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Woodward Avenue: Cruising the Legendary Strip Car Tech Robert Genat


18th September 2012 History Books 17 Comments

Detroit s Woodward Avenue was America s center of gravity for cruising and street racing in the ’50s and ’60s. Its widely paved surfaces with long sections of arrow-straight road between traffic signals provided the ideal location for stop light street racing and cruising action. Woodward even became the unofficial test track for the profusion of hot factory iron churned out by Detroit s engineers. If you lived in the Detroit area in the ’60s and wanted to drag race Woodward Avenue was the place to go.
Woodward Avenue: Cruising the Legendary Strip is filled with stories from the people who cruised and raced Woodward in that wonderful era. Also featured are the clandestine and not-so-clandestine efforts by the factories to build cars that the Woodward crowd would buy and race. Woodward Avenue includes everything that surrounded Woodward s action, including Detroit s legendary DJs who provided the cruisers’ musical soundtrack, the hang-outs and drive-ins, the high-performance new car dealerships that provided the cars, and the legendary speed shops that provided the hot rod parts.

Excerpt from book’s foreword by Eric Dahlquist, former Hot Rod Magazine editor

The same set of cars would race three, four or five times then peel off and go south down Woodward the other direction, matching up with the same or different cars and do it all over again. Once the retail shops along the streets closed there was little normal traffic. Detroit is a working man s town, so most of the regular citizens were home finishing dinner, helping their kids with homework or zeroed-in on prime-time television. By default, the racers were left to themselves. Since Woodward bisected all these various small towns and municipalities, each with their own police force, the jurisdictions were limited and police patrols and routes were known and predictable. Police presence seemed minimal at best on this night.

Still, Detroit had always had hot cars, things moved fast here, people thought fast. The story is told that when Ed Cole became president of GM, he had the elevators speeded up so employees wouldn t waste so much time going from floor to floor. To the engineers who designed them and the marketers who peddled them, Woodward was a place to stretch out their legs on their way across town, measure their creations. The Big Three had its proving grounds, but the real crucible of market competition now was out on the street where life was unpredictable and reputations were made.

The first cars we raced were SS Chevelles and GTOs, maybe an Olds 4-4-2. The Hemi blew the m away like King-Kong on the Empire State Building swatting those pesky bi-planes. It was shooting fish in a barrel. 409 Chevys, 406 Fords, even what had to be a 350hp, 327 Chevy II four-speed, one of the fastest sleeper cars of the day. It didn t matter . . . you d slap the accelerator and the Coronet would rocket launch.

On and on we raced, baiting on anyone with enough guts to try. Eventually, we worked into the middle of a whole jockeying pack of 8-10 cars we toyed with the competition as different cars gave us a shot. Drivers would slide alongside and yell, What the hell is in that thing? Stock came the reply. The Dodge Boys had carelessly forgotten the correct badging so the engine was denoted as a 383.

This literally went on for hours. Like Bruce Miller s Endless Summer, you became hooked on the next wave, the next challenge, the next high. Just to hear the Hemi dual quad 3140 Carter s AFBs cramming all that cool Michigan air through their throats, the TorqueFlite slamming into second gear one more time with a sound of rubber so loud it scared you.

I think the book was great and will go down as a respected documentary to the mystique of Woodward Avenue. I certainly will recommend it to all my automotive oriented friends. It is a must read for anyone who cares about cars or Detroit! –Jim Wangers

Woodward Avenue is a cool book to while away winter hours while you plane your own escapades. —Ol’ Skool Rodz, reviewed by Alan Mayes, January 2011

This is really an outstanding book, and if you fully want to appreciate how cruising and street racing was – not how it was in American Grafitti, but how it REALLY was, this is probably the best book on the subject so far. —Mopar Collector’s Guide, December 2010

Robert Genat is a prolific author and photographer who has written more than 30 books on military and transportation subjects. In 2003, he was awarded the prestigious Dean Batchelor award by the Motor Press Guild for this book, The Birth of Hot Rodding. Robert is also a dedicated gearhead who in the past fifteen years has restored several cars. Robert was born and raised in Detroit.

I think the book was great and will go down as a respected documentary to the mystique of Woodward Avenue. I certainly will recommend it to all my automotive oriented friends. It is a must read for anyone who cares about cars or Detroit! –Jim Wangers

Woodward Avenue is a cool book to while away winter hours while you plane your own escapades. —Ol’ Skool Rodz, reviewed by Alan Mayes, January 2011

This is really an outstanding book, and if you fully want to appreciate how cruising and street racing was – not how it was in American Grafitti, but how it REALLY was, this is probably the best book on the subject so far. —Mopar Collector’s Guide, December 2010

Woodward Avenue: Cruising the Legendary Strip (Cartech)










  • 17 responses to "Woodward Avenue: Cruising the Legendary Strip Car Tech Robert Genat"

  • Jamie Williams
    5:49 on September 18th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    excellent book. I am in my 60s and moved ot the Detroit area in 1984, but I followed (and dreamed) the Woodward ave scene for many years. This book, for a brief time brought me back, and whether you experienced it first hand or not, you will feel like you are there.

  • DelaneyKirk
    7:35 on September 18th, 2012
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    Probably the best written hot rod book I’ve seen. I bought a second one for a gift. Great photography of some rare hot rods.

  • CharlesJ
    8:55 on September 18th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    I just finished reading Robert Genat’s new book, “Woodward Avenue: Cruising the Legendary Strip” and have to say it’s another home run for this author. His ability to speak intelligently to both an audience that lived this strip in the sixties or never came within a thousand miles of it makes for “can’t put it down” reading-again. It really added up the sum of all the parts, including the kids (and adults), the cars and the dealers who provided them, the drag strips and the music that are still part of our adolescent dream. His introduction could have been written by any one of a million young men during their coming of age years. I know I’ll be getting this book out before every Woodward Cruise and nights in between. Congratulations, Mr. Genat!

