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fontman
08-18-06, 01:52 PM
Detroit's love affair with car lives
By DAVID N. GOODMAN
Associated Press Writer

BIRMINGHAM, Mich. (AP) -- Three-dollars-a-gallon gasoline, hard times in the auto industry, rising joblessness - nothing seems to be able to extinguish Detroit's love affair with the car.

That love will be on display at the Woodward Dream Cruise.

It began 12 years ago as a one-day chance for classic car owners to cruise down the street to show off their stuff. Since then, the week leading up to the official car cruise has become one big party.

Organizers, who call it "the world's largest one-day celebration of car culture," predict more than a million people will turn out Saturday to watch an estimated 40,000 show off vehicles that span the history of the car.

"It's an escape. It's an outlet for reliving memories from the past," said Don Tanner, the cruise's executive director. "Nobody wants to miss this, whether gas is $2 a gallon or $4 a gallon."

The Dream Cruise covers a 16-mile stretch of Woodward Avenue from the Detroit city limit through Pontiac and touches nine of the city's northern suburbs. It runs from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday.

The event is free and depends on financial backing from major sponsors that include General Motors Corp., Eaton Corp. and the MotorCity Casino.

The two outer lanes in each direction are reserved for "classic cars," which the event's Web site said "are loosely defined as those manufactured before 1975 or a vehicle of special interest."

George Orris has a 1930 Ford Model A pickup truck with green body and black fenders back home in Clinton Township. He's had it for 40 years.

"It was a hot rod when I bought it," said the 69-year-old retired potato chip executive. "I restored it to the original."

Fourteen-year-old spectator Stormy Karbacz of Dearborn had a clear idea of what she wanted to see. "Nowadays, cars are just the same," she said, sitting in a tree-shaded folding chair next to her father, Joe, on Wednesday. "Cars back in the day - you don't see 'em anymore."

"I appreciate the nice paint jobs, and I appreciate the restoration work," said Joe Karbacz, who said the cars show "a lot of talent, a lot of art."

He said he planned to return Saturday to make a couple of circuits of Woodward Avenue in his restored 1972 Chevy Nova.

Not everyone loves the Dream Cruise. They include merchants who are forced to close because customers can't reach them and residents who are faced with miles-long traffic jams.

A sign in the window of Wesch Cleaners in Birmingham said it would close from noon Friday to 7 a.m. Monday. The closing was just fine with employee Melinda Hughes.

"Last year, I had a good time, so I said I'd be back this year," she said.

Some environmentalists got a jump on the Dream Cruise last weekend with the second annual "Green Cruise" in Ferndale. A Green Cruise poster urged people to "celebrate all forms of transportation that do not burn fossil fuel" by honoring those who walk, bike, run, rollerblade or swim.

Joe Karbacz said the Dream Cruise event brings out the best in people. He said, "Somebody could be starving, but they'll find $20 to get some gas."

On the Net: Woodward Dream Cruise: http://woodwarddreamcruise.com