Back to the Bricks crowds pack Flint.
Classic car cruisers from around the globe head to Michigan for two special events every August – the Woodward Dream Cruise, which runs along Woodward Avenue from Pontiac south to Ferndale, and Back to the Bricks in downtown Flint.
And Michigan Corvettes were well represented. Larry Courtney, driving his U.S. flag-wrapped Corvette, was busy along the Woodward Avenue route during Dream Cruise week while Corvette racecar driver Danny Kellermeyer set up his racing display at The Bricks. Matick Chevy in Redford, Mich. sponsors both Corvette enthusiasts.
Corvette event organizer Courtney and his wife, Verna, maintained a full schedule in advance of the Dream Cruise.
This year's Corvettes on Woodward, a gathering of Corvettes Courtney normally coordinates the Wednesday before Dream Cruise to raise money for food banks, had a last-minute change.
Courtney says he cancelled the mega-Corvette event as a result of some changes by his host site. “I did not have a good site to get all the Corvette owners together this year. I contacted everyone about the change in plans and kept all of the other tours and events we sponsor in place,” he adds.
One of those events was an annual food drive at the Royal Oak-based Open Hands Food Bank at St. John’s Church, of which Courtney and others have been a long-time supporter. The Courtneys reported a steady stream of Corvettes dropping off food and checks at the facility all day long. In the past, Courtney and other Corvette owners would have dropped their donations off at the food bank as a part the Corvettes on Woodward gathering.
“I did a radio interview with Frank Beckmann on WJR on Aug. 15 where we talked about Corvettes on Woodward and the food drive. It was during the interview that I mentioned that all cruisers would be welcome to stop by and drop off donations. On Wednesday people came in droves and said they heard the interview and wanted to help.”
As an extra treat, PAWS, the Detroit Tigers Mascot, showed up to greet the people cruising in to make donations, Courtney says.
“We had hundreds of our Corvette friends from all over the U.S. and Canada stop to visit,” he says. “Our two Corvette friends from Sweden were here. Matick Chevrolet owner Karl Zimmermann and his wife, Sarah, stopped by with a donation to the food bank.”
In the end, Corvette owners and other cruisers donated $5,000 and a significant amount of nonperishable food. ”So, all in all, Corvettes on Woodward was a success,” Courtney says.
Larry had worked to arrange various tours of car-related companies and locations weeks in advance for Corvette owners. About 100 car enthusiasts came out for a private tour of GM's Heritage Center museum on Aug. 16.
On Thursday, Aug. 17, featured tours included the Lingenfelter Collection, Pratt & Miller Engineering and the Detroit Parade Co. On Friday, Aug. 18, cruisers toured Katech engine design in Clinton Township.
Several out-of-state clubs visited this year and most stayed at the Somerset Inn in Troy. Clubs visited from Rochester, New York, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Columbus, Ohio.
The group from New York also toured Frankenmuth and the Henry Ford Museum while here.
On Saturday, Aug. 19, the big Woodward Dream Cruise day, most everyone started to cruise Woodward Avenue before finding a place to park.
“Verna and I started Saturday with our early morning traditional cruise beginning in Ferndale, then up to Pontiac and returning to Ferndale. We cruised Woodward a little more before parking at 13 Mile Road to watch the rest of the cars go by,” says Courtney, who moved to the region in 2001 and saw his first Dream Cruise in 2002.
They spotted their favorite cars, a vehicle that shoots flames and another that is modified into the shape of a skull.
Back To The Bricks
After lunch, the Courtneys headed up Woodward Avenue and drove to Flint for the big 13th Annual Back to the Bricks car show, where champion driver Kellermeyer displayed his Corvette racecars.
This big event “was once again a hit,” Kellermeyer says.
The Flint show attracts more than 500,000 enthusiasts, he says. “These car lovers were able to walk around and admire thousands of vehicles of every age and description.”
Back to the Bricks organizers estimated 45,000 car owners came out, gathering as early as 2 a.m. in two staging areas in order to obtain the downtown spots.
This gigantic event celebrates the love of motor vehicles and Michigan’s historic role in the automotive industry.
