August 12, 2009
It never gets old.
By Peter M. De Lorenzo
(Posted 8/11, 9:30am) Detroit. I was going to write this column about the Dream Cruise, but then again I can safely say that there aren’t enough words to adequately describe the event to people who dwell from outside of this region and who have never experienced it for themselves. It’s hard to explain to outsiders that people around here bring their cherished cars and trucks out - from unrestored originals to wild customs and anything and everything between - at the first whiff of spring and run up and down the famed Woodward Avenue strip on Friday and Saturday nights throughout the summer and well into the late fall. Sure, other cities all over the country do something similar, but you’d be hard pressed to find an entire region that is so immersed in this stuff to the degree that we are.
Before our southern California readers get up in arms over that statement, it is duly noted that the car culture in L.A. is just as passionate and just as enthusiastic, but it doesn’t encompass an entire region like it does here. There are plenty of other fun and worthwhile diversions and distractions in L.A., while here it has always been about the passionate and unwavering pursuit of designing cars, engineering cars, building cars, racing cars, talking about cars and of course, driving cars. (Well, there’s passion for football, baseball and music, too, but that’s another column for sometime down the road.)
Truth is the moniker “Dream Cruise” has always turned me off because it doesn’t even come close to conveying what this particular week is all about or do justice to the scope of the event itself. It actually trivializes what goes on here, as a matter of fact. But after 15 years the name has become ingrained, and we’re stuck with it. Fortunately, the event transcends labels and categorization.
This event is a celebration of who we are, where we’ve been, and yes - and you’d be surprised about this fact - it’s about where we want to take this industry in the future too. And to dismiss it as merely a nostalgia exercise that clings to a dying way of life with a dying region acting out in its death throes is simply emblematic of misinformed and misguided thinking. I could say something far more derogatory than that - like it’s unmitigated bullshit - but I will restrain myself.
How can this wallowing in chrome and horsepower be about the future when the Green Revolution has now been anointed as The Way to our energy independent salvation? Because the center of global automotive development still resides right here, and this is where the innovations for our future transportation solutions will come from.
Don’t believe it? Then why is it that virtually every major auto manufacturer in the world has set up research and development facilities here in the last few years? Why is that that Tesla, for instance – that darling of the green-tinged hordes – had to come and set up an engineering center in suburban Detroit? For the balmy February weather? Hardly. It’s because of the talent that is crawling all over the place in this region. Tesla couldn’t get their cars to work without enlisting the kind of engineering talent that exists here. (It’s one thing to be the green darlings of the media and political intelligentsia - it’s quite another to be able to design, engineer and build vehicles that actually work in the real world, apparently. Tesla has since closed the facility after they got what they wanted.)
After months of being battered in the media, after two of what were once quaintly known as the “Big Three” have pirouetted into bankruptcy, after an entire industry - an industry that played and still plays an inexorable role in the industrial fabric of America - has been repeatedly vilified and lambasted for all manner of egregious sins both real and imagined, it’s nice to see that this week - this celebration of where we’ve been, where we are now and where we need to go - has not only survived, but it’s alive and thriving.
Yes, the corporate sponsorship component of the event has diminished almost down to nothing this year compared to past years, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because the event has returned to its roots, which at its simplest was and is a gathering of people who just love and appreciate cars.
And for the people still immersed in this industry, the passion displayed at this event is a poignant reminder that we must remember what really matters in this business above all else, and that is to never forget the essence of the machine, and what makes it a living, breathing mechanical conduit of our hopes and dreams. And that in the course of designing, engineering and building these machines everyone needs to aim higher and push harder, with a relentless, unwavering passion and love for the automobile that is so powerful and unyielding that it can’t be beaten down by committee-think or buried in bureaucratic mediocrity.
We’re embarking on a new journey of transportation in this nation and around the globe, and far from being disenchanted with it or upset about it, I’m looking forward to it. Exciting new solutions and new technologies will be brought forth, and it will be an exhilarating time to be alive and be a part of.
And much to the consternation of the naysayers out there, this passion for the automobile that has been derided and criticized by so many will not only live on, it will get even stronger.
And for one exquisitely simple reason:
The freedom that personal mobility brings will never get old.
Thanks for listening.
Publisher's Note: Another spectacular series of automotive events unfolds this week on the Monterey Peninsula in northern California, the automotive gathering that all automotive enthusiasts should do at least once in their lives (Caution: If you go once, you'll find your way back again and again - WG). To me the highlight of highlights - and there are almost too many to mention - is the Monterey Historics, the vintage races that take place annually at Laguna Seca (aka Mazda Raceway). If you go, watch for my old friend Jeff Zwart wheeling his magnificent Porsche 906 (below) in Group 7A. I once rode with Jeff in this beautiful machine early one Saturday morning up the Pacific Coast Highway to Donut Derelicts in Huntington Beach. Another "fleeting moment" in my automotive memory bank that I'll never forget. - PMD
See another live episode of "Autoline After Hours" hosted by Autoline Detroit's John McElroy, with Peter De Lorenzo and friends this Thursday evening, August 13, at 7:00PM EDT at www.autolinedetroit.tv. Subscribe via iTunes:
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See another live episode of "Autoline After Hours" hosted by Autoline Detroit's John McElroy, with Peter De Lorenzo and friends this Thursday evening, August 13, at 7:00PM EDT at www.autolinedetroit.tv.
Subscribe via iTunes: