If you’re heading to Roadkill Nights powered by Dodge at the M1 Concourse on Woodward Avenue in Pontiac, Michigan, August 12, here’s a visitor’s guide for all you car junkies looking to do some sightseeing in Detroit and its surrounding suburbs. The Motor City is filled with rich history dating back before Ford’s iconic Model T came rolling off the first moving mass assembly line, and we sent local car-nut David Hakim out to find us some good tourist stops.
I wanted a cool set of wheels for our recon mission of cool things to do in Detroit, so I contacted my friend Mark Anton Marougi to chauffeur me around in his 1970 Plymouth Road Runner. This isn’t just any Road Runner, but the actual car driven by Vin Diesel in Furious 7. Vin may have tore up the streets on some movie set in So Cal, but the Road Runner’s roots are 100% Detroit. We rolled though the city and burbs scooping out automotive museums brimming with vintage cars, trucks, locomotives and even airplanes, and crumbling remnants of the mighty assembly plants that were the Arsenal of Democracy during WWII, and everything in between. We even visited the final resting place of historic automotive movers and shakers that reshaped our society by putting the world on wheels and made Detroit the automotive mecca for over 100 years. Some of these spots are a bit off the grid and not on any City of Detroit visitor’s guide or TripAdvisor.com so keep in mind that a few areas can be a bit rough. Now, get in gear, grab some buddies and your camera, and check out the wonderful places that only gearheads will love and appreciate about Detroit.
The Henry Ford/Greenfield Village
20900 Oakwood Boulevard, Dearborn, MI 48124
Funny that a man who claimed, “history is bunk,” wanted create an indoor museum and outside working village that gave people a true picture of the development of the country and American industry. Inside the Henry Ford museum you’ll find a treasure trove of trains, planes and automobiles including a Chrysler Turbine Car, 1965 Pontiac GTO, and the 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans winning Ford GT Mark IV. Make sure check out Greenfield Village next door and you can ride shotgun in a Model T.
The Ford Rouge Factory Tour
Take a walking tour of the Ford Dearborn Truck Plant and watch how the Ford F-150 is made. You can check out skilled workers and robotics building one truck per minute coming down the line. What’s really cool this one of the last plants in the US that actually gives you a glimpse of a vehicle starting out as an empty shell and go out the door ready to ship to the dealer.
The Edsel and Eleanor Ford House
1100 Lake Shore Drive, Grosse Pointe Shores, MI 48236
We all know about the contentious relationship between Henry Ford and his only son. That’s one of the reasons Edsel had Albert Khan design this beautiful English Cotswold style home on 88 acres in Grosse Pointe, far away from his father’s Dearborn residence. The home was completed in 1929; Edsel and Eleanor raised four children – Henry II, Benson, Josephine and William. The Edsel and Eleanor Ford House is also host to the annual Eyes and Design car show every June.
GM Heritage Center
6400 Center Drive, Sterling Heights, MI 48312
Everything from cool concepts penned by Harley Earl and Bill Mitchell, to a brand new Chevy Chevette is housed at the GM Heritage Center. There are more than 165 vehicles on display including some Chevrolet Performance used on previous Hot Rod Power Tours. The GM Heritage Center also the permanent home for the corporation’s collection of historic literature and artifacts that include everything from service manuals to vintage cutaway display engines from the 1960s. The GM Heritage Center is not open to public for individual visits but they can do group tours so call ahead.
The Motown Museum
2648 West Grand Blvd., Detroit, MI. 48208
Along with muscle cars Detroit was also known for its Motown sound in the 1960s. Record producer Berry Gordy founded Motown’s Hitsville U.S.A studios in 1959 and within the walls this modest houses, famous bands and singers such as Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Martha Reeves and The Vandellas, Temptations, and many other stars helped put Detroit on the map.
Ford Piquette Avenue Plant
461 Piquette Street, Detroit, MI 48202
This New England mill-style building on the corner of Piquette and Beaubien streets was the birthplace of the first production Model T. Over the course of two years, 1908-1910, over 12,000 Ford Model T cars were built at Piquette Avenue until demand for the affordable automobile exceeded the plant’s capacity and thus forced the construction of the massive Highland Park Ford plant.
