MotorCities National Heritage Area

MotorCities National Heritage Area provides a resource for speakers on our organization and automotive history.

With everyone stuck at home, we've launched a new virtual tour program featuring members of our Speakers Bureau. For more information on MotorCities At Home, click here

Russ Dore as Thomas Edison in Henry and Friends RESIZEDPresenter Russ Dore (center) as Thomas Edison with "Henry Ford" (left) and "Harvey Firestone" (right) in "Henry and Friends." See details on this presentation below.

MotorCities Overview presentation

This is a 20-30 minute presentation on MotorCities National Heritage Area. It covers the purpose, scope and activities of MotorCities. Presentations are given by staff or volunteer members of MotorCities. Presentations are suitable for service clubs such as libraries, senior centers, Rotary Clubs, Kiwanis, car enthusiast groups, Chambers of Commerce and other non-profit community organizations. There is no fee for these presentations. 

Presentations on Automotive History

These presentations are on automotive pioneers or cover the history of various automobile companies and labor movements. They are generally one hour in length and are often accompanied by visuals. The presenters  are automotive and labor historians and other experts. They are suitable for libraries, corporate events, union groups, museum programs, historical societies, senior centers, men’s and women’s clubs, car clubs, etc. There is a fee for these presentations. The following presentations are currently available:

Henry Ford: His Company & His Life -- Presenter: Russ Dore

A presentation with visuals discussing Henry Ford’s development of the Ford Motor Company, including the Model T, the assembly line and the $5 a day wage. It also covers his wife Clara, son Edsel and grandchildren.

Billy Durant: Founder of General Motors -- Presenter: Russ Dore

This presentation with visuals covers Durant’s successful life before entering the automobile industry, his creation of GM, his exit from the company and his attempts to begin again.

Walter Chrysler: His Company & His Life -- Presenter: Russ Dore

This presentation with visuals covers his early life in the locomotive business, his success at General Motors and the creation of Chrysler Corporation. His family, his personality and his love of the good life are all explored.

The Dodge Brothers: Their Company & Their Lives -- Presenter: Russ Dore
This presentation with visuals shows how these machinists went from being suppliers to Oldsmobile and Ford to creating an automobile company second only to Ford at one time. 

Studebaker, Packard, Nash & Hudson: How They Started & Where They Went -- Presenter: Russ Dore

This presentation with visuals shows how the Studebaker Brothers, the Packard Brothers, Charlie Nash and Joseph L. Hudson were instrumental in developing these major companies.

America's Classiest Cars: Auburn, Cord, Duesenburg & Stutz -- Presenter: Russ Dore

This presentation with visuals describes how the Eckhart Brothers, E.L. Cord, the Duesenberg Brothers and Harry Stutz built their American companies with a reputation for luxury.

Henry & Friends: Interacting with Ford, Edison & Harvey Firestone -- Presenter: Russ Dore

Be transported to 1925 and interact with these famous historical figures. Learn about their friendships, families and outstanding contributions to American industry. Although highly authentic, this show is also presented with a keen sense of humor.


The Big 3 in 1925: interacting with Henry Ford, Billy Durant & Walter Chrysler -- Presenter: Russ Dore

Hear from them in 1925 about their most outstanding personal characteristics and experiences in starting their companies. Hear how they overcame early obstacles to launch the world’s greatest industry.

Mascots of Motion -- Presenter: Steve Purdy

This presentation features classic and collector car hood ornaments. The slide show accompanying the talk is a colorful exploration of about 50 of these images, from a Rolls-Royce “Spirit of Ecstasy” to a Stutz “Ra.” The talk generally takes about 45 minutes and can include a Q&A afterward.

An Overview of Ford Motor Company's History -- Presenter: Robert Kreipke

The Vagabonds (Henry Ford, Thomas Edison & Harvey Firestone) -- Presenter: Robert Kreipke

Ford and the Arsenal of Democracy -- Presenter: Robert Kreipke

Ford in Aviation -- Presenter: Robert Kreipke

The Lincoln Story -- Presenter: Robert Kreipke

The Henry Ford Trade School -- Presenter: Robert Kreipke

Ford Motor Company's Contributions to Personal Mobility -- Presenter: Robert Kreipke

Robert Kreipke is Ford Motor Company’s Corporate Historian Emeritus. Bob’s career at Ford included producing award-winning films and videotapes, production of live shows, and executive strategic planning. Bob has also authored three international books – Ford Motor Company, the First 100 Years, The Model T, and Faces of Henry Ford. Soon a fourth book will be for sale titled, The Model A.

Henry Ford: He Put the World on Wheels -- Presenter: Henry Ford Heritage Association

Henry Ford changed the world. He created and built an affordable car that affected society in ways that most could never have imagined. He embodied the American spirit of individualism and free enterprise in a way that no one else had ever before.  Mr. Ford aimed at the economic independence of the United States and he wanted to manufacture a vehicle from scratch, without depending on foreign trade. 

