MotorCities National Heritage Area
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Browse destinations, activities or interests to plan your automotive heritage trip! With arts and entertainment, parks, gardens, cemeteries, libraries, archives, museums, historic homes, motor sports and roadside auto culture, there is truly something for everyone. Pick your places, pack up the car, put the pedal to the metal and explore the MotorCities! Explore MotorCities Button


Since we're all still staying at home to prevent the spread of COVID-19, MotorCities is presenting a new series of programs featuring members of our Speakers Bureau discussing interesting automotive history topics. Each program is FREE and presented as a live Zoom conference.

"R.E. Olds & the First Auto City" with Michael Rodriguez
Friday, June 5, 2020 at 12 p.m. EDT
re olds passport RESIZED
Author and filmmaker Michael Rodriguez will share his documentary, which tells the story of Ransom Eli Olds, known as R.E. Olds, and the city where automobiles were first mass-produced. A pioneer of the American automotive industry, both Oldsmobile and REO were named after R.E. Although folklore claims it was Henry Ford who created the auto manufacturing industry in Detroit, this documentary shows that R.E. Olds, in fact, did it first in Lansing. Using historical photographs and film, interviews, and live footage, the story unfolds of a visionary thinker who created the basic concept for the modern assembly line and a skilled labor force that transformed modern transportation.

To register for this session, click here.

Past sessions:

"Mascots of Motion" with Steve Purdy
Friday, May 15, 2020 at 12 p.m. EDT
This presentation featured classic and collector car hood ornaments.
Click to watch this presentation on YouTube!
MotorCities At Home Steve Purdy RESIZED

"Billy Durant, Founder of General Motors" by Russ Dore
Friday, May 22, 2020 at 12 p.m. EDT
Click to watch this presentation on YouTube!
MotorCities At Home May 22 RESIZED
"Cool Cars: Unique Automobiles of the Detroit Historical Society Collection" by Jeremy Dimick
Friday, May 29, 2020 at 12 p.m. EDT
Click to watch this presentation on YouTube.
MotorCities At Home May 29 RESIZED

During World War II, metro Detroit and the region encompassing our MotorCities National Heritage Area converted from the production of automobiles to the materials of war. Dubbed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt as America's "Arsenal of Democracy," this region played a key role in helping the Allies win the war.

Now, in the midst of the national emergency caused by the spreading of COVID-19, many companies in Michigan are once again responding to the needs of the country and converting to production of ventilators, masks, hand sanitizer and other products necessary to win this new fight. Many have dubbed this new fight the "Arsenal of Health."

The production line at Willow Run Yankee Air Museum RESIZED 3The bomber production line at Willow Run (Photo courtesy of the Yankee Air Museum)

To bring some perspective to our history and its relevance in 2020, here are some resources from our MotorCities partners to help you learn more about our proud history as the Arsenal of Democracy.

Detroit Historical Society

Detroit: The Arsenal of Democracy Exhibit at the Detroit Historical Museum

Encyclopedia of Detroit -- Arsenal of Democracy

Encyclopedia of Detroit -- Willow Run

Interactive Arsenal of Democracy Map

The Henry Ford

The Willow Run Bomber Plant

Historic Fort Wayne

10 Key Events from Historic Fort Wayne's History

Michigan Military Technical and Historical Society

Arsenal of Democracy Videos

Yankee Air Museum

Current Exhibits at the Yankee Air Museum at Willow Run

Ford making medical masks RESIZEDA Ford worker with a medical mask (Ford Motor Company) 

And now, here are some articles about how our auto industry is fighting the new war against COVID-19:

President Trump to Visit Ford Rawsonville Plant
Eastern Echo - May 20, 2020

How GM and Ford Switched from Building Vehicles to Making Medical Supplies
CBS News "60 Minutes" - April 26, 2020

Mary Barra GM CBS News 60 Minutes April 2020General Motors CEO Mary Barra

From Vehicles to Ventilators, Ford & GM Take On Coronavirus
CBS News "60 Minutes Overtime" - April 26, 2020

Ford Motor Company Making Face Shields with Help from Sinai Grace ER Doc
Fox 2 Detroit - April 22, 2020

The Big 3 Versus COVID-19 
DBusiness - April 21, 2020

Ford Making Masks to Protect Workers from COVID-19 
Reuters - April 13, 2020

What Fiat Chrysler Is Doing in Coronavirus Fight 
Detroit Free Press - April 11, 2020

GM Gets $490 Million Government Deal to Build Ventilators 
Detroit Free Press - April 8, 2020

Big 3 Automakers Could Enlist to Produce COVID-19 Medical Equipment 
Michigan Advance - March 20, 2020


Site 8 I 96 EB ramp to I 75 SB Detroit CROPPED and RESIZEDI-96 Eastbound ramp to I-75 Southbound in Detroit
Drivers in metro Detroit, as well as the Flint and Lansing areas, are likely to notice something new along the highways -- those familiar brown National Park Service signs with a message welcoming them to the MotorCities National Heritage Area! The first nine signs were installed in November and December 2019 and are the culmination of many years of work with the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Site 6 WB I 96 before US 127 RESIZEDWestbound I-96 before US 127 near Lansing

You can find the signs at the following locations: 

  • Southbound I-75 before the Mt. Morris exit north of Flint;

  • Eastbound I-69 near Lansing Road northeast of Lansing;

  • Eastbound I-96 near the I-69 interchange northwest of Lansing;

  • Eastbound I-96 near the US 127 interchange southeast of Lansing;

  • Westbound I-96 near the US 127 interchange southeast of Lansing;

  • Westbound I-94 before the M-59 exit in Chesterfield Twp.;

  • Eastbound I-96 on the ramp to southbound I-75 in Detroit (pictured);

  • Northbound I-75 on the ramp to westbound I-96 in Detroit;

  • Northbound I-75 near Monroe-Wayne County border.

Site 3 EB I 96 SB I 69 RESIZEDEastbound I-96 near the I-69 interchange

Six more signs will be installed to complete the 15 that make up the first phase of MotorCities' highway sign rollout, so stay tuned for additional installations coming soon near Kalamazoo, Jackson, and Ypsilanti.