The Great Car Museum Tour: Ford Truck Plant at The Rouge

Dearborn, Mich.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006

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.

The Great Car Museum Tour: Detroit and Environs

Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Old AMC Headquarters
Former AMC Headquarters still stands in Southfield, Mich.

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. End

The Great Car Museum Tour: Snooks Dream Cars

Bowling Green, Ohio
Monday, July 18, 2006

I overnighted in Bowling Green, Ohio, and just across the freeway from my hotel was a private car museum, Snook’s Dream Cars.

A private collection and restoration shop operated by the Snook family, it’s one of the better private museums I’ve seen.

Everything from race cars to pedal cars was on display, including a Kaiser-Darrin and companion pedal car, a shrunken 56 Ford, Model Ts and mundane grocery-getters, all in pristine condition.

Snooks Dream Cars
Snooks Dream Cars.
Kaiser Darrin
A 1953 Kaiser Darrin with its companion kiddie car.
The iconic 1957 Ford Thunderbird.
Picture Dinah Shore singing “See the USA In Your Chevrolet” to this beauty.