DETROIT – It’s a hidden gem in Midtown Detroit. A labor of love to the first place and the first car that put America on wheels.
Ford’s Piquette Avenue Plant, where the first cars rolled out the front door instead of off the line. When ford opened the plant, the assembly line, as it’s commonly known hadn’t been invented yet.
The museum inside is a preservation project meant to keep the plant from being torn down, making it relatively young despite how old everything is inside.
“We are incredibly fortunate it’s one of the oldest surviving automotive plants in the world,” said museum president Jill Woodward.
Local4/ClickonDetroit got a museum tour from Woodward to celebrate the Model T’s 114th birthday.
“It was certainly one of the most incredible inventions of all time. It made Detroit the Silicon Valley of its era,” Woodward said, evoking the northern California region famous for tech and internet innovation.
The plant has dozens of cars, arraigned in order of oldest to youngest. From Henry Ford’s first designs using bike tires to the more exotic Model-T snowmobile, the museum is packed with history. But there’s nothing quite like seeing the original up close.
“See the wings on either side of the ford, and those were only made here in this building. Woodward said, pointing to an original model-T. “So, if you see any car anywhere in the world with those wings, you know that car most likely came from Piquette.”
The museum’s crown jewel? The world’s best restoration of a model t as voted on by other model t owners. It’s truly a window into the past.
“The most meticulous, perfect, accurate restoration of a Model-T. Probably even better than when it rolled off the line.”
The Model-T has a special place in American and Detroit history. Without it, there’d be no car culture, no great American road trip, no feeling of the first time of getting behind the wheel.
It also drove the middle class, literally. No longer were cars just for the upper class when it debuted but for anyone who could spend the money, as low as $260 by 1925.
“There’s still a quarter of a million of these cars on the road today,” Woodward said. “They were the first car for the everyday person because they were affordable, they were durable using this new vanadium steel, and they were fixable.”
This year’s celebration of the Model-T also comes in the middle of big changes. Just five miles from where the car was born sits the North American Auto Show, where the focus has been on electric vehicles and futuristic technology. It’s a monumental shift in the car industry, not unlike the Model-T 114 years ago. The symbolism is not lost on the folks at Piquette.
“That car represented such incredible entrepreneurship and innovation and really changed the way we drive and live today in many ways,” Woodward said. “To me, it seems like what comes
around goes around but it still represents the parts of Detroit that we’re so proud of, which is our incredible creativity.”
The museum is open Wed-Sun from 10 a.m-4 p.m with optional guided tours at 10 a.m, 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. More information can be found here. https://www.fordpiquetteplant.org