic cars out last weekend during the Woodward Dream Cruise.
Often the site of baseball games, Memorial Park, on 13 Mile, between Woodward and Coolidge, was transformed into a parking lot of vehicles from as far back as 1914, with a heavy concentration on those from the 1950s through 1970s. Several, like Yatros’ Crown Victoria steel top, were limited editions. Only 33,165 like it were made.
“I was looking for a vintage car. I grew up in the ‘50s,” said Yatros, a longtime Madison Heights resident who just moved to Lexington. “This car came from Missouri. I ended up with a total restoration, a two-year project. It’s a labor of love.”
For many people, the pink paint — officially called tropical rose — is what draws a crowd around Yatros’ Crown Vic, but he said the glass headlights with an imprinted Ford logo, the circular elements of the dashboard and other details are what keep car enthusiasts around.
“It’s been a very big trophy winner car in its class. All the stainless steel and chrome has been redone. Most of what you think is chrome is stainless steel,” he said.
Sterling Heights resident Robert Lobert said he enjoys the variety of vehicles at the Dream Cruise, which is why he’s attended all 18 years.
“I’ve been coming here since the first one,” Lobert said. “These cars still hold up after all those years. There’s so much history.”
He said the cars bring back memories, and he wished he had held onto a 1957 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia and several other 1950s vehicles he owned when he was younger.
“When you’re young, you acquire, you enjoy and you pass on,” Lobert said.
Warren resident Shelby Jett held onto his red 1962 Chevrolet Corvette that was on display in Memorial Park. He purchased it 50 years ago when he was 20 and took it from his home in Redford Township to start racing it on Woodward Avenue the same day.
“This car was out here the day I bought it,” Jett said.
He’s shown off his Corvette for all 18 years of the cruise, and said he has done his own maintenance on the vehicle, along with a pair of black and maroon 1962 Corvettes he previously had, but continues to show the original red one because of other people at the cruise.
“You see a lot of your old friends. I come here for the friendship,” Jett said.
Several car enthusiasts at the Dream Cruise had success maintaining their vehicles, largely due to limited use.
Sterling Heights resident Joe Owczarek and his wife, Diantha, only have 72,000 miles on their white 1974 Chevrolet Caprice Classic. Owczarek bought his Caprice in July 1974 for $5,980.75 and said it hasn’t had a single mechanical failure since the purchase. It was also one of just of its kind 4,670 built.
“This is the rarest of Chevy’s back to ’41,” Owczarek said. “Everything works but the driver.”
Owczarek said he’s had the Caprice at the cruise 17 of 18 years and a local afternoon radio broadcast was even done from his car’s front seat while cruising up and down Woodward in 1996.
“We like the mix and all the people who come from far and wide. You meet a lot of interesting people,” Owczarek said, recalling an Australian man who flew over a Dodge Daytona with a fin and right-handed steering column. “It’s just a giant, well-controlled event.”
Yatros said the nostalgia is what likely brings many people out to the Dream Cruise each year. His memories of the 1950s are what caused him to buy his Crown Victoria, and he thinks the 1.5 million attendees and 50,000 classic cars at the Dream Cruise each year are a good indicator that others similarly enjoy reminiscing.
“It’s the camaraderie and the fact that we all grew up in these generations. People walk up and say they had a car like this or they took their first date in it,” Yatros said. “It’s a bit nostalgia, keeping something alive. We live to remember. We’re reliving our memories through (this event).
“There’s nothing like it in the world like this. People try to copy, but there’s nothing that compares. It’s just a great event.”
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