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RH77 09-20-2008 01:13 AM

Ford Assembly Plant Tour and Museum (Detroit)
Lots of us here are car nuts -- yours truly included. I had some spare time in Detroit today, so I went to "The Henry Ford", which includes a tour of the famous Rouge Plant.

Movie presentations of the History of Henry Ford and his legacy sparked a realization of the auto industry. His first aim was to mass-produce a car that the average person could afford to buy and operate. The Model-T was born.

I know, I'm starting to sound like a Teacher, but hear me out. Looking to our past can guide us to our future. The problem is, America forgets. :(

Of course, we realize that what we need is a revolutionary car today that embodies simplicity, economy, durability, and ease of maintenance. Is that possible? Adjusted for inflation, the price of the Model-T today would be less than $5000 new. You can barely buy a decent used, efficient model for that price these days.

It was a really slow visitor day at the Dearborn Assembly Plant -- essentially I had a multi-billion-dollar facility to myself. The 2009 F-150 has been pushed back 7-8 months due to the economy and waning interest. It looked like they had stick-shift console parts for the Focus on-hand. Hmmm. Anyways, I had an interesting discussion on the way out the door.

In the lobby, a 2009 chassis and engine unit is on display. I watched a video on the new Super Duty Diesel, with twin turbos (a small, immediately responding unit, followed by a larger, higher pressure unit). Interactive info and advertising.

A representative was there to talk about the new pickup. The bus left in 20-minutes, so I thought I'd shoot the breeze.

RH77: "So this is the new F-150 chassis, eh?"

Ford Rep: "Yeah, but I'm worried that the 2015 fuel economy regulations will be impossible to meet. I mean look at it. The chassis is a box-frame, components are lightweight. How much more light and efficient can it get?

(not realizing that it was likely a scripted comment... An FE statement! OK, here we go... I took the bait, but turned it around)

"Well there's lots of things you can do."

(Meanwhile the rep gave me a "yeah right" look)

I talked about aero, gearing, ECU mapping, etc. Everything you talk about here. After the summary, the rep was utterly shocked and about offered a job in the engineering department. If only! We talked for almost 30-minutes on what could be done. I almost missed the bus until they flagged it down.

We should all apply for automotive engineer jobs. I'll do it if you do it :p Perhaps deaf ears, but it felt good to show that it's OK to "think outside the box".

The plant itself is LEED certified with a Live Vegetative roof, power saving features, and other eco-friendly features. Great-Grandson/CEO Bill Ford had to make the decision to ditch the factory or revitalize it. The location was a powerhouse since the early 1900's, establishing the first automotive assembly line, production records, and parts manufactured on-site with raw materials. The contaminated soil is also being cleansed in a natural vegetative environment.

In 1999, the family legacy lived on, at the original legendary location, and employs 6000 people (barring current layoffs). It was just shockingly silent without production. It must take a long time to turn the wheel on a big industry, to steer it in the other direction.

After the Museum visit, I headed for the airport, enlightened. If you ever have a chance to visit the campus, it's a "must see". In a bit of foreshadowing last night, I posted a pic of the Taurus wagon in the Dodge Journey thread. While GM struggled and Chrysler went bankrupt in the 80's, Ford developed a risky sedan that America grew to love. A clay scale model of that car plus a mint '86 Taurus LX and presentation was on display.

Among other transportation and Americana items, historical items were present, like: Rosa Park's bus, a gigantic C&O "Allegheny" steam locomotive, and a Dymaxion House were free to walk through). There's just too much to describe.

As I can't stress enough, let's learn from our trials of the past to forge the future. It's too easy to ignore history, yet very unwise.


Frank Lee 09-20-2008 01:19 AM

That museum is very fun and thought provoking! Was the Weinermobile still there?

cfg83 09-20-2008 02:50 AM

RH77 -

Great stuff. I really want that plant to succeed :

Ford Rouge Center Landscape Master Plan
William McDonough + Partners | Ford Rouge Center Landscape Master Plan

He wrote this book :

Cradle To Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things

In Cradle to Cradle, McDonough and Braungart argue that the conflict between industry and the environment is not an indictment of commerce but an outgrowth of purely opportunistic design. The design of products and manufacturing systems growing out of the Industrial Revolution reflected the spirit of the day-and yielded a host of unintended yet tragic consequences.

Today, with our growing knowledge of the living earth, design can reflect a new spirit. In fact, the authors write, when designers employ the intelligence of natural systems—the effectiveness of nutrient cycling, the abundance of the sun's energy—they can create products, industrial systems, buildings, even regional plans that allow nature and commerce to fruitfully co-exist.


