Archive for the ‘103 car collector’ Tag

Plymouth car collector is still cruising along at 103

When Margaret Dunning takes her ’66 Cadillac on Detroit’s Woodward Avenue this week, Dream Cruise fans will see two classics on display — her car and its amazing 103-year-old driver.

“Oh, I wouldn’t miss it, the Dream Cruise,” Dunning said. “I’m out on Woodward every year.”

The 19th annual Woodward Dream Cruise is Saturday although, as always, hordes of auto enthusiasts have been cruising Woodward for weeks.

Dunning turned 103 in June, but this remarkably spry, 5-foot-tall “lady driver,” as she calls herself, still loves to drive. And sometimes, floor it. Like the proverbial Little Old Lady from Pasadena, immortalized in song by California duo Jan and Dean in 1964, Dunning likes to go fast.

“Which one?” she replied with a laugh, when asked whether she’d ever had a speeding ticket.

“I got clocked at 72 awhile ago,” she said with a grin, declining to say on which local road.

Last week, she showed visitors her stable of collector cars parked in an oversized, heated garage behind her house in Plymouth.

She chatted knowledgeably about each car, sat in the driver’s seats and patted the side of her 1931 Ford Model A pickup, saying, “This is my sweetheart. It’ll go all day.”

As Dream Cruise fans know, Woodward’s cruising heyday was the 1950s and ’60s, when young men revved hot rods from drive-in to drive-in. For the annual reincarnation of cruising Woodward, however, no one shows off the populist, come-all quality of the Dream Cruise better than Dunning.

And for her, that’s old hat because she has trashed age and gender expectations for nearly a century when it comes to cars — learning to drive at 8, becoming her newly widowed mother’s licensed chauffeur at 11 and being the rare single woman who trucked vintage cars to collector shows since the 1950s, according to her biography at the Plymouth Historical Museum.

Explaining her passion for cars, she sounds like any enthusiast.

“You just get into into internal combustion and it takes over on you,” she said, standing next to her ’66 Cadillac DeVille, with sandalwood tan paint and beige leather-and-cloth seats.

“I grew up on a farm with a lot of machinery, and my mother maintained everything. I was an only child and my father would be fixing something so he’d ask me to get him a tool. I couldn’t help but be fascinated,” she recalled.

Soon, she was tinkering and fixing.

Dunning’s father died in 1923, “and my mother couldn’t drive, so she got me a car to drive her — a Model T, of course,” Dunning recalled. “I could drive because I was used to driving all over our farm.”

Dunning still lives in the tidy Tudor house her mother built near downtown Plymouth in 1927, after they moved off the farm. Somewhere around World War II, she started collecting classic cars.

Dunning has a fondness for Caddys. Her daily drive is a silver 2003 Cadillac Seville. She also owns a two-tone 1975 Cadillac Eldorado in chocolate-brown and tan with matching tan convertible top, wide whitewalls and a steering wheel wrapped in faux leopard skin.

One car clearly close to her heart is a cream-and-black 1930 Packard Model 740 convertible. According to the ClassicCarZ website, Dunning bought the car in poor condition in 1949, had it fully restored and soon was the recipient of the first 100-point winner from the Classic Car Club of America. She took it on some hot laps this spring at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Video of Dunning’s laps made her a hit on YouTube.

Close to home, she’s been driving on Woodward each year for the Dream Cruise for more than a decade. Her usual Dream Cruise ride is the ’66 Cadillac DeVille.

“It’s all-original — all factory, right down to the exhaust,” and never been repainted, said Dan Clements, a Ford engineer who maintains Dunning’s collection.

“Got about 73,000 miles now, and she bought it with 29,000,” said Clements, 56, of South Lyon.

What keeps this dynamo running strong after more than a century? It might be her daily bowl of oatmeal. It can’t be the rest of her diet: friends say she shuns vegetables.

But part of how the never-married Dunning stays remarkably vigorous at her age, they say, is by nurturing her love of owning, driving and appreciating old cars, and by mixing with people who share that interest.

“At the car shows we go to, she’ll stand there all day, talking to anybody who comes along,” Clements said, after loading Dunning’s Packard into a trailer for a car show Saturday in Benton Harbor.

“And she does Woodward every year, her and my mother-in-law,” he added.

Dunning can’t imagine anyone who doesn’t get at least a tingle of excitement from the memory-triggering cultural history that’s revving on Woodward Avenue, she said.

“I think everybody has a car somewhere in their life, maybe their father’s car, or even a neighbor’s car from their childhood, that’s their dream car,” she said.

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