Visitors wander among thousands of street machines, restored cars, rat rods and street rods at the gigantic car show. Music, displays, food vendors and family-friendly activities added to the festive atmosphere.
“Flint is the birthplace of the Corvette, ‘America’s Sport Car,’ and proudly hosts a National Reunion for Corvette aficionados,” Kellermeyer says.
A show within a show, this year’s 8th annual Corvette Reunion was spectacular. More than 500 Corvettes gathered from various states and Canada. The Heritage Collection boasted a Corvette from each year of production.
Kellermeyer’s DJ Racing team was one of the key Corvette attractions, displaying two of the Matick Chevy/Corvette Central-sponsored racing Corvettes.
The team was located in a prime area next to the awards tent. Corvette owners and racing fans were able to get an up-close look at Kellermeyer’s championship C6 and new C7 Corvettes.
All were able to take home a signed Danny Kellermeyer poster. “I signed a lot of posters,” says Kellermeyer.
“The kids are great and I love to see their faces and smiles as they sit in the race cars and get to see racing from a view they normally wouldn’t be able to see,” he says. “Even their parents get to understand what happens inside the cars.”
The day included a spectacular flyover by three WWII T6 fighter planes.
“The sight was amazing and our own GM Executive Vice President Mark Reuss was able to fly in one of the planes. Mark said afterward, ‘Today was a true life event for me. I flew in a WWII T6 over what was part of the arsenal of democracy, Flint, Michigan, where I started as a young engineer. It was emotional to say the least,’” Kellermeyer recounts of his conversation with Reuss.
“The Flint show was fantastic,” says Mike Oshust of Flint. “We enjoy all the shows.”
Lorie and Matt Bacon of Fenton say “it’s always a fun time at the Corvette Reunion.”
Donna and Scott Freimark of Holly called Back to the Bricks a “good show, and it’s good to see friends." First-timer Gary Hreben of Sterling Heights shares that he thought the event was “awesome.”
Private Cruise Parties
Alan Johnson, Matick Chevrolet performance vehicle manager, drove his Z51 Corvette to private Dream Cruise parties the night before.
“We had 100 cars at some of the parties. They were nice get-togethers,” he says.
Johnson saw another Matick Chevy-sponsored racecar driver, John Heinricy, with his C7 at one of the gatherings where he also spotted several classes of Corvettes and Camaros along with Firebirds and Trans-Ams.
On Woodward Dream Cruise day, Johnson and his son, Cole, 6, drove his red C7 Corvette along Woodward Avenue from Jefferson Avenue in downtown Detroit about 30 miles north to Pontiac.
“It was my first time doing the whole route,” Johnson says. His son loves cars and “had a lot of fun and waved at all the people.”
The North Oaks Corvette Club set up their front row cruise tent along Woodward Avenue in Birmingham.
The North Oaks Corvette Club comes together twice at the Woodward Dream Cruise each year.
On the Friday before Dream Cruise, the members tailgate in front of the Birmingham Walgreens and return to the same spot on Dream Cruise day. “We had 40 cars,” says Skip Hartlerode, club president.
“We’ve done this every year for the last eight years,” he says. “On Saturday, we start at around 7 a.m. with members coming and going throughout the day. Almost all members drove their Corvettes.”
Gary Drago, Flint Corvette Club president, headed up this year’s Corvette Reunion in Flint. “We had a fabulous time,” he says. He drove his 2004 Corvette. (Matick Chevy sponsors the North Oaks and Flint Corvette clubs.)
He described the thousands of cars parked along a mile route of the Corvette Reunion. “You probably won’t see this in any other place in the country. Tens of thousands of people come to this event.”
He estimates about 600 Corvettes were on display for the reunion.
“I saw hundreds of cars that took my breath away,” Drago says, and the event is “very well organized. They make it pleasant to see the cars.
“All the Corvettes are in one place,” Drago adds. “It gets better and better every year.”
First-time Back to the Bricks participants Celeste and Eric Morphis called the show "awesome."
North Oaks Corvette Club members viewed the car exhibits in downtown Birmingham during Woodward Dream Cruise.
Photos by Charles Ruggles Photography, North Oaks Corvette Club, and DJ Racing.
Posted August 30, 2017