Road Noise: The Green Parade

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Green technology at the Woodward Dream Cruise? Hmmm. You could fit a whole Prius under this baby’s hood, I guess.

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Okay, a little background first, because I realize the whole world isn’t Michigan. (Thank goodness. Seriously, Ford. $8.7 billion-with-a-B?) A cruise is an event when people who have lovingly — perhaps even obsessively — restored classic cars gather in a parking lot or park or turn lane, prop open the hoods and shoot the breeze about carbs and manifolds and whatever else is inside a car. Despite the name, a cruise today may or may not involve actual driving anymore, because we’re just perverse that way. (There are, though, some people on our staff who remember cruising Woodward when it was one way to secure a mate. Talk about perverse.)
Then there’s the Woodward Dream Cruise, which is like the 500-pound-gorilla-on-crystal-meth of cruises. 1.5 million people flock to Woodward Ave. to watch 40,000 cars drive slooooooooooowly by. It’s like…Burning Man for gearheads? I don’t even know how to describe it.

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Royal Oak under siege.

So last year, some folks in Pleasant Ridge – an enclave on Woodward where the houses are picturesque and the lawns are seeded with pure cash money – looked out their windows and thought, “These are awesome cars, but the fleet fuel economy out there is like 8 mpg. Some might actually be coal-fired.” And thus, NextCruise was born. It runs Aug. 15-16 in Memorial Park.
This year, nine automakers (Ford, GM, Chrysler LLC, BMW, VW, Audi, Toyota, Nissan, and Mercedes-Benz) have teamed up with the city of Pleasant Ridge, the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, Bridgestone, and a passel of other sponsors to display and demonstrate examples of green auto technology. When I say “demonstrate,” I mean some of the vehicles will available for the public to test drive. Which is totally awesome; usually it’s just us hoity-toity automotive journalists who get to be behind the wheel of new cool stuff when it’s still new.
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One of these things is not like the others…

On the one hand, this is a great idea. Even in an auto-saturated town like Detroit, relatively few people get a chance to see these much-touted innovations in action. Using the gas-guzzling Dream Cruise as a backdrop will really give people something to think about, and the audience is already right there on the street.
Well, down the street, at least; Pleasant Ridge situated a south of the heart of the cruise action. That’s one of the obstacles the first NextCruise will face. Organizers may also have trouble getting the spectators to make the leap from the “Happy Days” flashback of the Dream Cruise to the science-fiction future of NextCruise.
While the committee has taken pains to establish this connection early on, pointing out that cruising has its origins in showing off one’s hot new ride to the rest of the town, I still think it’s a bit of a stretch. The cruise culture is so firmly rooted in nostalgia that unless organizers are careful, attendees may misinterpret NextCruise as something tacked on to the larger event by automakers who want to cash in on the huge crowds without bothering to customize the display to the event.
We’ll see how it goes. There’s still time for you to put an Insight engine inside an old Corvette or something and show the world the real spirit of green cruising.
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That’s not really what I meant when I said “hybrid.” Thanks for playing.

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