Michigan Makes August Automotive Heritage Month and Honors the Woodward Dream Cruise

July 02, 2011

This month Michigan lawmakers made it official—August 2011 is Automotive History Month. Find out how the HVA led this action and see what it means for drivers at this year’s 17th Annual Woodward Dream Cruise.

When the Historic Vehicle Association approached Senator Mike Kowall with a plan to officially recognize the state’s unique automotive history and honor the Woodward Dream Cruise, it didn’t take long for the Republican from White Lake to get involved. Historic vehicles are in Senator Kowall’s blood and, he says, literally filling his garage.

“We have vehicles and even tractors that were handed down from my father and grandfather,” he says.  “These include a 1950 Studebaker, a 1936 Plymouth four-door, a 1927 Model T, a 1929 Essex, a 1950 Dodge panel truck, a 1951 Chevy curved-glass pickup, and two John Deere tractors.”

On July 14th, the Michigan state Senate approved a resolution to commemorate August 2011 as Automotive Heritage Month. 

“Michigan inventors helped put the world on wheels and established the state as the international headquarters for the auto industry,” Kowall says of the news. “We are home to the ‘Motor City’ and the Woodward Dream Cruise, the world’s largest one-day celebration of classic cars. It only makes sense to honor this rich automotive history by establishing August as Automotive Heritage Month.”

Over 40,000 cars and 1.5 million people attend the Woodward Dream Cruise every year. But reports of drivers being ticketed for operating vehicles with historic or authentic plates in the days surrounding the “cruise” day have been increasing in recent years.

HVA Taking Action

Suspecting vagaries in the law as a possible reason for so many complaints, the HVA decided to look into the matter and began working with Senator Kowall and Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson to provide some clarification. 

By helping draft the resolution approved by lawmakers this month, the HVA was able to open important dialogue with regulators and law enforcement about how best to allow all Michigan drivers—and especially those participating at the Woodward Dream Cruise—a little more clarity on when they can legally use their historic vehicles.

For her part, Secretary Johnson issued an interpretive letter on the matter, specifically in reference to the Woodward Dream Cruise, but it applies statewide. In part, Secretary Johnson stated that:

driving to and from, and attending the Woodward Dream Cruise, regional associated events, or similar events, in a historic vehicle displaying a valid historic or authentic license plate would be an example of complying with the law. This activity could fall under one or more of the authorized uses: participating in club activities, exhibiting the vehicle, participating in a tour, participating in a parade, or similar uses…  

Know the Law

This year, Woodward drivers might consider printing a complete copy of Secretary Johnson’s ruling from the HVA website and sticking it in their glove box. (Click here). The Secretary’s opinion doesn’t change Michigan law—or, likewise, serve as any guarantee that police will be more lenient with cruisers this year—but her statement is a big step toward clarifying the ambiguities in current use provisions. 

In the meantime, Senator Kowall is working on additional legislation to address the issue. “My next move is a joint house resolution,” he says, “an appeal to legislative bodies to create a state-wide cruise month.”

In addition to other issues that impact our ability to own and drive our historic vehicles, the HVA will be working with Senator Kowall on this initiative throughout the coming year.


  1. Egon Boesler rochester hills

    who certifies that the vehicle is inspected (by whom)

  2. CJ Davis Saint Louis, Mi 48880

    I own 3 Classic Cars; 1962 Impala SS, 1965 pontiac GTO & 1970 Buick Gran Sport Stage 1 Convertible. I'm all in for legislation to help our old car family to be able to show our pride & joy without all the red tape etc. Also try to eliminate the sur tax on all just for special event vehicles. CJ

  3. Fidelia

    Hey, good to find someone who agrees with me. GMTA.