Americans in all states seem to have a love affair with their cars, but the passion that Michiganders feel for their cars is unlike any other. For one, Michigan residents are unapologetically loyal to the “Big Three.” There’s no question about whether or not you should buy an American brand.
This attitude makes sense when you consider Michigan’s relationship with the American automobile industry. According to the Detroit Free Press, “Michigan’s core motor vehicle industry represents 46.4 percent of Michigan’s entire manufacturing sector.” The impact is further compounded when you take into account that this figure does not include any of the suppliers and other vendors that support the auto industry.
Beyond the actual manufacturing, there is a reverence for Michigan’s place in and contribution to American auto culture. In 2017, the annual North American International Auto Show (also known as the Detroit Auto Show) attracted nearly a million people and also brought in $450 million in revenue. That’s no small feat when you consider that’s the economic equivalent of hosting two Super Bowls!
Michiganders aren’t shy about celebrating this legacy. Four museums are dedicated to showcasing this aspect of the state’s history. Located outside Kalamazoo, the Gilmore Car Museum showcases 300 models—from 1890s era artifacts to modern eye candy. The R.E. Olds Transportation Museum packs a double punch when it comes to history. Ransom E. Olds has two car companies, Oldsmobile and REO. You can view original manufacturing equipment from his factory and consider Olds’ contributions to industrial society. The Sloan Museum in Flint is a regional history and science museum. Tour the museum and learn about Flint’s strong ties to the union movement and view their collection of 100 vehicles rotated on a regular basis. The Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum features the Chevrolet Corvair, Hudson, Tucker and Kaiser-Frazer stories with cars and displays—all with Ypsilanti connections.
But the love affair doesn’t stop here. Auto enthusiasts from all walks of life come together year-round for car shows and cruise-ins. Cruise-ins are gatherings of people who drive their classic or muscle cars on a regular basis or people who just like to appreciate cars as works of art. A cruise-in can be a great place to learn about the ins and outs of restoration and meet the owners, whose cars are often considered their babies. Curious? There are several upcoming car shows and cruise-insin Michigan, including one in Standish this weekend!
Here’s to Michigan’s auto-centric past, present and future!