Monday, July 18, 2006
After a morning at Snook’s Dream Cars, I headed north to Toledo. Driving around downtown, I found the city’s relatively new minor league ballpark and a nearby branch of the famous Tony Packo’s.
Now, just a few words about Tony Packo’s. I ordered a couple of the world famous hot dogs and a side of hot German potato salad. The dogs were great… snappy, crispy and cooked just right. The hot German potato salad was overcooked, with the consistency of wallpaper paste. Sorry, Tony.
Anyhow, after lunch I headed over to Jeep Parkway and what’s left of what I believe was the oldest auto factory in the US until it closed in June 2006. A relic of the past that doesn’t have long to live, it’s the old Willys Overland plant in Toledo, Ohio.
It started making bicycles, then the Pope-Toledo car, later Overland, Willys and Kaiser. But the most famous vehicle to come from this factory was the Jeep, first during World War II, then for more than a half-century, the civilian CJs and Wranglers. The old smokestacks still say “OVERLAND.”
As the 21st century began, half the factory had already been demolished after DaimlerChrysler opened the Toledo North plant for assembly of the Liberty. Wrangler production was eventually shifted there. I wanted to take a look before it went away.
As I drove around the plant, I was able to get different views from the residential neighborhood to the east. It’s full of the frame houses so common as middle-class factory worker housing in industrial towns all over the Midwest. Sadly, it’s now a very poor area.
A few relics from the factory were very memorable. The first were a couple of “Home of the Jeep” signs, one with happy drivers of a Wrangler waiving to other happy drivers on Jeep Parkway. The second was a parking lot sign, warning owners of foreign cars that they had to park in a distant parking lot… otherwise, there would be disciplinary action.
As I headed north out of Toledo on I-75, I passed the new Toledo North Assembly Plant. Fortunately, Toledo has been able to save many of those assembly jobs and is still the Home of the Jeep.