Meet three local car enthusiasts.
It’s time for the Woodward Dream Cruise (the official date is Saturday, Aug. 16), but lawn chairs are already lining the avenue and car lovers from miles around are gathering to gaze at the passing parade of pure power.
Go to woodwarddreamcruise.com, and you’ll see a countdown clock to the big event in days, hours, minutes and seconds.
When the world’s largest one-day automotive event started in 1995, it was supposed to be a small fundraiser to build a soccer field in Ferndale — except that 250,000 people showed up.
Flash forward 27 years: The Woodward Dream Cruise draws an estimated 1.5 million people and 40,000 classic cars from around the world.
And more than a few Jews.
The number of Jewish cruisers is a matter of debate, even among Michael Surnow and Andy Adelson, both of West Bloomfield, and Michael Kunzman of Bloomfield Hills, who call themselves, “Jews Who Cruise.”
“How many Jewish guys do you know who can work on a car?” asks Surnow.
Says Adelson, “Compared to the general population, we’re rare, but there are plenty of Jewish guys out there with hot cars.”
They’re not sure, but Surnow, Adelson and Kunzman think they may be the only Jewish racers among the regulars at Milan Dragway. And for the three of them, the Dream Cruise is a can’t-miss happening and a true rite of summer.
It’s a trip down memory lane when old-time drive-ins and diners like Ted’s, the Totem Pole, the Varsity, Hollywood, Wigwam and Suzie Q’s were the places for cool people and hot cars to be seen on Woodward.
With the Dream Cruise just days away, let’s meet three “Jews Who Cruise”:
Cruiser: Michael Surnow
Home: West Bloomfield
Synagogue: Temple Israel
Occupation: commercial real estate; owns the Surnow Company in West Bloomfield
Cars: 1940 Willys, 1955 Chevy, 1965 Shelby Cobra, 1991 Mustang race car
Comments: “When I go cruising, I choose my ride depending on the weather and my mood — what I feel like driving that day. They’re completely different cars. It also depends on how much stuff I need to schlep. My ’55 Chevy can hold a lot. The Cobra can’t even hold a sandwich. The Willys has a small trunk — I can put a few things in there.
“It also depends on how much noise I want to make. If I want a monster motor, I bring the Willys. But I tend to rotate them all. It’s like having three kids; you can’t favor one.”
Which will it be for this Dream Cruise? “I have no idea. I will decide that morning.”
What got you started in cruising? “Here’s the thing, and this is typical for most guys my age. If you go to car cruises, you’ll see it’s basically guys around my age. I’ve thought about that, and the reason is this: When we were 16-year-old kids, we all read Hot Rod magazine and drooled over GTOs, Corvettes, Mustangs and Camaros. We never had the money for those kinds of cars, but we always had the passion for them. Whenever you saw a GTO, you would run over and look at it. It was so cool. So when you get to be in your 50s, you can afford one now, and you want one, so whatever your dream cars were, you went out and got them, restored them or bought them already restored. I think that’s what’s really driven the whole muscle car rebirth over the last 15 years.”
Will the next generation keep it going? “No, they won’t, and I’m going to tell you why. They don’t have an affinity for these cars. They didn’t grow up with them or lust after them. Most young kids don’t really care about what they call old cars. There are some who do, but most don’t.”
Any favorite cruise memories? “I remember the year of the big power failure. We had bought all this food, and you couldn’t get ice anywhere. All the ice was sold out. One of the guy’s wives found an ice sculptor and was able to persuade him to sell two huge blocks of ice to her. They were huge. We could hardly lift them. We carried them over and busted them up. We kept everything cold all day, and it was great.”
What non-cruisers may not know: “All of these cars need continuous maintenance, and I mean continuous, because they are old — 40 or 50 years old. You don’t know what shape the car is going to be in from day to day. It’s not like a passenger car, where you just get in it and drive away. You don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Is this a year-round hobby? “Yes. In the wintertime, I put the cruisers away, but the Mustang race car generally needs the engine rebuilt over the winter so I do that, and it takes me working on weekends the whole winter to do it.”
Is this hobby No. 1 for you? “Yes, cars and bicycling.”
What’s your dream car? “The car I really want to get is a Ford GT, but I’d have to give one car up because I don’t have the time or the space to have more cars. It takes up all my time.”
Cruiser: Micheal Kunzman
Home: Bloomfield Hills
Synagogue: Temple Shir Shalom
Occupation: manufacturers’ representative, auto performance products, owner of Michael Kunzman and Associates Inc. in Walled Lake
Cars: “I have to take my socks off to count my cars. Let’s see. I have a 1932 Ford Roadster, 1933 Ford Sedan, 1938 Ford Coupe, 1948 Cadillac Convertible, 1951 Mercury, 1956 Chevy Convertible, 1966 Mustang, 1966 Chevelle, 1971 Nova and a 2007 Shelby GT 500.”
Where do you keep them? “I keep four or five cars at home. I’ve got an extra garage. I keep the rest of them in the shop behind my building. There’s room in the building for what I call my toy section.”
How did you get started? “I’ve been a car nut all my life. I probably started when I was 15 or 16 years old. My first car was a 1947 Ford Coupe. I started drag racing in school — around 1959 or so.”
Which car for the Dream Cruise? “I don’t know yet. It all depends on the weather. My wife will take one of the convertibles.”
How often do you cruise? “I probably do half a dozen to a dozen cruises a year. I used to do a lot more. I used to go every weekend, but I’ve started racing again, and that takes more time.”
Where do you race? “At Milan Dragway mostly. I race the ’71 Nova.”
What’s best about cruising? “I love the driving and the camaraderie when you’re at these places — all these people with the same interests.”
Your next dream car? “I’m out of space and energy. I don’t want to buy anymore.”
Final thoughts: “I’m blessed that my hobby became my business. I’ve had the business since 1971 — 41 years.”
Cruiser: Andy Adelson
Home: West Bloomfield
Synagogue: Temple Israel (“but I grew up at Temple Beth El”)
Occupation: appraiser, estate sale company owner, Everything Goes Estate Liquidations Inc. in West Bloomfield
Cars: “I have five now: a 1969 Mach 1 428 Super Cobra Jet Drag Pack Mustang; a 1972 Mach 1 Mustang — a 351 automatic; a 1972 Mach 1 R-Code HO Mustang; a 1973 Pontiac Trans Am — a 455 4-speed; and a 1988 Mustang GT Full Drag Race Car. It’s for drag racing only. It has a full race engine and transmission with nitrous oxide and a full race suspension, fuel system and braking system, and a parachute.”
How did you get started? “When I was young, we were on Woodward a lot, watching the cars race. And when I was old enough, I got my own car and went racing on Woodward.”
First car: “A 1968 Pontiac Firebird 350, 4-speed.”
Which car for Dream Cruise 2012 ? “I’ll take my Drag Pack Mustang, and then I’ll take the race car.”
Is this a year-long hobby for you? “You can’t do much in the winter because Milan is closed, but I do look to buy and sell cars all year around. Before the recession, I restored about 100 various Mustangs. I owned my own restoration business. I had a big building in Pontiac and would buy mostly Shelby Mustangs. I sold about 10 cars to a guy in Northern California who owns his own museum.”
How often do you cruise? “I used to go on all the cruises —Telegraph, Gratiot, the cruise auctions in Auburn, Ind. I’ve been to almost every Woodward Dream Cruise. We usually throw a big party.”
What do you like best about cruises? “Just looking at the cars.”
Your dream car? “The new Boss 302 that Ford is making looks pretty good to me.”
For a complete schedule of Woodward Dream Cruise events, go to www.woodwarddreamcruise.com.