Detroit Auto History & Car Museums

The whole world knows it – Detroit is THE Motor City. From Henry Ford to the Dodge Brothers, Detroit is widely known to put the world on wheels. If loud engines, car cruisin’ and car history are your thing, then Detroit is your place. Cruise through the Motor City with us.

Image courtesy of Automotive Hall of Fame
Image courtesy of The Henry Ford

The Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation’s permanent exhibit, Driving America, focuses more on the people that drive cars than the cars themselves. It is one of the most expansive automotive-centric experiences in the museum world. With more than 100 vehicles on display, the exhibit explains how the invention of the automobile changed our everyday lives. You can also see some famous cars in the museum, like the Kennedy Presidential limo and Rosa Parks’ bus. Also within The Henry Ford complex, you can ride in an authentic Model T in Greenfield Village, take a tour through the Ford F-150 Assembly Plant and actually see one of the trucks built. Located next to The Henry Ford, the Automotive Hall of Fame celebrates the contributions of the men and women who pioneered automotive innovations. Think Henry Ford, Eiji Toyoda, Walter P. Chrysler, Soichiro Honda and many others. The venue is also home to the Hall of Honor, which is considered one of the largest single pieces of automotive fine art, along with Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry fresco cycle, which is on display at the nearby Detroit Institute of Arts. You can also walk the plank floors where the first 12,000 Ford Model Ts were assembled. This is the actual birthplace of the most significant automobile of the 20th century. It’s where Henry Ford got his start. You’ll learn about his story of innovation, his early successes, his many false starts and his failures that drove him to do better next time. In the Detroit Historical Museum, check out the America’s Motor City exhibition. It tells the “fascinating stories of both how cars built metro Detroit and how metro Detroit built cars, as well as why Detroit became the Motor City”.


Woodward Dream Cruise by Bill Bowen
Woodward Dream Cruise event in Birmingham

Cruises in Metro Detroit

In The D, one of our favorite pastimes is parking our butts on the side of major roadways and watching the area’s best classic cars drive by. Some of the favorite cruises include Cruisin’ Downriver, the Mount Clemens Cruise, Cruisin’ Gratiot, Cruisin’ Hines and, of course, the Woodward Dream Cruise. Cruisin Downriverpacks half a million people into Downriver each June to pay homage to the automobile. There’s good food, great people-watching, awesome oldies and of course lots of cars, from T-Birds and Chevys to Mustangs and more. Mount Clemens Cruise is The D’s oldest car cruise, and continues to entertain, amaze and draw in big crowds of classic car owners and lovers along Gratiot Avenue. In addition to the cars, there’s a kids zone for the youngsters, and we can only hope the flame-throwing contest will be brought back again this year. Eastpointe’s Cruisin’ Gratiot is an annual, weeklong celebration of car history, tradition, memorabilia and some family fun. In August every year, Cruisin’ Hines drives classic cars through Dearborn’s Hines Park. And The Woodward Dream Cruise is the world’s largest single-day automotive event, bringing 1.5 million people and 40,000 classic cars, street rods, and special interest vehicles each year from around the world.


Annual Car Events

When the North American International Auto Show comes to Detroit, the whole world notices. Every car company worth its salt shows its latest models at TCF Center. Starting in 2020, the auto show will take place in the summer and expand out into the city of Detroit. Expect big things when that happens.

If race cars are more your style, then the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix is the place for you. This crowd favorite event takes over Belle Isle every June, so you can experience the thrill of professional racing right in Detroit. Aside from the big race, there are vendors, a family fun zone, a chance to meet your favorite drivers and great views of the Detroit skyline.

Autorama has rolled through Detroit every year for over 60 years. The heart of the show has always been hot rods, but manufacturer displays have started to be infiltrated in over the years. One year, there was even a remake of the famous Dukes of Hazard scene.


Aside from museum exhibits, Detroit has a few unique sites that are almost exclusive to automotive history. The GM Renaissance Center is one of Detroit’s most famous buildings, and is home to General Motors. Located on the Detroit riverfront, this iconic Detroit building looks like a fortress and is also home to the Detroit Marriott, several businesses, a GM showroom, and amazing views of both Detroit and Canada. You can also visit the former homes of Detroit’s most famous auto barons. The Edsel & Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores is the private estate of one of America’s most iconic automotive families. The stunning architecture, the expansive lakefront gardens and grounds, the historic cars — all give a glimpse into the Ford family’s life at the estate. And at Meadow Brook Hall, you can visit the historic home built by Matila Dodge Wilson, widow of John Dodge. Explore the expansive gardens, recreational facilities and farm buildings, or host a wedding or event there.


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