  • David Heart
    12:18 on September 18th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    In August 2010, we visited relatives in Detroit and went to the Woodward Cruise. Even with today’s traffic, it was easy to imagine how it must have felt in the old days. With this book, it is easy to reminisce about the days when the Woodward Cruise was started.

  • Benson Mwangi
    14:37 on September 18th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    An nice expansion of the “garage find” genre. The autos featured here have enjoyed certain notariety in their respective “heydays,” and it is both interesting and amazing to have their past and current stories brought to light.

  • Alvaro Castillo
    15:40 on September 18th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    Pat Ganahl does his homework. If you are a died-in-the-wool hot rodder you will not be able to put this book down. The cars, the people and the history leap off the pages. At times you can smell the welding gas and breath the bondo dust. A wonderful history. A must have if you love our hobby.

  • Daniel Findermind
    18:33 on September 18th, 2012
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    Bought this book for my husband for Christmas! He absolutely LOVED IT!! Thanks for a great book in wonderful shape!!

  • BeFree
    19:25 on September 18th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    From one who was there, participated and experienced the 60′s/70′s Woodward ave. era first hand. This book evolked memories of events and places long lost in the passage of time. People and places leaped forward in a nostalgic wave page after page. Packed with factual events and stories.

    Those who lived the Woodward siene will be reluctant to put this book down. For those who only heard the stories and legions…. Trust me…. It happened.

  • Chitowski
    23:34 on September 18th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    This book is one my favorite hot rod books that has been published in years. I like the mixture of famous hot rods as well as lesser known barn finds and their history. Awesome to see pictures of cars in thier found condition as well. If there is a sequel to this book, I’ll buy it in a heartbeat. Joe

  • bella anne
    0:33 on September 19th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    LOST HOT RODS: REMARKABLE STORIES OF HOW THEY WERE FOUND tells of hot rods built over the past fifty-plus years which have vanished. Some were wrecked, others merely forgotten – but collectors have located and restored many of these rods, and here enthusiast Pat Ganahl has collected their images and stories. An oversized format packed with many color photos documents the rods and customs from the 40s through the 60s in an outstanding survey perfect for any auto collector’s library.

  • Almapen
    4:27 on September 19th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    I grew up in Detroit and cruised Woodard during the late 50′s and early 60′s. This book brought back pleasant memories. There is a chapter on radio stations and DJ’s. Stations and names I haven’t heard in 50 years. IF you were there then, this book is a must.

  • deet_spray
    15:02 on September 19th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    This book is like a true gem for any american classic or vintage car enthusiast.The story telling is exciting and gripping with wonderful matching photographs,I read a few stories and kept on wanting to read more,every find of a unique beauty had me spellbound.The transformation of certain four wheel wrecks to absolute gorgious masterpieces are mindboggling,so for everyone agreeing that these lovely classics are more fun to drive,more beautiful to look at and more precious to the individual owner ,believe me you must own a copy of this superb book. Also a great inspiration to those out there that got stuck halfway with their own project,this book will undoubtedly encourage you to complete your own masterpiece and live your dream to drive your very OWN HOTROD….great stuff,I love it.Thank you for allowing me to submit my review….my car project here in Cape Town..all steel Willys 41 coupe,460 big block and more

  • Zulma Stipes
    19:37 on September 19th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    This purchase was great. No hassles with going to the book store and the book was everything I was hoping for.

  • Haoting Chow
    21:53 on September 19th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    My husband and I met at Teds in 1965. He was driving a red 1964 GTO convertible (which he still owns). I can still picture it now… Woodward Avenue rekindled all the wonderful memories of Woodward in the 1960s. This is not a good book, it’s a GREAT BOOK. If you cruised or street raced on any street in any city in the 1960s, you’ll love it!! A must buy!

  • Andrew Watson
    23:30 on September 19th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    As a kid I remember seeing all kinds of rods and customs in the car magazines of the day.
    Many were real products of their time with features, colors, and styling that later went out of style, making them real time capsules.
    I’m a history buff as well as a custom car owner, so naturally I wondered “Whatever happened to..?”
    I was thrilled when I found this book, it tells the ultimate fates of some very well known, and lesser known, cars from “back in the day”.

    I found and restored a one-time well-known custom. I know of someone else who found a disassembled former Oakland Roadster Show entrant that after its time in the spotlight, was sold and its new owner stripped it for new paint. Sadly, he passed away before starting the project. The car, its chrome still wrapped in 1964 newspapers, sat in his mother’s garage for 45 years until it was finally bought, restored and invited back to the Oakland Show.
    So, yes, there are still custom cars to be found and stories to be told.

    My only complaint with the book is that it wasn’t twice as long.

    It’s a fun book, and hopefully it (and its second volume/sequel due in 2012) will encourage more people to dig out and restore these unique pieces of automotive history.

  • VerizonHater
    3:29 on September 20th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    “Been there…did that”. Loved the book for the mind jogging information and great pictures. It felt like I was back there on Woodward in the ’60s. I don’t think this was supposed to be a technical treatise but a factual nostalgic ride back on the old street. I have been to all 16 Woodward cruises with a few of my cars. Everyone I talk to has had great memories revived because of the book.
    Can’t wait for volume #2.
    Thanks

  • honvetops
    18:30 on September 20th, 2012
    Reply to comment

    I bought this book for my husband for Christmas and he can’t put it down. He said it’s the best book he’s read in a long time.

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