In My Opinion: Travelling Through Time

Firestone, Tesla, Edison, Packard, Durant, Chrysler, Dodge-they all started in Detroit. (Photo: Huw Evans)

A trip to Detroit is sure to help you appreciate our industry. 

Last weekend we planned a trip to Detroit. Perhaps you’re asking yourself, “Of all the places within driving distance of Toronto, why there?” Well, being in the car business, Detroit is where it all started. And I must admit, the historians have done an excellent job preserving the history of our great industry. Firestone, Tesla, Edison, Packard, Durant, Chrysler, Dodge—they all started in Detroit.

Worth the trip
Our first stop was the Henry Ford Museum. After spending a day there, one is left speechless. I should add, our party included my adult children and the grandkids.

The museum has literally the best collection of historic items of American automotive memorabilia and technologies. Kennedy’s Lincoln, the Roosevelts’ Sunshine Special, Rosa Parks’ bus—all the originals. These storied items alone are worth the trip.

Into steam? Well, they have one of the largest selections, if not the largest, of steam engines on the continent, including a 7500-hp Allegany. Then there’s Greenfield Village—200 acres of the 1920s. Think of it as a lifestyle you can experience. There are fully functioning Model Ts, real steam trains, Edison’s labs, and so much more.

It has been almost 30 years since I took my kids there last. It’s surprising how much you remember. We came up with what we like to call, “The flea market experience.” Here’s how it works: the boys pick a local flea market, and we give each of the grandkids $5. The object is to see who can find the best treasure.

I selected two winners! One of my grandkids talked one of the vendors out of a lot of free stuff. Obviously, an entrepreneur in the making and a definite winner.

The second winner was my oldest son. He found 20 old Road & Track issues from the ’60s. Absolutely great reading. I can’t believe how cheap and plentiful stuff was in the ’60s and ’70s.

Mind you, back then you had trouble clearing $125 a week, but for $3,000 I could have snagged a Mercedes Gullwing. Who knew? We ended the day at the Go Kart track.

Look back to see ahead
The only caution I have for anyone planning a trip to Detroit is pick your hotel wisely. We stayed with a major hotel chain and were disappointed. The place was not kept to the highest standards. It wasn’t clean; breakfast was less than average and the showers were a nightmare. Water must really be a major factor in the hotel business, because you had to walk around the shower to get wet.

If you get a chance, a trip to the birthplace of our industry is well worth it. You learn a lot about where we are, when you consider where it all started and how far we’ve come.

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