When I visited the Hall of Fame Museum at the track a week earlier, the Grounds Tour was full. So, I booked my tour for my return trip to Indianapolis, before flying back to San Diego.
One man’s vision of the good old days, it was set up by Henry Ford to preserve what he remembered as being the America of his youth.
In the same complex as The Henry Ford is the Automotive Hall of Fame. Great exhibits of the men and women that built the industry. Exhibits talk about those folk and show how they live. Replica labs and offices show just how far technology has come since the auto industry got started.
The Packard Motor Car Company was once the leading producer of luxury cars in the U.S. It’s factory and administration complex on East Grand Boulevard in Detroit was designed by Albert Kahn. It shut down in 1956, as the marque was going down the tubes.
Chrysler Corporation was founded by Walter P. Chrysler and his company, now Chrysler Group honors his legacy in this fantastic museum. Three floors, what must be a hundred or more cars, professional displays… all “top drawer,” as they might have said back in the 1920s when the first Chrysler hit the streets.
After the Rouge tour, I hit The Henry Ford, a huge museum of transportation and other inventions of the “modern age.” The Rouge tour (which leaves from The Henry Ford) got me back there by about noon.
At last… my first trip into a car factory. Well, a truck factory. A kid’s dream. And at The Rouge, Henry Ford’s famous raw-materials-in/cars-out complex west of Detroit. Not what it once was, The Rouge now boasts one of the most modern and eco-friendly plants that makes a decidedly un-Green product, F-150 trucks. Oh well.
No photos are allowed inside the Dearborn Truck Plant, but it was interesting to watch the workers putting on windshield wipers, seats, dashboards and other goodies. There’s a good movie on the history of the Rouge in the visitors’ center, a display of Fords through the years, exhibits on the living roof and earth-happy goodies in the plant.
Catch the bus at the Henry Ford Museum; tickets can be booked ahead online. I figured there would be a crowd, it being mid-July. No dice. Plenty of seats available. I guess Detroit in the summer isn’t the tourist attraction it once was.
My hotel was in Southfield, a northeast Detroit suburb. From here, it was my plan to visit the Henry Ford Museum, Greenfield Village, as much of Detroit as possible, check out the old Packard complex, and cruise over to Ypsilanti for a look at the last Hudson dealer.
My first scouting operation was to find an auto relic right in Southfield… American Motors Corporation’s last headquarters.
In a rare bit of prosperity, AMC had built itself a nice tower in the late 1970s. It survives… even still had a rooftop sign that said “American Center” until recently. I found and photographed it. The sign now says “Charter One.”
There’s still lots of land around the tower; AMC execs in the ’70s might have had a “corporate campus” in mind like Chrysler built at Auburn Hills in the early ’90s.
The lobby of the building is big and glass. I can imagine Pacers proudly on display here. I can also imagine the sad faces in the building as Pacer sales tanked in the late ’70s, the Renault takeover and huge losses in the ’80s, and getting gobbled up by Chrysler in 1987.
I had planned on visiting AMC’s earlier HQ, on Plymouth Road, but ran out of time. It’s on my list for my next Detroit visit.
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.