The Model A Grand Tour

There will be tour guide cars and signs along the route

Thursday August 8, 2019  By: John Khami


WELCOME to Detroit and Dearborn


Some information for the 2019 Model “A” Ford Grand Tour in Dearborn and Detroit.


In French, Troit translates to “strait” and De “of the.” 


French Colonists called it, “Le Dé Troit du lac Érié, or, the Strait of Lake Erie as the river linked two of the five Great Lakes, Erie and Huron.  (Wikipedia)

In July 1701, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac and an additional one hundred followers built a small fort on the strait called, Fort Pontchartrain.  In later years the city was called “La Cite’ De Troit” or  “The City of the Strait.” Many city streets retain their French names as well as a River called  “Rouge”.



Our 2019, Model “A” Ford Club, Grande Tour begins at the staging area at the Fairlane Mall in Dearborn, MI


In 2016, The Ford Motor Company began consolidating 70 buildings in Dearborn with the goal of transforming its engineering, administrative and other buildings into two central campuses into modern, more efficient, green buildings by 2026.  In the process, thousands of staff moved to allow for the rebuild.  A major retail anchor in the Fairlane Town Center Mall closed and Ford officials toured the site for a possible location for its staff.  Part of the south section of this mall is now repurposed as, “Town Center Offices” and leased to the Ford Motor Company.







Henry Ford the Second or “The Deuce” as automotive leaders knew him, opened the GLASS HOUSE or the administration site of the Ford Motor Company in 1956.   The building incudes 12 stories of glass-faced walls and room for 3000 staff.   The address is: 1 American Road, Dearborn, Michigan. 

The Henry Ford II Center, as it was renamed in June 1996, is near many of the sites we are visiting on this 2019 MARC National meet. These include, Greenfield Village, the Henry Ford, The Rouge Plant, Fairlane, the home of Henry and Clara Ford, and the Michigan Central Depot in the Corktown area of Detroit.   


From the Ford Headquarters Building, the Model “A” Club crosses over to MICHIGAN AVENUE towards Detroit.  The Erie Canal opened in1825 from Albany to Buffalo New York bringing settlers to Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and Michigan.

Father Gabriel Richard (pronounced, Ree-Shard) of St. Anne’s Church in Detroit proposed to the Federal Congress a road for the settlement of the 94 Million acres of the Northwest Territories along with the 17 million acres in Michigan.  Father Richard said to the House of Representatives, “Build this road now. If you ask me what will this road cost? I beg leave to answer it will cost nothing to the government.  I might say it will cost less than nothing.” 

Thus was born a road of 260 miles from Detroit to Chicago with an initial appropriation from the Federal Congress of Three Thousand Dollars. 

Michigan Avenue in downtown Detroit is the name of the road or US 12.   This road connects Detroit to the same, Michigan Avenue that is in downtown Chicago.  After passing through Ann Arbor the street signs change to: Chicago Road West.   A drive in your Model “A” from Downtown Detroit to Downtown Chicago can be 9.5 hours.  Passing through farmlands, small towns and a population that stops to take a look at our old cars.  It is a sweet ride at 45 mph, with the windows down, windshield open, smelling the odor of fertilized farms.  Truck drivers and motorcycle people wave back at you on a two-lane road with open land on either side.

Traveling toward to the downtown area, MICHIGAN CENTRAL DEPOT shows the decay of the city and its resurgence.  Workers came to Detroit for the $5.00 a day factory job to improve their economic future and also for their families. During two World Wars, supplies were shipped from this train station in support of the war efforts.


The original Michigan Depot opened in Downtown Detroit at Jefferson and Third streets in 1884. As business and the population grew in Detroit, the Michigan Central Depot, a part of the New York Central Railroad, owned by William Vanderbilt, bought 50 acres in what is called Corktown about three quarters of a mile from Downtown Detroit.   In 1908, Reed and Stem Architects designed the New York Central Railroad Station and used design elements from New York Central Station for the Michigan Central Railroad Station in Detroit. It opened with arched ceilings of 54 feet in height, marble floors, interior Corinthian Columns, 68 feet tall, three arches of 21 by 40 feet for the stained glass windows, ten covered rail lines, a first floor waiting area of 22,000 square feet with newsstands, a drugstore, barbershop, restaurants, copper trimmed skylights and vaulted ceilings. It was stunning.


Presidents Truman, Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt along with Thomas Edison, rode the “Detroiter” from New York to Detroit and Henry Ford had a private rail car called the “Fairlane.” 



