Driving America at The Henry Ford

It’s my story. It’s your story. It’s everyone’s story.

For everyone who’s ever driven or ridden in, owned, worked on, bought, admired, dreamed about or pretty much walked by a car – Driving America, Henry Ford Museum’s new automotive exhibition, digs deep and tells their story. It tells the story of us – our relationship with the automobile and its impact on American culture.

There was a nice crowd of interested Sunday afternoon visitors who began to travel the exhibition at the same spot we did. Drawn by the neon of the McDonald’s and Lamy’s Diner signs, we began to work our way through the 80,000-square-foot automotive experience.

The traffic was pretty steady along the Driving America Timeline, which gives a chronological overview of the automotive story. After that first stretch, visitors moved to areas that piqued their interests – be it luxury cars, design and style, racing, road trips, custom cars, alternative power and more.

Even with over 130 vehicles and more than 60 cases of artifacts, the exhibition is arranged in an inviting and accessible way. Included in that accessibility are the 18 large interactive touch-screens placed throughout the exhibition. The 42-inch screens invite visitors to engage in activities and explore details and artifacts that are part of the vast collections of The Henry Ford beyond what’s visible on the museum floor.

I have to say, I was blown away with how intuitive and meaningful the touch-screens were. The value and depth of content was remarkable – linking to thousands of additional details, images, videos and oral histories about the displayed artifacts.

My husband and I had two older children with us, and we all were thoroughly engrossed. The kids' favorite touch-screen activities were Test Drive the Model T, Plan the Car of Your Dreams: 1947, Talk like a Trucker and Help Henry Innovate. I enjoyed taking a quiz regarding my ideal car (which apparently is not my current full-size van!), making a car commercial and sorting through some of the digitized print artifacts. My husband liked the oral histories and the ability to access more detailed information on the spot. He was so intrigued with the racing area of the exhibition and spent most of his time there, and he’s not really a racing fan (yet?).

Some folks are all about the cars. If that’s you, you’ll be satisfied seeing up close some of the most important and significant vehicles of our time – including the first car built by Henry Ford, America’s first production car, the first all-steel utility station wagon and many more. There are also other limited production rarities, century-old electric cars, hot rods, racecars, campers, muscle cars, SUVs and current hybrids.

I, however, am not a car buff by any stretch of the imagination, but I was still completely enthralled by the story Driving America tells. It takes a detailed and fascinating look at the enormous influence the automobile has had on who we are and how it has and will continue to inspire us.

Take some time to read some fun car stories and share your own on The Henry Ford’s blog on the My First Car page.

Driving America is part of Henry Ford Museum’s permanent collections. It is one of the largest automotive-centric exhibitions of its kind. Entrance to Driving America is included in admission to the museum and is free to members of The Henry Ford. Henry Ford Museum is open from 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m., seven days a week. Henry Ford Museum is part of The Henry Ford – America’s Greatest History Attraction.

Kristine Hass is a writer and a long-time member of The Henry Ford. She frequently blogs about her family’s visits to America’s Greatest History Attraction.