Highland Park Ford Plant
Woodward Ave., Highland Park, MI.
Opened in 1910, the Highland Park Ford Plant was the second plant to produce the Model T and it did in record numbers. By 1913, it became the first facility to incorporate a moving assembly line. Eventually Ford moved most of its production to other plants by the 1920 and 30s. Ford then used the plant to assemble trim parts and build tractors until it closed for good in the 1970s. Note – the plant is not open to the public but is perfect for Instagram shots of your ride in front of the birthplace of the moving assembly line.
19975 Woodward Ave., Detroit, MI 48203
If these graves could talk, oh the stories they could tell. Woodlawn Cemetery is the final resting for place many industry titans such John and Horace Dodge, Edsel Ford, Earl and George Holley and many others. Woodlawn Cemetery is located on Woodward Avenue, approxmately 30 miles south of Pontiac, the hotbed of all the action during Roadkill Nights.
The Uniroyal Giant Tire
Interstate I-94, Allen Park, MI
Created by the Uniroyal Tire Company for the 1964 New York World’s Fair as a Ferris wheel, this thing rolled into Detroit around 1966 and has been a static display ever since. Unfortunately there are no tours and there’s no safe place to pull over for photo ops so get your GoPro mounted on your roof and do a drive-by.
East Grand Boulevard, Detroit
This massive 3,500,000-square-foot plant opened in 1903 and at one time considered the most modern and largest automobile manufacturing facility that employed 40,000 workers at its peak. Everything from Packard Clipper cars, to V-1650 V12 Merlin airplane and boat engines, came rolling off its gigantic assembly lines. The Packard Plant closed in 1958 but in recent years, investors are trying to breathe new life within its gargantuan halls of reinforced concrete floors, ceilings, and columns. Note of caution – great place to take background pics with your rides but the area is rough and adventure seekers are not allowed to go romping through the ruins of the mighty old plant.
Lynch Road Assembly
6334 Lynch Road, Detroit
One of the last remaining plants from Chrysler’s past that hasn’t been razed to make room for a parking lot. Many a Road Runner (including Superbirds), GTX, Charger, Super Bee and other Mopar B-Bodies were built at Lynch Road. When the plant first opened it doors around 1928, it was primarily Desotos and Plymouths that came off the line. During WWII, components of the atomic bomb were made at Lynch Road. The last car rolled of the line in 1981 before the plant was sold.
Belle Isle Park
Look at any vintage car ad from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, and more than likely it was shot on Detroit’s Belle Isle Park. Sitting dead smack in the middle of the Detroit River between the US and Canada, the southwest tip of the island provides a great view of the Detroit Skyline and was the perfect backdrop the marketing and agencies execs at GM, Ford, and Chrysler sought out for those awesome PR and catalog brochure shots. It’s also home to a fun nature center where you can feed deer and look for eagles. If your non-car compatriots need a break, swing by and ogle some critters.
27799 Woodward Avenue, Berkley, MI 48072
Dubbed the oldest garage east of the Mississippi, Vinsetta carries on but instead of brake jobs and oil changes in its bays, Vinsetta is serving up some yummy food and concoctions from the bar. Try the burgers, Union Mac & Cheese, noodle bowls, and coal-fired pies; they’ll keep you well nourished for the laps on Woodward Avenue.
Duggan’s Irish Pub
31501 Woodward Ave, Royal Oak, MI 48073
Duggan’s Irish Pub has been a Woodward landmark for decades and there’s reason why. Their Big Chief Double Burger, 5×5 Burger, and other menu items are made from the same receipts of the iconic Ted’s, Totem Pole, and Maverick’s Drive-In restaurants that where hotbed of hangouts for cruisers in GTOs, Road Runners, Chargers, Camaros, and Chevelles in the 1960s and 70s.
We’ve barely touched on the history and nightlife options of Detroit, so feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments. Hopefully we’ll see you all at M1 in Pontiac on August 12th for Roadkill Nights. There are still a few spots in the Show N Shine car show (no need to be shiny), and plenty of room for spectators. Buy online or pay at the gate.