Clara Bryant Ford: The Believer -- Presenter: Henry Ford Heritage Association

Henry Ford was an automotive and business icon, but at home Clara was both head of the household and his most cherished advisor. Henry famously said, “The greatest day in my life is when I married Mrs. Ford.” In addition to her support of her husband’s ventures, Clara Bryant Ford was influential at pivotal points in the history of Ford Motor Company. Clara is credited with advocating for better healthcare for Ford workers and their families and convincing Henry to sign the first agreement between Ford and the UAW.  

Rosie the Riveter -- Presenter: Alison Beatty

This presentation covers the extraordinary role that women played in bringing victory to Allied forces in World War Two. It chronicles the circumstances that led to rise of the mighty Willow Run bomber plant in Ypsilanti, where Ford Motor Company was able to produce thousands of four-engine B-24 Liberator bombers at the almost unfathomable rate of one airplane every 55 minutes. This previously unheard of industrial accomplishment would have been impossible without the help of tens of thousands of women who had never previously set foot on a factory floor. The presentation explores how women mastered factory skills and became known as the “Rosie the Riveters” who would forevermore inspire passion and perseverance in men and women alike. It includes rare archival photographs of women working at Willow Run and details how women struggled, sacrificed, and ultimately triumphed in this labor of love to exceed production quotas, bring victory to the Allies, and earn respect in the workplace. The presentation ends with an insightful look at why Rosie the Riveter has become such a powerful symbol and how Yankee Air Museum is renovating the Willow Run bomber plant to be a permanent home to the Rosie the Riveter legacy, right here in the great state of Michigan.

R.E. Olds & Lansing -- Presenter: Michael Rodriguez        

This documentary 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.

From Carriages to Cars, Pontiac's Forgotten Industry and How It Gave Rise to GM Truck & Pontiac Motors -- Presenter: Mike West

This presentation traces the factors that enabled the growth of Pontiac's horse drawn vehicle production. Small blacksmith shops that once clustered in the city center were soon overshadowed by huge factories that shipped carriages and wagons from coast to coast. Utilizing new technologies and nurtured by civic leadership, Pontiac grew rapidly and became a leader in the horse drawn vehicle industry. This presentation also highlights the companies and individuals that led that growth and their rivalry with Flint to be number one. Then, the gasoline engine emerged, and Pontiac industry shifted its resources to begin making the Oakland, Welch and Rapid Truck. Over 30 motor vehicle manufacturers called Pontiac home before Billy Durant and his newly formed General Motors came to town and began buying key companies. Some of those that weren't drawn into GM became major suppliers of vehicle bodies for Henry Ford's new Model T factory in Highland Park. Most notable of these were GM Truck and GM's Pontiac Motors. 

Cool Cars: Unique Automobiles of the Detroit Historical Society Collection – Presenter: Jeremy Dimick

The Detroit Historical Society is caretaker of 60 automobiles. Most are rare – many are one-of-a-kind vehicles that exist in no other collection. These include the first closed salon Cadillac, the Scripps-Booth Bi-AutoGo, and a pre-production Ford Mustang prototype. Several were the personal cars of the Auto Barons, and some came to the Society with original engineering drawings. This presentation takes a tour of a very unique automobile collection. The presenter is Director of Collections for the Detroit Historical Society.

To schedule a presentation, contact the MotorCities Speakers Bureau using the form below.

For the MotorCities Overview presentations, we will coordinate with a volunteer speaker in your geographical area.

For the automotive and labor history presentations, we will provide you the contact information for the requested speaker(s). You may then contact them to discuss scheduling and fees.


John Dingell coffin RESIZED

As Michigan and the nation said goodbye to Congressman John Dingell in 2019, MotorCities also says farewell and thank you to our champion.

In his more than 59 years of service in the U.S. Congress, John Dingell championed influential legislation to support all sectors. He authored and co-sponsored the Automobile National Heritage Act in 1998 to create what is now the MotorCities National Heritage Area.

Dingell retired in 2014, and passed the torch to his wife, Debbie, who now represents his district in Congress. In 2015, he was the inaugural recipient of the MotorCities Milestone Award, recognizing all of his contributions. Since the creation of the heritage area, Dingell was its most vocal advocate imploring the organization to work to tell the story of the region and its people.

Rest in peace, John, and know that you served your state and nation well!

John and Debbie Dingell RESIZEDJohn and Debbie Dingell are pictured in July 2018 at Fair Lane, the Home of Henry and Clara Ford, where they were interviewed for MotorCities 20th Anniversary.

Diego Rivera DIA frescoes RESIZED

If you're in Detroit for the North American International Auto Show, business, pleasure or a special event, there are incredible historic sites that tell the story of the automotive industry and labor movement. There are a number of places within walking distance, by hopping on the Detroit People Mover or by taking a short drive:

Hart Plaza

1 Hart Plaza 

Hart Plaza is an outdoor, urban recreation area on the Detroit River Front featuring the iconic ‘Transcending’ monument dedicated to the labor movement and strength of the men and women who built Detroit.

