Thursday, July 10, 2008

Motor City

You just can't do a project on the automotive lifestyle without visiting Detroit. But, I have to say that the condition of the roads in this city are a little surprising for a town built on the backs of America's drivers. They are very bad. We do have sympathy for the harsh winters and what this can do to a road, but come on! This is motor city for crying out loud.

On the other hand, this city does quite a few things right and one of the best is The Henry Ford Museum. In this place, great train engines sit side by side with the first Mustang to roll off the assembly line more than 40 years ago. You can see the T-bird driven by the engineer who designed the T-bird, the limousine JFK was riding in when shot and the first Oscar Meyer Weinermobile. It's a whiplash riddled ride through history all under one roof.

What catches my eye is an area devoted to how the automobile spawned other industries. People would "auto camp" along the roadsides, free to stop and set up camp wherever they pleased because there were very few hotels. In fact, the word "motel" wouldn't exist without the car. Roadside diners, amusements, and outdoor advertising were born out of this early automotive consumer behavior.

In This Vail

of Toil and Sin

Your Head Grows Bald

But, Not Your Chin

Burma Shave

Hardly a Driver

Is Still Alive

Who Passed

On a Curve

At 75

Burma Shave

In a small display case I notice a give-away from an early gas station. It's a crude, pop-up folded paper cup in a tin. The copy reads: "For picnics and motoring -- travelling too. I hope these cups will be useful to you." It's a good thing to hope for, utility.

We wrap up the visit by sitting in a Model T that is disassembled and reassembled every day at the museum with the help of visitors. We missed this but talk with the curators as they explain the process and let the kids honk the horn. It takes two people 45 minutes to assemble. A far cry from the dozens of people it takes to put together cars at the Honda Plant in Alabama, but then again we don't have to hand crank the Pilot tonight when we leave. And, that's a good thing.

A Model T

the Building is Easy

but Cranking the Engine

Makes us Queasy

Burma Shave

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