Wheeling Through History

Michigan's fascination with the automobile and its birth and continuous association with venues around the state includes museums, collectable, historic documentation, hands-on activities, and even an assembly line and plant tour.

Gilmore Car MuseumTake a drive down memory lane at Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners (about 15 miles northeast of Kalamazoo). Visitors can eyeball 200 vehicles, spanning more than 100 years. The newly expanded car haven now features an additional 21,000 square feet in three buildings. Guests weave their way through 90 acres of pastoral countryside featuring eight restored 19th-century barns, a 1930s gas station, a new 1940s-style diner and an old train depot-all showcasing automotive history from the 1899 Locomobile to the 2002 Camaro.

If a 1935 London taxi or a 1950 double-decker bus offers you a ride along the way, go ahead and hop in. Among the automobiles you'll see are the 1929 Duesenberg Model J; the DeLorean, made popular by Back to the Future; and the 1948 Tucker, thought at the time to be the car of the future. Remember to mark your calendar for the numerous car and motorcycle shows the museum holds each year.

At Dearborn's Automotive Hall of Fame, guests are invited to meander through the exhibits area where they can experience interactive displays and authentic artifacts about the global automotive industry, its pioneers, inventors, innovators and leaders. The onsite gift shop offers many unique automotive related books, posters, miniatures, clothing and other gift items.

The  MotorCities National Heritage Area affords visitors an opportunity to discover the nationally and internationally significant story of the American automotive industry, which had its beginnings here in Michigan.  Nearly 1200 auto-related resources have been identified in the motors Cities heritage region--the largest concentration of auto-related sites, attractions and events in the world.

1950s CorvetteSoutheastern Michigan's Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum is housed in the last operating Hudson dealership in the world. Displays include Tucker, Hudson, Kaiser, Frazer, Corvairs (General Motors) and much more. The collection features both authentic and restored automobiles, as well as a wealth of other artifacts and records.

Along with automobiles at The Henry Ford, you can find a celebrated indoor-historical museum, fascinating outdoor displays, a factory tour, an awesome motion picture theater, an unparallel research center, and a factory tour. Everything from inventions, products, and displays, to comical and peculiar memorabilia pack Henry Ford Museum.  You'll see the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, for example, along with the chair in which President Lincoln was assassinated and a test tube containing Thomas Edison's last breath.

Restored in 2003, Greenfield Village stages seven outdoor-themed areas, each celebrating chapters of America's story. Porches and Parlors commemorate old neighborhoods with their original houses. Working Farms re-creates 19th-century rural life, while a 1800s small-town train depot, steam-powered rail line and working roundhouse at Railroad Junction salute the nation's railroading legacy. Throughout the village, interpreters in period costumes and live demonstrations help recapture the past. Other sections include Main Street, Edison at Work, Henry Ford's Model T and Liberty Craftworks.

Be sure to plan enough time to examine documents at the Benson Ford Research Center, or watch the transformation of materials come together during an exciting Ford Rouge Factory Tour.

A stop at the Walter P. Chrysler Museum in Auburn Hills with its more than 70 vehicles on display is also a must for the automobile enthausiast--especiall drag racing fans. Explore the interactive kiosk stations, and enjoy three short films that feature a look at the Chrysler Tech Center, drag racing in the 1960's and Walter P. Chrysler’s early years.

You’ll also want to plan a visit to Flint’s Sloan Museum to check out the area’s part in the automotive revolution as well as the Buick Gallery and Research Center was opened. The gallery is home to nearly 30 of the museum’s automobiles, an automotive restoration facility and the Perry Archives.

Lansing’s R.E. Olds Transportation Museum features artifacts and documents tracing the history of area transportation from 1883 to the present. Antique vehicles and automotive memorabilia as well as aircraft, bicycles and carriages are displayed. This collection features everything from the first Oldsmobile, built in 1897 to the first 1966 Toronado off the line. The company’s history is highlighted from 1880 to2009 when the Oldsmobile brand was phased out.  Displays include vintage vehicles, engines, awards, photographs and artifacts.

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