Monday, November 18, 2013

On the Road: The Henry Ford Museum

by Nancy DeWitt
© Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum

I sit on the board of the National Association of Automobile Museums, and last week I traveled to Dearborn, Michigan for a NAAM strategic planning session. We met in the Benson Ford Research Center, where I was able to spend an extra day researching some of our cars.

The first car built by Henry Ford - 1896 Quadricycle
The Research Center is sandwiched between Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum. The former is the site of the annual Old Car Festival held each September--if you haven't been to that event, you really must go some year. The museum should also be on your bucket list. It's not just about Fords; in fact, it's much, much more than a car museum. You can spend hours looking at impressive displays of airplanes, trains, farming equipment, furniture, machinery, 20th Century technology, and the current traveling exhibit on the movie "Avatar."

Of course, "Driving America" was the star attraction for me. This exhibit showcases the enormous influence the automobile had on American culture. Over 180 cars plus information panels, artifacts, and high-tech touch screen displays cover topics such as road development, marketing, recreation, employment, trucking, auto safety, luxury, and racing. More photos are posted over on our Facebook page.

1920s child's car seat

The first Ford Edsel produced.

Another interesting exhibit is "Presidential Cars." It was very sobering to see the 1961 Lincoln that President John F. Kennedy was riding in when he was assassinated. I was surprised to learn that it had been modified to add more safety features, including an armored steel top and bullet-proof glass, and that Presidents Johnson, Nixon, Ford and Carter used it occasionally.

Of course, the exhibits about the Ford motor car are excellent too. The "exploded" Model T has always been a favorite of mine, but I also enjoyed the Model T assembly exhibit. Here, visitors get to add parts and assemble a Model T each day, which is then disassembled before the next day to start the process all over again.
Yours truly attaching a rear fender

Alas, I didn't have time to take the tour of the Ford Rouge Factory or visit Greenfield Village. Hopefully I will be able to return to the Detroit area again some day.

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