About The Ann Arbor Area

Ypsilanti Automotive Industry History

Ypsilanti –a History Driven by a Strong Roots to the Automotive Industry

Home to Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti can trace its roots to early pioneers, trappers and traders who traversed the Sauk Indian Trail which is now Michigan Avenue. In our city’s’ recent past, the automotive industry has played an integral role in our history, our culture and our economy. The following early motor companies have left their collective fingerprints on Ypsilanti. Those automobile companies include:

  • Ford Motors. Automotive giant Henry Ford came to Ypsilanti in the 1930s. Ford created the man-made lake; Ford Lake which was created to generate hydroelectric power needed for his manufacturing plants.
  • Apex Motors which produced the "ACE" car
  • The Preston Tucker Company. This Ypsilanti family owned the Ypsilanti Machine Tool Company and was the car company that designed and built the prototypes for the famous Tucker Torpedo car. The premature of collapse of this company was due in part to a lack of corporate funding and questionable pressure from competitors who used the SEC to exert overly aggressive investigative measures to drive Tucker out of business. Thought to be light-years ahead of his time for safety and innovation, Tucker's story was made into a feature motion picture film called “The Man and His Dream” which was directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
  • In the mid-1940’s, Henry J. Kaiser and Joseph W. Frazer bought the Willow Run B-24 Liberator aircraft bomber plant and started to manufacture Kaiser and Frazer model cars in 1947. The last Kaiser car manufactured in Ypsilanti rolled off the assembly line in 1953. It was at this time that the company merged with Willys-Overland and relocated the production line to Toledo, Ohio. General Motors purchased the Kaiser Frazer plant, and converted it into its Hydramatic Division. This division is now called the Powertrain division and began production in November of 1953.
  • Home to the last Hudson automobile dealership, today, the former Hudson dealership serves as the site for the Ypsilanti Automotive Heritage Museum. Visitors to this museum can view a wide assortment of unusual automobiles including the original Fabulous Hudson Hornet race car. The Fabulous Hudson Hornet served as the inspiration for the character "Doc Hudson" featured in the recent animated film “Cars” developed by Disney’s Pixar Studios.

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