The Henry Ford Museum must be doing something right. It scores an enviable 4.8 out of 5 stars on Google reviews, and more than 23,000 people have taken the trouble to share their views on what makes it an experience worth visiting.
For the majority of car enthusiasts on this side of the pond, it is a distant attraction that’s probably scribbled on a mental wish list of things to do when that big American vacation finally happens, mixed in with Hollywood studio tours, rodeo rides, hiring a Mustang and visiting a firing range.
Hopefully a visit to The Henry Ford Museum will happen one day, but in the meantime, who better than Tom Cotter, the man behind Barn Find Hunter, to take us Brits on a tour of one of the most impressive – and expansive – automotive attractions going? And not any old tour, but a trip into one of its storage warehouses where countless vehicles and more are kept, maintained and rotated into the public display over time.
For the uninitiated, the museum is the largest indoor–outdoor museum complex in the United States and is visited by more than 1.7 million people each year. That, my friends, is a lot of hot dogs.
It’s set in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, Michigan, wedged into the heart of Ford’s research and development and engineering heartland, and was sparked by Henry Ford’s personal collection of historic objects, which he began collecting as far back as 1906. Today, the 12-acre site is primarily a collection of antique machinery, pop culture items, cars and other vehicles, trains, aircraft and plenty more besides.
Cotter takes us on a tour of The Henry Ford’s inner sanctum, together with Matt Anderson, the curator of transportation for the museum.
Straight away there’s the unique 1953 Ford X-100, built to be driven from motor show to motor show around the US as Ford marked 50 years of making cars. The X-100 featured more than 50 innovative ideas, some you’ll be familiar with, like heated seats and a telephone. Others, like the variable-volume horn and the in-car electric shaver, never caught on.
From here the tour just gets more and more interesting. “When we collect cars, we’re collecting the cars but we’re also collecting the story,” says Anderson of the museum’s philosophy. Which is why you’ll find everything from the 1961 Lincoln Continental, SS-100-X that President John F. Kennedy was riding in when he was assassinated, to the bus on which Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat, leading to the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
So sit back and – while you daydream about that big trip to the States sometime – enjoy this behind-the-scenes tour with Tom Cotter and Matt Anderson.
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