Photos by Joe Babiasz and courtesy of the Automotive Hall of Fame, Ford Piquette Avenue Factory Museum, Gilmore Museum, Henry Ford Museum, Packard Proving Grounds, R.E. Olds Museum, Sloan Museum, Walter P. Chrysler Museum, and Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Collection.
The rich history of the automotive industry is celebrated in a variety of museums around the country. In coming months, we plan to look at some of the best in the country, giving you an inside guide to visiting them in person. Here, we take a look back at the beginning, focusing on the museums of the Detroit area.
No other region has or will ever have the privilege of being the epicenter of automotive development like southeast Michigan. During its heyday, well over one hundred car companies listed Detroit as their home. Many struggled to make their name known, and, while most were unsuccessful, they each did their part to participate in the rich automotive heritage of Detroit. Early car companies like Flanders and Detroit Electric appeared to have some promise, but in the long run the product line proved to be either inadequate, too expensive or simply unpopular compared to the mass produced cars built by Ford, General Motors and Chrysler. Over the years, small independent manufacturers fell one by one, reducing the number of companies building the horseless carriage. By the late Fifties, America was, for the most part, left with “The Big Three” to choose from.
Fortunately, passionate people and organizations that understood the importance of our automotive heritage have kept the history alive by opening automotive museums. Southeast Michigan is proud to be the location of these wonderful automotive time capsules. The museums are not just dedicated to the Big Three, but also capture the importance of the independents. Automotive enthusiasts who visit Southeast Michigan will have a rare and unique opportunity to relive automotive history.