America's Motor City - a new exhibit at the Detroit Historical Museum
Detroit Historical Museum
5401 Woodward Avenue, Detroit 48202
It still tells the fascinating stories of how cars built Detroit and how Detroit built cars.
The Motor City exhibition has been revised and rebranded as America’s Motor City. It still tells the fascinating stories of both how cars built metro Detroit and how metro Detroit built cars, but the new exhibit also looks to explain why Detroit became the Motor City.
The popular Cadillac “body drop” attraction remains, along with the replica of the car that Charles Brady King first drove on the streets of Detroit in March of 1896. However, the new exhibit uses these two key artifacts and re-interprets their role in our region’s history.
The new exhibit incorporates the museum’s popular Automotive Showplace exhibit at its entrance, where cars from our collection are featured. The area also showcases visitors’ stories of their experiences with their favorite classic cars — complete with vintage photos of individual cars and their owners.
The exhibit continues with stories surrounding how Detroit builds cars, from its early hand-built horseless carriages to the innovation of the moving assembly line. Visitors learn about the Detroit entrepreneurs who came together to cement Detroit as the Motor City, as well as the many different aspects of modern car development, including design and marketing.
The focus then shifts to how cars build Detroit, with an emphasis on the people who helped the city expand into one of the nation’s industrial giants. It highlights both the city’s physical growth and the people — from individuals to organizing movements like the United Auto Workers — who helped build the Motor City.
A final section returns the focus to Detroit’s car culture, with displays and information on how Detroiters — and Americans in general — view their cars as extensions of their personalities. From bumper stickers to custom paint jobs to elaborate home garages, our cars have become part of our collective American culture.