One of the essential stops on any visit to the Motor City, the Ford Piquette Avenue plant is an indelible part of automotive history. Located in downtown Detroit, the Piquette plant has been restored and is open to the public for tours. This building is steeped in automotive history and it is truly an integral piece of Detroit’s DNA. Anyone looking to learn more about Henry Ford, or the Model T, needs to stop by for a visit.
Built by Ford, the Piquette Avenue plant was used to build several of their early vehicles starting in 1904 and culminated with the Model T. The popularity of the Model T meant the need for a much larger factory and Ford moved operations to the new Highland Park factory in 1910. The Piquette plant was then sold to Studebaker, which built cars in the facility until 1933. The former factory was finally converted to a museum in 2001 and now offers tours to the public.
Somehow I never knew this beauty was sitting right there. I happened across it while heading to visit the Motown Museum, which is nearby on West Grand Blvd. I knew right away that I needed a tour. Outside of the building’s clean facade, the property is nondescript. Parking is across the street on a grassy corner with views of an abandoned factory and abandoned home. One can imagine what this neighborhood looked like 100 years ago. The good news is that several businesses are operating out of other old buildings nearby and the economy is creeping back into the area.
The building is surprisingly small when you think of it as a factory and it’s a stretch to imagine that factory mechanization blossomed in this modest three story. Tours kick off three times a day at 10am, noon, and 2pm. Our guide was amazingly knowledgeable and made the $12 fee seem like a mere tip. The tour covers two floors of the factory and features dozens of vintage automobiles, many of which are on loan from private collectors. The cars are in various states of restoration, from pristine to barely there. The factory itself is in good condition with ongoing refurbishments and the addition of Henry Ford’s private quality control workshop underway.
The tour lasted roughly two hours and was very informative. I also had plenty of opportunities to take pictures along the way without interrupting the flow. Watch the video below for an extensive tour of the factory. Once finished, I took a stroll through the gift shop; picking up a fridge magnet along with an orange Faygo and bag of Better Made chips for lunch. I highly recommend stopping by the Piquette Plant for a tour, whether you are a gear head or just looking to learn a bit more about Detroit’s history. It will be well worth your time.
The Piquette Avenue Plant is open Friday through Sunday all year, with the addition of Wednesdays and Thursdays in summer. Tours last roughly 1 to 2 hours depending on group size and information covered by the docent. Tour fees range from $5 to $12 with children under 12 free. For more information visit the Piquette Plant’s website at http://www.fordpiquetteavenueplant.org/