The Great Car Museum Tour: Jeep-Willys Plant, Toledo

Toledo, Ohio
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.

Across the street was the home of the Toledo Mud Hens, Fifth-Third Field. The Hens were out of town but I got to peek inside. Nice retro park. By the way, shouldn’t it be the 1-2/3rds Field? Fraction Field? I know… it’s named after a bank… which was the result of a long-ago merger between the Third National Bank and Fifth National Bank. Sounds like something out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon…

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. End

So what was a “Foreign vehicle”? My rented Subaru built in Indiana?

plant stacks

Smokestacks still say "Overland."

Weeds...

Sign still said ”Chrysler Jeep Division;” but was taken during the DaimlerChrysler interlude.

Old Brick

Support facility on West Central Avenue (south end of plant) has seen better days.

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