MotorCities National Heritage Area
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By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images Courtesy of the Automotive Hall of Fame
Published 8.2.2023

The Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn RESIZED 8

The Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, Michigan is a great place for learning about the accomplishments and achievements of the greatest people who have made the industry what it is over the years. If you are looking for a place to enjoy the past and to learn about automotive history, this is the right place to go. All age groups are welcomed.  

A past Automotive Hall of Fame exhibit 3A past Automotive Hall of Fame exhibit

In 1939, an organization known as the Automobile Old Timers was launched in October to remember the early pioneers that helped shape and build the auto industry. The next year, AOT celebrated service awards to honor automotive pioneers from all over the world. In 1960, the Automobile Old Timers moved their national headquarters to the National Automobile Dealers Association building in Washington D. C. Walter P. Chrysler, Henry Ford, Charles Kettering and Alfred P. Sloan became the first automobile pioneers to be inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame in 1967. Then in 1971, the organization moved to the grounds of Northwood Institute (now known as Northwood University) in Midland, Michigan, and the first permanent Automotive Hall of Fame building was built on the campus in 1975.

Another look at the Achievement exhibit RESIZED 2The recent Achievement exhibit about African American contributions to the auto industry

In 1996, the construction site for the current Hall of Fame building in Dearborn was dedicated as part of the American Automobile Centennial week. The new 20,000 square-foot Automotive Hall of Fame facility was opened on August 16, 1997.

AHF 2023 Inductees CROPPED 6The full slate of Auto Hall of Fame 2023 Inductees

Recently on July 20, the Automotive Hall of Fame held their 2023 induction ceremony. Honorees included Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, along with the late McKinley Thompson Jr., the first African American hired by Ford Motor Company’s design staff in 1956. Larry Woods, the designer for Hot Wheels, was also inducted. Wood has designed popular Hot Wheels cars for 50 years and has become a legend among automotive enthusiasts worldwide.

The entrance to the Auto Hall of Fame Honor Gallery 4The entrance to the Auto Hall of Fame Hall of Honor

As you take a trip through the museum and look at all the great artifacts, it has become a great reflection of the stories that move us. For example, Charles S. Mott and Charles E. Duryea are well-represented members. The Automotive Hall of Fame also offers an Honoree lecture series, along with video interviews, blogs and their popular newsletter which provides historical automotive stories.  The Hall of Fame also is part of an education network, partnering with the prestigious College for Creative Studies, Detroit School of the Arts, Henry Ford College, Lawrence Technological University and MotorCities National Heritage Area, along with many others.

AHF Hall of Honor 5The Auto Hall of Fame Hall of Honor

In February 2023, the Automotive Hall of Fame introduced a wonderful exhibit detailing the great innovations, inventions and leadership of African Americans in the auto industry. From C.R. Patterson (1833 -1910) to the great achievements of the talented Ed Welburn, who rose to vice president for global design at General Motors, many Black contributions to the industry were on display. It was a great celebration.

Racer Lyn St. James AHF Motorsports exhibit CROPPED AND RESIZED 7Racer Lyn St. James, Auto Hall of Fame honoree

The Hall of Fame is also celebrates women in the history of racing with both a symposium and a new exhibit. The second annual Women in Motorsports symposium took place June 1. In addition, an upcoming exhibit will feature nine women race car drivers. This great exhibit will highlight and benefit Women in Motorsports North America, the organization launched by Hall of Fame honoree Lyn St. James and Beth Paretta designed to foster growth for female motorsports professionals.

Much credit for the Automotive Hall of Fame’s success has to go to its president, Sarah Cook, along with the hard working and professional staff that is moving the organization in the right direction as a place where automotive history can be preserved.  

In conclusion, the Automotive Hall of Fame has honored over 800 worldwide auto pioneers, and, as our industry continues to create and engineer new innovations for the future, it will continue to tell the stories of the people making it happen. For more information, visit www.automotivehalloffame.org.

Bibliography

Automotive Hall of Fame Induction & Awards Ceremony program, July 20, 2023.

Automotive Hall of Fame (Visit the Hall) 21400 Oakwood Blvd. Dearborn Michigan 48124.

Stickford, Jim. “2023 Automotive Hall of Fame Annual induction and Awards Ceremony” DBusiness, July 24, 2023.

Automotive News. “2023 Automotive Hall of Fame members honored.” July 21, 2023.