LINCOLN PARK, Mich. – The threat of sporadic rain during an otherwise dry Michigan June did little to keep cars and crowds away from the Detroit area’s 2023 Fort Street Cruise – especially the Mustangs and Fords. Rain squalls in the morning on the day of the event – also known as “Cruisin’ Downriver” -- gave way to sunshine, almost as if the bellowing exhaust of mainly American muscle blew the rain clouds out of the sky.
The Fort Street / Downriver Cruise is an annual event that covers the distance between Lincoln Park to the north and Riverview to the south, passing through the southern Detroit suburbs of Southgate and Wyandotte (known locally as the “Downriver” communities) along the way. Fort Street is four lanes wide, providing ample room to keep a hot-running classic cool. Where some big local cruise events such as the annual Woodward Dream Cruise cover technically a shorter distance, they also end up in door-to-door, bumper-to-bumper show car gridlock. But not here.
“I like the Woodward event, but my truck doesn’t, Brian Tuttle of Melvindale, Michigan, told us. He raised the hood of his all-original 1992 Ford Bronco, pointing to the original black radiator. “Once I upgrade the cooling system, I’ll try it again. But the Fort Street cruise is easier on equipment.”
At the north end of the route, there are countless businesses with available space for a pop-up tent shelter and it’s easy for a small group of friends to host a gathering of their own. As is often the case, the local businesses along the route are welcoming.
“None of us guys cook, so grilling is out of the question,” laughed Steve Blair Jr, of Garden City, Michigan. So Blair and his friends circled around two pizzas that they ordered from Pizza Hut, whose lot became a pop-up car show with Jeeps on one side, and three Fords -- including Blair’s 1963 Galaxie 500 – on the other, with the Galaxie’s trunk lid doubling as a buffet table.
“The staff at the restaurant has been amazing,” Blair said, waving at the restaurant windows as if the waitstaff was looking. “They’ve been out to the parking lot three times just to refill our water.”
You’ll see large clubs such as the Mustang Owners Club of Southeast Michigan (MOCSEM) gathering en-masse – this year reserving much of the curbside space in well-shaded Memorial Park at the top end of the cruise in Lincoln Park. Theirs was easily the biggest single Ford footprint at the cruise. But you’ll also see small spots of Blue Oval fans along the entire route, like one senior couple we spotted with folding chairs just sitting by their Ford Ranchero by themselves, watching the sheet-metal parade roll past.
The closer you got to the terminus of the cruise – near the intersection of Fort Street and Sibley Road -- the cruising became a bit more . . . well, lively. Stop lights became staging lights and the right lane turned into the bleach box. Fans held up “Burnout!” signs handwritten on cardboard, which is exactly what one cruiser did in a show-quality blue 1969 Mercury Cougar Eliminator. The lazy haze of the Cougar’s blue-white smoke show drew cheers from the spectators – as well as the attention of the Riverview Police, sitting just two cars back in a blacked-out Explorer Interceptor.
“And that, my friends, is why you don’t always listen to the crowd!” explained Wayne Wazinski, who opts to park his Mustang GT in the parking lot behind where we stood streetside. The whoop-whoop of the police siren drowned out everyone’s laughter, but only for a moment. Such is life while Cruisin’ Downriver.
Right then, 17-year-old Dylan Gregg, from “not too far from here” led us to his 2006 Mustang Coupe, wearing silver paint that has seen better days. The coupe is factory original and very tidy, if in need of some TLC. Dylan stood beside the front fender, and listed his plans for upgrading his basic S197 coupe. He concedes that for a high-school senior with only a summer job, it will take a while to check off all of the items on what’s truly a “wish list.”
“My Dad used to bring me here, and this is my first cruise with my own car.” Dylan admitted with his pride showing. “The people here are super cool, and I already have made friends who’ve offered to help me out!”
If you ask us, that’s a pretty good way to take your first step into the Mustang hobby – with the Fort Street / Downriver Cruise a pretty good way to get things rolling. You can bet Dylan will be back next year.
FORD PERFORMANCE PHOTOS / COURTESY DAN BROCHSTEIN