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Sure You Can Go Home Again

plymouth fury
plymouth fury

The year is 1967. I'm stopped at a red light in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. I'm with a buddy, Mike Sprout. The car is a 1966 red Barracuda. In the car next to me at the light are two young women. The light turns green, we 'drag' away from the light. I win. It's Detroit. It's what we do. It's Woodward Avenue.

The year is 2007. A million people, give or take, are expected to line Woodward Avenue this weekend for the 'Dream Cruise'. 40,000 vintage, tough to think about that '63 Plymouth Sport Fury I used to own as 'vintage', cars have descended on the Motor City for a few days of 'crusin'. It's who we were, it's who we wish we still were.

Actually, it's also who Detroit automakers wish we still were. The 'Dream Cruise' started seven or eight years ago as a simple testament to '..back in the day..'. has grown well beyond that.

A few suburban towns in Detroit hosted a couple of custom car weekends. It has exploded in popularity. Cruising Woodward is what we did as kids in the 50's and 60's. I was one of them. Start at Ted's in Birmingham, and cruise your car down Woodward towards Detroit past the Michigan State Fairgrounds to the river. I could blow almost anyone I met away from the line in that Plymouth. A 383 Chrysler under the hood. Hearst shifter. Four speed. White with turquoise interior, buckets in front and back. The halcyon days of Detroit muscle cars.

The fact that so many folks come to Detroit on this weekend with their cars says something. I'm not sure what it is, but it' something. Nostalgia? Sure. But maybe there's more. American manufacturers can learn something from all this. Leverage it somehow into being competitive again. Will we be 'crusin' Woodward' in ten or twenty years in our Toyotas. No. Our Subaru's. No. Our Beamers? No.

Yes, yes, I know. A different time and place. Cheaper gas and all that. But there is something here. An under current. Something to be tapped into.

40,000 cars. A million people. Seven towns. This is more than 'back in the day'. It's 125 million into the local economy. It's a two billion dollar industry, the sale of 'vintage' cars. Listen up GM, Chrysler and Ford. We want you back. We want to line and 'drag' off the line. Give us something to drive. Give us performance. Give us styling. Give us a fair price. Give us customer service.

One of those two young women in the other car on that summer night at that light in 1967 ended up as my wife. Hey Jan, what time is it?

Hey Detroit, it's time to do better.

Crusin' Woodward. "Mike On America" has rarely felt more so.

Questions? Comments? mikeonamerica@nbcuni.com