At its busiest and prior to World War One, Michigan Central Depot had 200 trains a day leaving the station.  It was built outside of the downtown area because the city officials hoped that as the Detroit population expanded, the station would then be in a great location.   Henry Ford bought land near the Michigan Central and made construction plans but the depression years of the late 1920’s through1932 stopped the development.

CORKTOWN: Many Irish immigrants fled their country because of the Irish Potato famine in 1840 and arrived in Detroit.  In a short time the Irish outgrew their location in the downtown area and moved west, to establish a “suburb” called Corktown.  It is named after County Cork in Ireland.  The area has a Catholic background with Most Holy Trinity Church as a community center and … Maltese is spoken for the Maltese Community of Corktown,


William Ford was from County Cork in Ireland.   His Father Jonathan Ford married Thomasine Smith and the family came to the United States in 1847, their son, William Ford married Mary Litogot in Detroit and moved to Corktown.   Of the couple’s six children, the first and oldest child, named Henry, was born in 1863.


That same year, William Ford built a barn in nearby Springwells Township for the storage of grain, hay, some livestock and tools.  It is today used as a stable for the Henry Ford Museum horses.  It is red in color, made of wood and stone.   Look for it at the Henry Ford or Greenfield Village.  


After years of neglect, Corktown is the new neighborhood to visit, to stay and to dine in the Detroit area.  With the purchase of the Michigan Central Depot in 2018 by the Ford Motor Company, the area strengthens with Fords development of its campus for autonomous vehicles.

The additional 13-story, 500,000 square feet office tower was designed by Hotel Architects Warren and Wetmore and gave the appearance of a hotel attached to the Train station.  It was, however used as an office building with 3000 Railroad personnel using 500 offices. The Railroad auditors used the seventh floor.  The other parts of the office towers were leased to competitors C&O, the Pennsylvania, Toledo and Ironton rail lines for their staff.


The Michigan Central Depot was closed when AMTRAK stopped service in January 1988. A developer wanted to purchase the building and open a Casino and Hotel but plans were abandoned.  When the building was neglected, it was stripped, defaced, damaged by scrappers and vandals.  Ford Motor Company purchased Michigan Central Depot in June 2018 for the use of its electric, self-driving, autonomous automobile research and the center of Ford’s Corktown Campus.  

From the Michigan Central Depot, we return to Michigan Avenue, and a right to ROSA PARKS BOULEVARD: Rosa Parks challenged The Alabama State law requiring black passengers to give up their seats to white passengers in the mid 1950’s.  She refused to give up her seat and the Civil Rights movement began.  She was fired from her job in a department store as s seamstress and received many death threats for her refusal to obey the state law.  She moved to Detroit in 1957 finding similar work. 



For 23 years, from 1965 to 1988, Rosa Parks was the secretary and receptionist for Detroit Congressman John Conyers.  Parks died in 2005 and was the first woman to lie in honor at the United State Capital Rotunda and was also awarded a posthumous statue in the United States Statuary Hall.   The bus that she rode when refusing to give up her seat is on display at the Henry Ford. 

We continue south on Rosa Parks with another right to FORT STREET. Take as quick look to your right to see the twin spires of the second oldest Catholic Church in the United States.


St. Anne’s Church on St. Anne’s Street began in 1701 in downtown Detroit.  In 1818 it was rebuilt with Fr. Gabriel Richard as the Pastor and moved to its present location after the Civil War.  Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, was a member of St. Anne’s Church and the founder of the Cite’ De Troit.


When visiting the Henry Ford, look for Henry Ford’s first Model “A” built in 1903. Next to it is, or was, a car that Ford helped design for Henry Leland who developed a motor for Ransom E. Olds.  Leland used some Ford parts for his motorcar in August 1902.   As Detroit celebrated it’s 200th anniversary that year, Leland named his car after the founder of Detroit.  Cadillac.

Look overhead to the Ambassador Bridge that connects the cities of Windsor Ontario, Canada and Detroit, Michigan, USA.  It is the largest international suspension bridge in the world at 7,490 feet in length, rising 152 feet above the Detroit River.   Completed in 1929, it was the longest suspension bridge until the George Washington Bridge was open to traffic over the Hudson River in New York in 1931.  An average of 10,000 vehicles cross the Ambassador bridge each working day and the border crossing accounts for 25% of all trade between the United States and Canada.


FORT STREET: Named after Fort Pontchartrain, the British built a new fort along the River that was ceded to the United States in 1796 after the treaty ending the Revolution.   The American Secretary of War in 1805 was Henry Dearborn, who named the former British garrison, Fort Detroit, and this was captured by the British in the war of 1812 because of its strategic location in defending the Great Lakes. When it was returned it to the Americans in 1813, it was renamed, Fort Shelby.  Fort Street is where the Fort was located in downtown Detroit and the street extends from downtown through the downriver neighborhoods of Detroit where a second Fort was built.  

