Tuesday, July 18, 2006

A short drive from Detroit is the small town of Ypsilanti, home of a surprising number of seemingly unconnected automotive milestones.

My first stop was the World’s Last Hudson Dealer, Miller Motors, and the Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum, and the National Corvair Museum. All at the same location, 100 East Cross Street. It’s also part of the Motor Cities National Heritage Area.

Things started here when Jack Miller’s dad started selling cars… Long-story-short, it evolved into a local attraction celebrating all automotive about the small town:

  • Miller’s collection of Hudsons;
  • Birthplace of Preston Tucker (a few blocks away) and the Tucker automobile;
  • The historic Willow Run plant, built by Ford during World War II as a bomber factory, designed by Albert Kahn;
  • Kaiser-Frazer cars, built from 1946-1953 at Willow Run after World War II ended and the bomber production finished;
  • GM’s transmission factory at Willow Run that took over when Kaiser left;
  • The next-door (and now closed) Chevrolet assembly plant that built, among other models, the Corvair;
  • The National Corvair Museum;
  • United Auto Workers memorabilia honoring the workers in the Willow Run factories.

Lots of stuff for a small town… and a small facility. Cars are packed in so it’s tough to get photos. But enjoy my shots of the Hudsons, Kaisers, Corvairs and other goodies at Miller’s place. When I visited, Jack Miller was in and I was fortunate enough to speak with him. Nice guy.

Ypsilanti’s Depot Town — old downtown — is right across the tracks from Miller Motors. Shops, restaurants, nice ambiance. I had a good lunch at the Sidetrack, a busy bar/restaurant right across the street from Miller’s. I recommend it.

Hudson Hornet went racing — and won — in the early ’50s.

Old parts counter remains preserved from the Hudson dealer days.

It’s a Hudson Jet, the small car that helped kill the company.

Kaiser Traveler was the first mass-produced U.S. hatchback.[/caption]

Sleak second-generation Corvair was built down the road in Willow Run Plant.[/caption]


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