Henry Ford Museum Puts Racing Front and Center

The Henry Ford Museum outside of Detroit has always displayed race cars. Between the presidential limousines and a replica coney island, past the airplane displays but before you got to the trains, some of the most important American race cars sat on various platforms next to “regular” cars, placards explaining their place in history.

Now those race cars and a whole bunch of others can call a permanent exhibit in the museum home. “Driven to Win: Racing in America Presented by General Motors” opened to the public this week, about nine months later than originally planned. Organizers had wanted to open it in conjunction with last June’s IndyCar race in Detroit, but such is life in a pandemic.

I got a personal walkthrough of the exhibit and can assure the casual and rabid race fan alike, it’s worth the wait.

The 24,000-square-foot display covers nearly a third of the Henry Ford Museum’s existing automobile space, with many of the race cars come from the museum’s own collection.

The museum’s goal is to feature the US’s popular forms of racing, so you’ll see plenty of stock cars and NHRA dragsters, but you’ll also see cars like the winning Ford GT Mk IV from Le Mans in ’67 and Jimmy Clark’s Lotus from Indy in 1965. Land-speed records have a prominent place (be sure to check out the awesome Goldenrod Bonneville car) as does the Pikes Peak Hill Climb.

There are also interactive displays aplenty. You can test your reaction time next to an NHRA Christmas Tree, see how fast you can change a stock car tire, or drive one of the six simulators. Additionally, a 15-minute movie in what is billed as a “multisensory theater” takes visitors to the racetrack and puts them behind the wheel.

There are museums that go deeper into more specific forms of racing, such as the excellent Indianapolis Motor Speedway museum or the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, but Henry Ford organizers say that if you come to Dearborn, Michigan, you get a broader view of all the forms of racing popular in the US.

The museum is open seven days a week, at the moment limited to 1,500 guests a day.

Can’t make it to Dearborn? Click here and take a virtual tour.

Meanwhile go to the museum’s website for more information.

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