Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Detroit Historical Museum gives you a lot of history, and a little bit of car culture

I was in Detroit last week for our annual visit to the North American International Auto Show, and while we were in the center of the American auto industry, we decided to check out some of the other car-related attractions.

One of our stops was the Detroit Historical Museum. Now this wasn’t a car museum specifically, but is impossible to tell the story of the Motor City without a heavy dose of car culture.

Probably the most memorable automotive display at the museum was the Cadillac assembly line. An operable body drop and several un-built 1988 Cadillac Fleetwood Broughams were arranged to look like a section of a GM assembly plant.

The Cadillac display was interesting for a couple of reasons. One, the manufacturing equipment had actually been used to build cars starting in the 1950s and going through 1987. The possibility that you could have seen, driven, or even owned a car that was assembled with that very body drop seems pretty possible.

The Cadillacs themselves were pretty fascinating as well. Although they weren’t running, driving cars, they were mostly complete 1988 Fleetwoods, all decked out with Cadillac’s beautiful real wire wheels. They weren’t warmed-over, restored used cars. They were donated by General Motors to the museum when new, and remain frozen in time, destined to be on display in this state forever. Cool stuff.

Of course there were other car-related displays as well. A curved-dash Oldsmobile, a Model T in which you could sit for a photo, and several cases full of engines, tools, even promotional models were all there for your viewing pleasure.

There was also a motorsports room with a race car or two, some sweet vintage racing posters, trophies, uniforms, and more to catch the attention of fans of racing history.

The rest of the displays contained more common museum items. There were cobblestone streets with mock storefronts, mannequins dressed-up in period outfits, and even a big wedding exhibit.

If I could have changed anything, the Detroit Historical Museum would have had a lot more cars. One of the guys there told me they have more than 60 cars in storage, but when they displayed them all, people complained. Are these people crazy?! Who complains about car displays?!!!

Anyway, if you want to learn a little about Detroit history, and you want a little automotive ethos mixed in, you might check out http://www.detroithistorical.org/.

Once I got home, I noticed that the brochure said something about not taking pictures to preserve the displays. Guess you’re supposed to read that first. Oops. Enjoy the illegal virtual tour below.

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