Whether you are an auto-enthusiast or still have to call your dad to ask what certain lights on your car mean (like me), it is nearly impossible to embark on a series of tours of Detroit without hitting some automotive landmarks. It is the Motor City, after all. The famed Ford Rouge Factory had been on my to-do list of tours since I first began my journey through Motown, but fell pretty low on my list (mainly because of my aforementioned car incompetence).
To those of you who, like me, aren’t what you’d call car-buffs and assume that the tour would be somewhat outside of your wheelhouse, allow me to quell those fears. The Ford Rouge Factory tour was thoroughly enjoyable, full of history, fun tidbits, and a behind-the-scenes look at the production and assembly of the F-150.
To begin the tour, we first had to arrive at The Henry Ford and take a bus over to the Rouge. It was probably a good thing that we were there specifically for the Rouge Factory Tour because we might never have left The Henry Ford otherwise. Between the museum, IMAX Theater, and Greenfield Village, it would be easy to fill an entire day without ever getting on the bus to head to the Rouge.
But head over we did; just a short (five or ten minute) bus ride dropped us off at the doors to begin our tour. Though you could skip any experience that doesn’t appeal to you (or go in any order), the numbered stations set up in a somewhat circular arrangement made it almost impossible to get lost or miss a part of the tour.
The first two stops on the tour were theaters. First, in the Legacy Theater, we were taken on a trip back in time through historic footage of the Rouge and the people who were a part of bringing the famed factory to life. One of my favorite factoids from this station was actually imparted before the film began: the guide who introduced the video made it a point to note that all music heard throughout the tour had been composed specifically for the Rouge Factory Tour, and performed by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
The video in the Legacy Theater was a tale of Henry Ford’s vision and the history of how it was brought to life in the Rouge. The next video, in the Art of Manufacturing Theater, could not have been more different. A multisensory experience depicting the modern-day manufacturing of a Ford automobile, the experience of the Art of Manufacturing Theater was immersive and intense (in a good way), and a great segway into the part of the tour where we were able to observe the factory as it is today.
We first headed to the observation deck. Though we had chosen a less than ideal day (to describe the weather in layman’s terms, it was gross) and could not see as far as on a clear day, the bird’s eye view was still impressive. Not only can you see the F-150s as they are tested and shipped, we had a perfect (if not snow covered) view of the plant’s living roof, the naturalized habitat, solar arrays and more.
From there, we continued to the elevated-walkway tour of the actual assembly plant. Because of shipping delays, the plant was not active on the day we were there. At first I thought this would be a huge detriment, but it was impressive to see the assembly lines halted mid-production. We had a still, quiet picture of the line, almost as if we had hit the “pause” button on the process. Movies and interactive stations throughout the walkways made it easy to understand what you were looking at and capture interesting tidbits on the assembly process.
We wrapped up our day at the Rouge in the Legacy Gallery, where a few of the historic vehicles manufactured at the factory are displayed. We read about and took pictures of classics like the Model A, the V-8, the Thunderbird, the Mustang, and even got to hop in the new and ultra-cool F-150 Raptor.
So whether you’re an auto-phile or couldn’t tell a transmission from a transistor radio, the Ford Rouge Factory Tour is an interesting, informative, and fun journey through one of the Motor City’s most famous automotive hubs.