RH77 09-20-2008 12:19 PM


Originally Posted by Frank Lee (Post 62290)
That museum is very fun and thought provoking! Was the Weinermobile still there?

It is, and I had one of those "You know you're an EcoModder if..." moments. I actually thought to myself, "Does the hot dog improve aero?" :o


Originally Posted by cfg83 (Post 62299)

Great find on the master plan link! I was quickly searching for exactly this for the post.

I hope the factory does well too. The '09 F-150 was supposed to be released early, in February -- but we know that the average buyer is a need-based truck buyer these days, and '08s are still stacked-up. So, 95%+ of the workforce has been laid-off since then. The only other U.S. F-150 plant is here in Kansas City -- and they've shifted production to the Escape/Mariner/Tribute and hybrids. They've run out of space to park the trucks, so they're finding spare lots anywhere to store them.

Back to Detroit... I did see pallet of small cupholder/console units with stick-shift boots. It's clearly for a small compact, so maybe a shift in production is planned. Or, it could have been planted there for the public to see.

I guess we'll see...


Katmandu 09-21-2008 10:27 AM


Originally Posted by RH77 (Post 62336)
The only other U.S. F-150 plant is here in Kansas City --

IIRC, they are produced in Louisville, KY as well.

BTW, how many cars are in that Museum and how long is the plant tour ?

Is it worth driving (8)hours and spending the night to see ? :confused:

Sean T. 09-21-2008 07:10 PM

Katmandu--- YES YES YES YES YES.

The plant tour is awesome, and so is the auto museum... and if the weather is nice, it's fun to walk around Greenfield Village too... considering I live about 30-45 minutes from it, you'd think I've been there more than 3 times in the past 5 years... :(

If I could afford the gas and admission, I would go there all the time.

(I have to admit I am biased towards the fact that they have the MT '86 Taurus...)

Here is a couple pictures from when the Taurus Club went to the auto museum this summer:

RH77 09-21-2008 11:34 PM


Originally Posted by Katmandu (Post 62473)
BTW, how many cars are in that Museum and how long is the plant tour ?

Is it worth driving (8)hours and spending the night to see ? :confused:

As far as the plant tour goes, it's self-guided, so you can take a much time as you like, (depending on how busy it is, you may have to wait in line). A bus takes you to-and-from the Museum campus (about 10-minutes each way), which you may have to wait for. It took me about about 2 hours for the plant, including the transpo.

Also, make sure that production is active -- otherwise you'll just see boxes of parts and TV presentations on what you're supposed to be seeing. The advantage in this case is to spend extra time with staff. There were maybe 6 other people at the most when I went. In addition, 2, short movie presentations and about 10 significant cars that were made there, are on the main floor. The observation deck shows the "Living Roof" and the sustainable/environmental improvements.

The Museum focus is more "Americana" than just cars. There's farm equipment, trains, airplanes, specialty exhibits, and lots more. I'd have to guess that there are maybe 50 cars to browse.

In my opinion, you could easily make a day of it. If you have kids, the interactive displays and age-adjusted material should keep them entertained.

Is it worth 8-hours total, and an overnight? For me, it would be. I've been meaning to visit there for a few years -- it just fit right into a work visit that ended early on Friday and my flight was at 7:30pm. If you're close to Dayton, you could get there in less than 4 hours.

Visit The Henry Ford website for more info. IF you have AAA, the discount is pretty good.


dremd 09-22-2008 08:47 PM

One of my all time favorite places!

I've probably been 5 times and would love to go back.

dremd 09-23-2008 09:20 PM

Err My Dad went to the museum today, had to call and make me jealous. Err

Oh well

BlackDeuceCoupe 09-25-2008 04:29 AM


Originally Posted by RH77 (Post 62336)
It is, and I had one of those "You know you're an EcoModder if..." moments. I actually thought to myself, "Does the hot dog improve aero?" :o


A friend of mine's Dad was a big shot at Oscar Mayer, and used to park the Weinermobile on a cul-de-sac where they lived, for months at a time. We used to play in it after school!

It was pretty cool - had Weiner Whistles laying all over the place...

Kinda looked like a bread truck on the inside! The steering wheel was on a console, and you sat on a pedestal seat, blah, blah, blah. Didn't look anything like a car on the inside...

In later years, I found out that this wasn't the ONLY Weinermobile in existence - it was one of a handful around the country, but the only one in our area!

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