Classic Car Collector, Birmingham Mayor Gears Up for Dream Cruise
For self-described "gearhead" Gordon Rinschler, the annual Woodward Dream Cruise is more than a car show — it's a family event.
Birmingham Mayor Gordon Rinschler and his family look forward to the Woodward Dream Cruise every year. His granddaughter even told her third-grade teacher that it is one of her favorite family traditions.
But Rinschler is more than just a fan. The retired Chrysler engineer is a self-proclaimed “gearhead” and a collector of three classic cars and eight vintage motorcycles. As the mechanic for this collection of vehicles, the Dream Cruise is one of his busiest times of the year.
“I usually spend about a full day out of every week in the garage working on the cars and motorcycles,” Rinschler said. “But in the weeks before the Dream Cruise I spend even more time making sure everything is ready to run.”
The prize of his collection is a 1930 Ford Model A, which also happens to be the first car that Rinschler owned, purchasing it in 1966 for $500.
“There are a lot of memories of that car,” Rinschler said with a laugh. Its purchase initially left a less-than-favorable impression on his future father-in-law, Rinschler said, but that soon passed. The vehicle ended up being present at his wedding to his wife of 43 years, Geri when the two Long Island natives were just 21 years old.
Speaking of Geri, Gordon’s wife also has an appreciation for classic cars, owning a 1964 Triumph TR 4. She admits to “employing” Gordon as her mechanic and considers herself a lover of classic cars as well.
“When you live with an automotive engineer you really learn to appreciate cars and our entire family is proud of the classic cars that we have,” Geri said. “After all, when you live in Detroit it is part of your heritage.”
The mayor also owns a 1935 Dodge “Humpback” Panel truck. The Rinschlers’ daughter Lisa owns a 1964 Plymouth Barracuda convertible and gets dressed up in vintage cruiser outfits whenever she drives it around. All four vehicles will be participating in the Dream Cruise on Aug. 20.
Rinschler might downplay his automotive knowledge but the engineer had a 33-year career at Chrysler, last serving as vice president of family vehicles, in charge of the company’s minivan program. He was also a designer throughout his years at the Detroit automaker.
Each year, the Rinschlers host a large Dream Cruise gathering for friends, neighbors and family members at their Birmingham home just one block off Woodward. They recognize the importance of the event to the Birmingham community.
“We have our own event in Birmingham that serves as a fundraiser for area nonprofits and the weekend is great for restaurants,” Gordon said. “I know not all businesses (receive value) from the weekend, but on balance it is a great event for the city.”
He hopes this year will see a bit of a rebound in participation from area car manufacturers and suppliers, given that sponsorships and other support of the event has waned in recent years as the automotive industry downsized. He considers Birmingham the “second central hub” of activity for the Dream Cruise after the busy 13 Mile and Woodward area in Royal Oak.
Indeed, the impact of the Woodward Dream Cruise is felt hundreds of miles away. Recently the Rinschlers were in the Allegheny Mountains in central Pennsylvania when a store employee, noting their residence in Birmingham, recognized the city as a home to the Dream Cruise that they had attended in the past.
“When you get 1 million people coming to your community it’s a big and important event,” Rinschler said. “It is pretty amazing.”
Even for a “gearhead," he added.