No one has to tell us that Dearborn, along with all of Detroit, is in the midst of big changes. The auto industry and the city that made it king are facing tough times. Just like our personal lives, adversity can make you bitter or better. History also holds that sometimes great cars are produced in the middle of difficult circumstances.
So with all that in mind, we set out for Motor City to visit spots of particular interest to Mustang enthusiasts. Our ride for the trip was a very extraordinary Roush BlackJack, a high-spirited thoroughbred engineered for ferocious power, handling, and style by Roush Performance (www.roushperformance.com). The BlackJack, also a Detroit native, boasts a supercharged 4.6L V8 rated at 430hp, full Stage 3 suspension and brakes, and the Roush body and interior treatment. It's a premium package based on Jack Roush's personal driver.
Our route called for a visit to Henry Ford's home, the historic River Rouge industrial complex where hundreds of thousands of Mustangs were built, and a pass down Detroit's famed Woodward Avenue. Finally, we set out in search of the long-lost Kar Kraft facility where the '69-'70 Boss 429s were assembled. We had some intel from Charlie Henry, who used to make deliveries there many years ago. Would his recall hold up and, if so, was the building still standing 40 years later?
We kicked off our road trip with a visit to Ford World Headquarters. This 11-story building in Dearborn, built on land originally owned by the Henry Ford estate, has been Ford's corporate face since 1956. Across the Southfield Freeway is Fairlane Town Center mall. Ford's influence in the area is huge, and many businesses have Ford-themed names.
Henry Ford Estate
Henry Ford was born on a farm near Dearborn during the Civil War. He grew up on a Dearborn-area farm, and at age 16 walked eight miles to Detroit in search of work in the machine shops. In 1903, Ford Motor Company was formed. Five years later, the Model T was on its way to transforming the world. In 1915, Henry Ford and wife Clara moved into this grand 56-room mansion made of marblehead limestone and concrete. Ford lived here until his death in 1947. Fair Lane, as it was known, was donated to the University of Michigan in 1957 and became a National Historic Landmark in 1966. Today, the home serves as a conference center.
Tooling slowly around the blacktops of Fair Lane, the BlackJack makes no protest of driving slow, as high-performance cars sometimes do. The temperature stays in the cool zone, clutch and brakes stay smooth, and the transmission doesn't get sticky. The mufflers also do a nice job of keeping things quiet, but not too quiet.
Adjacent to the Henry Ford Museum is the spacious outdoor exhibit, Greenfield Village. Founded in 1929, it portrays America from past eras, including the actual courthouse where Abe Lincoln practiced law, the Wright Brothers' workshop, and the Menlo Park laboratory of his good friend, Thomas Edison. A genuine steam-engine train makes excursions around the grounds. It's probably the closest thing to real time travel we'll ever see.
In the parking lot, an admirer stops to check out the BlackJack. Bhargav Mehta, from India, notices the car and is overwhelmed. He asks if he can sit in it. As he gushes about what a huge Mustang fan he is, his sister snaps pictures of the moment. He seems like a nice guy and a genuine Mustang lover, so I decide to make his day by asking if he wants to go for a spin. We buckle in and I pull onto the road. "Are you ready?" I ask. He nods. I uncork all 430 hp. First gear pulls like a tractor beam. The sound is magical, the power amazing. Power shift to second and the BlackJack explodes forward with supercharged fury. Redline shift to third. Wow. Slowing to normal speed, Bhargav stuffs his eyeballs back into his head and grins like a college kid who just pranked the professor. Let's see your Tata Indica do that.