Henry Ford Museum
Leaving Fair Lane, we have a short jaunt down Michigan Avenue to the Southfield Freeway, then hang a right and hop off on West Village Road-not enough time to stretch the BlackJack's legs. We're heading for The Henry Ford, a complex comprised of the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village. The world-renowned Henry Ford Museum is a vast compilation of transportation, aviation, and industrial history. The labels don't do it justice. If you're in Detroit, plan on spending at least a day in the museum. Keep a sharp eye out and you'll see Mustang number 001, a white '64 1/2 convertible that Ford recognizes as the first production Mustang.
Ford Test Track
Directly across Village Road from the museum and Greenfield Village is Ford's low-speed and high-speed proving grounds. It's protected from public view by a tall, red brick fence. Look carefully at those vintage PR photos of your favorite old Mustangs and you'll see this same fence. Ford used this area for publicity shots for many new models prior to their introduction. The proving grounds also has steep grades, water tests, and the Pitch and Jounce area. Many great Fords have logged many test miles here.
Ford's famous Rouge Assembly Plant, which began operations in 1917, was Henry Ford's grand vision of self-sufficient manufacturing, where ships with raw materials would sail up the Rouge River to unload materials that would be crafted into engines, frames, glass, sheet steel, radiators, even tires and paper. At its peak, the Rouge plant had 93 buildings with 15.7 million square feet of floor space, 100 miles of railroad track, 120 miles of assembly conveyors, and over 100,000 employees. It had its own electrical plant, hospital, police force, and fire station. Mustangs were built there from 1964 to 2004, along with two-seat T-Birds, FE engines, Cougars, and regular passenger cars (look for the "F" plant code in the VIN). Many of the old plants have been demolished. The big white building, visible behind the electrical tower, houses the Rouge's last remaining vehicle assembly-the F150. Tours are available, leaving from the Henry Ford Museum/Greenfield Village.
From Dearborn, we saddle up for a trip east on I-94. The BlackJack is always ready to blast up on-ramps and merge with power to spare. Cruising speeds are child's play, and we have to salute the exhaust designers for avoiding the 65-mph throb that so many high-performance mufflers seem to have. The BlackJack, though capable of cornering loads over 1G, does not pound you into powder on expansion joints. Compliance is not Town Car soft, but it's not go-kart stiff either. It finds the sweet spot of both cornering and comfort.
We exit downtown at M1, Woodward Avenue. Named for a judge who laid out the city streets back when most were dirt roads, Woodward is downtown's East/West dividing point. We roll through city blocks that have seen better days. The world's first electric traffic light was installed at Woodward and Michigan Avenues in 1920, and between 6 and 7 Mile roads was the world's first mile of paved concrete.
We cross I-696 and enter Woodward's famous cruising zone. First stop is Vinsetta Garage in Berkley. Dating back to 1919, Vinsetta's began working on horse-drawn carriages when Woodward was still a dirt path. While the landscape changed around it, Vinsetta's kept its early 1950's look with neon signage, round-top gas pumps, and the old driveway canopy. They have earned a solid reputation and continue to accept new clients-by referral only. Says owner Jack Marwell, "I'm old, the building is old, the business is old. Old is good."