Renaissance Center RESIZED

General Motors Renaissance Center

400 Renaissance Center 

The Renaissance Center complex is a group of seven interconnected skyscrapers in downtown Detroit that serves as the global headquarters for General Motors.

Detroit Historical Museum Americas Motor City exhibitAmerica's Motor City exhibit at the Detroit Historical Museum

Detroit Historical Museum 

5401 Woodward Ave  

Located in Detroit's bustling Cultural Center, the Detroit Historical Museum is one of America's oldest museum sites showcasing the Motor City's rich automotive and local history. The museum has regular hours open the public in addition to special events. 

Diego Rivera Murals at the Detroit Institute of Arts  

5200 Woodward Ave.  

The Diego Rivera murals (pictured at the top of this page) at the Detroit Institute of Arts is a powerful interpretation of the area's auto and labor history completed using 27 fresco panels between 1932-1933. In 2014, the murals were given National Landmark status. Take in the famed work along with other incredible displays at the DIA during regular museum hours. 

Detroit Public Library  

5201 Woodward Ave. 

The Detroit Public Library is home to the National Automotive History Collection, which features nearly 40,000 images commemorating automotive heritage. The digitized special collection features photographs of automobiles, industry leaders, races, reliability tours, auto shows, factories, roads, highways, gas stations, repair shops, etc. 

Ford Piquette Avenue Plant
Ford Piquette Avenue Plant/Milwaukee Junction  

461 Piquette Ave.  

The Ford Piquette Avenue Plant serves as one of the historical footings for the Ford empire as Henry Ford's Model T was born in the restored building at the corner of Beaubien and Piquette in downtown Detroit. Surrounding the Piquette Plant, a bustling automotive community formed in the area called Milwaukee Junction. Many early auto manufacturers built factories within Milwaukee Junction such as Fisher Body, Cadillac, Studebaker, Packard, Regal, Dodge and others.   

Fisher Building

3011 W. Grand Blvd. 

Built just before the Great Depression and financed by the Fisher family, Detroit’s Fisher Building stands as an ornate and grand landmark from the heyday of the automotive industry. The Fisher Brothers started as carriage builders in 1908 before turning toward manufacturing parts for early automobiles. The family eventually sold the business to General Motors and used funds from the sale to finance construction of the building. 

Boston Edison Historic District  

Between Linwood and Woodward, east/west; and between Boston and Edison, north/south 

The Boston Edison neighborhood once served as home to Detroit’s power brokers such as Henry Ford, the Fisher family, James Couzens, Walter P. Reuther and Joe Louis. Take self-guided tour of one of the Detroit’s most famed and historic neighborhoods by visiting the website: 

Beyond Detroit 

For more sites that commemorate Michigan's rich and unique automotive heritage, click here take a look at the MotorCities interactive map.  


MotorCities National Heritage Area mini-grant program looks to award up to 10 grants each year with a max value of $1,500.  Though the mini-grants are smaller awards than our traditional challenge grant program, they present an opportunity for greater impact to projects and communities across the region.

Grants are intended for short-term, high impact projects that need that extra little bit to move from concept to reality.  Examples of mini-grants might include tours, field trips, conferences, lectures, planning and studies. If you have an idea please do not hesitate to reach out to see if it qualifies. 

The current submission cycle is open from 7/1/20-8/17/20. 





  • Grant applicants must be current members of MotorCities National Heritage Area and maintain that membership throughout the entirety of their proposed project.
  • The MotorCities grant award will not exceed $1500. 
  • Mini-grants DO NOT REQUIRE A MATCH however projects which exhibit match and additional leveraging will receive preference based on the feasibility of completion.
  • Once awarded, recipients will receive 50% of the award with signed grant agreement.  The remaining 50% will be remitted upon completion of project and submission of necessary closeout reports.
  • Grant cannot be awarded for any for-profit ventures, fundraising, lobbying, general promotion or advertising.
  • Projects must be largely automobile and/or labor heritage related and must deal with: Revitalization of our historic automotive and labor structures through preservation, Interpretation efforts which attempt to tell the story to a broad audience, Education activities which engage a specific audience and creates increased appreciation of our heritage and Tourism projects which promote the region and its heritage activities.
  • Education is the special strategic focus of MotorCities National Heritage Area for 2020-21.  Projects related to education will receive preference.
  • Projects which exemplify diversity, equity and inclusion will receive preference.
  • Projects which address adapting content to be presented virtually will receive preference.
  • There will be a maximum of 10 mini-grants awarded for 2021.
  • Your progress can be saved at any time with a link sent to you. Just click the "Save Answers and Resume Later" link at the bottom of the page.

For more information, contact the MotorCities Challenge Grant Program Coordinator: Brian Yopp at 313.259.3425 x 307 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..