Today may be the Spring Equinox, but every devote of Detroit steel knows that March 20 is just a date on a calendar. It’s not really Spring until the cars can return.

In some places, today marks the return of long sunny days and warmth. Unless you live in the Midwest. In which case you’ll be shoveling snow until possibly early May. In Detroit, we get a scant four months which we can safely call Not-Winter. So how can we tell when Spring is finally here? It’s not the sweet lie of a warmish day in March or the return of birdsong. It’s not even your first sighting of idiots shivering in shorts and sandals. In Detroit, you know Spring is here when the classic cars reappear.

Every shade of Chevrolet, Ford, Buick, Plymouth, Oldsmobile and even some foreign made classics ranging from every decade can been seen taking their yearly migration routes down the major arteries of Detroit some time in mid-May. As colorful as any field of flowers, but even more beautiful (and much louder.)

I’m convinced that there’s something about the classic car owner that makes them more in-tune with the seasons. They are like groundhogs with grease on their faces and deep hatred for road salt. Their car-subconscious come with built-in weather vanes. The second I hear the rumble of a small-block V8 rolling down the street I know the time as come to put away wintery things.

No one would risk pulling that tarp off too early. As David Tracy has pointed out, lesser car owners around here are in denial about what rust has done to their rides, but not the classic car enthusiast. Some of those cars are heirlooms, handed down to the younger generations from grandparents who once worked the lines that built these machines. These are cars lovingly wiped down with chamois and meant only for the sunny ritual of ‘cruising.’

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Just like the green shoots of plants, they all seem to suddenly pop out of nowhere, and they’ll only return to slumber in the safety of their garages once rain and ice start to threaten again in early October. Then we return to the gray, salt-encrusted world of darkness and daily-drivers. But for four glorious months, the roads are ours again.