We travel Fort Street four miles to Miller Street, the public road to the

Ford Rouge Plant, birthplace of the Model “A” Ford.  


The first assembled vehicle at the Rouge was a boat not a car.


In 1917, Under Secretary of the Navy, Franklin D. Roosevelt presented a contract to Henry Ford from the government to build 100 Eagle Boats for the hunting, chasing and destroying the submarines that were damaging allied shipping. 


Henry Ford’s Eagle Boats were 200 feet long with a beam of 33 feet, a crew of 50 plus eight officers.  These Model “T’s” of the Seas, topped out at 18 knots.  The Eagle Boats used steel plates riveted to the steel frames with the last Eagle Boat assembled in ten days at the Rouge. The war ended in November 1918 with Ford Motor Company producing 60 Eagle Boats and the Rouge Offices are located at the corner of Eagle Pass and Miller Road at The Rouge Plant                                           

The Rouge Complex has 15 miles of paved Roads, 90 miles of rail line and a foundry on 30 acres.  The Rouge is one mile by one and half miles on 1200 acres with important water access that Henry Ford lacked at the Highland Park factory.



As a boy working on his father’s farm in Dearborn, Henry Ford experienced the labor and toil of farming.  “To lift this burden of flesh and blood,” Henry Ford and his engineers developed a tractor using Model “T” production techniques.  It was light, gray in color and parts were available at the Model “T” auto dealers.  The Ford Motor Company produced 750,000 Ford and Son Tractors

from 1917 to 1928.

The 15 Millionth Model “T” rolled off the Highland Park Assembly Line on May 26, 1927 and the next day, the factory shut down all production of the Model “T. “ Five months later, in October 1927, the first automobile model called the “New Ford”” or Model “A” rolled off the assembly line at the Rouge plant in Dearborn.  Five million more Ford Cars and Trucks were made in the Model “A” years of 1928, 1929, 1930 and 1931. Buckle up your Model “A” seatbelts and make it a slow drive.  Miller Street is a bumpy ride.  Today, the Rouge Factory creates a new Ford F-150 Truck every 93 seconds and Ford trucks are made in America.


Another War note from the Rouge is that Franklin D. Roosevelt who was then the President of the United States, contacted Henry Ford and Willys to make a general purpose (GP) vehicle for the troops. The assemblers at the Rouge in the 1940’s nicknamed this vehicle a GP but by pronouncing the two letters, the vehicle became … the Jeep.  Enzo Ferrari once said,  “The best sports car America ever made was the Jeep.”  

Our final drive is through THE FORD ENGINEERING CAMPUS on Village Drive. Many of the buildings to your left and right were built in the 1950’s.   In less than ten years, the Ford Motor Company will transform this 60-year-old engineering center into a Green, Hi-tech campus with new studios, an outdoor courtyard for staff to socialize and collaborate.  There will be on-demand shuttles, E-Bikes, green space, geothermal heating, cooling, the use of efficient plumbing fixtures, capturing rainwater, the use of energy saving materials, walking trails.


Completion of the major work for the new Ford Research and Engineering Center is expected in 2023 and then the second campus around Ford World Headquarters is to be completed in 2026.   The end result is that the 30,000 Ford staff today and located in 70 buildings will be reduced into two most efficient campuses.


We complete our Grand Tour for the 2019 Model “A” Ford Club by driving through the Engineering Campus, across Oakwood and through the gates to THE HENRY FORD. An indoor and outdoor museum filled with history, it is a National Historic Landmark site in Dearborn, Michigan.  The exhibits include, Presidential Vehicles, Automobiles, Railroads, the Museum of American Innovation, American Furniture Examples, Art Science and Technology Exhibits.  Look for the bloodstain in the chair in which President Lincoln was sitting when shot by John Wilkes Booth and John F. Kennedy’s car in which he was sitting when assassinated.  See the Rosa Parks bus.


 “We ought to know more about the families who founded this nation, and how they lived.  One way to do that is to reconstruct as nearly as possible the conditions under which they lived.”  -- Henry Ford


GREENFIELD VILLAGE: Visit Thomas Edison’s lab and record your voice on a record in the Menlo Park Exhibit. See the Wright Brothers Bicycle Shop, Walk the building that is modeled after Independence Hall in Philadelphia.  There are Working Farms, Horse Drawn Carriage Rides, sit in a Model “T” for a ride in the Village, Visit Parlors and Porches and Main Street for more sights, sounds and dining.




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