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Chrysler Factory Road Tour: Cruising By The Plants

Earlier this summer, we posted a route for people who want to see as many Chrysler plants as they can, from the outside at least. It goes by the General Motors engineering center.

Christopher J. Carpenter and David Zatz took the tour just after the 2011 CEMA meet (Jim Choate was set to go as well, but was called home at the last minute). Our notes are in the blue boxes.

The tour

This is where we started our 2011 trip, meeting for breakfast at Robert's Family Dining, on Van **** in Utica - it's half a mile down Van **** after you get off Route 59.

Home Property Tree Snow House

It was Sunday, so we went into the SHAP public parking area, did a quick photo shoot of our loaner Chrysler 200 at its home plant, and took a photo or two of their own Chrysler 200 and the front entrance before moving on. The signs have been replaced, but they're still quite small - Ford's are immense, and we wonder why Chrysler doesn't seem to want the free advertising.

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  • Sterling Heights Assembly Plant (38111 Van **** Avenue, Sterling Heights, MI)
  • Sterling Heights Stamping Plant (35777 Van **** Avenue, Sterling Heights, MI)
  • U.S. Army Tank-Automotive Command - you can drive by, by making a right turn onto Eleven Mile Road; it'll be on your right (you can see more of it by making another right onto Mound Road, then coming back by making a right onto Twelve Mile and another right back onto Van ****.)
  • Take a slight detour around eight blocks after Route 696, right turn onto Helen Street, then first right.

We completely missed the Center Line parts facility, never did see Helen Street. So now we have more hints: start looking for Helen after you go under 696. Helen Street comes after Bernice and before Dale. It comes after Ed Rinke's GM dealership. If you miss it and find yourself around Voerner, Gronow, etc, just make a right onto any of those streets, and another right up Lawrence Street.

  • Center Line Parts Facility (26311 Lawrence Ave, Center Line, MI 48015)
  • Right turn onto Bernice Street, then right turn onto Van **** again.

Wise people who are somewhat less than completely dedicated to this adventure should now make a right turn onto 8 Mile Road, then the fourth right onto Mound Road, to go past Warren Truck / Dodge City (pick up directions below to also hit Conner Avenue). Fools and fans like us, however, may... at their own risk, since the neighborhoods get risky...

  • Go due South, for around five miles; past Six Mile Road, there will be some small streets. . , and five blocks after the Forest Lawn Cemetary make a right turn onto Lynch Road. You will hit the old Detroit Axle and Lynch Road Plants (empty and for sale). The area is completely deserted during the day. Do not go there at night. Be cautious during the day.

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This is where we got lost, partly because the original directions were not especially clear. So instead...

    • Make a U-turn, and make a right turn to get back onto Van ****. Continue another mile or two until you reach Edsel Ford Road East. Make a left onto that, and immediately get onto Route 94 East. Take that lovely throughway to Conner Street (exit 220B) going Southeast. There are many eateries in this area. You will then reach...
    • Jefferson Avenue plant (2101 Conner St, Detroit, MI)
    • Make a right onto East Jefferson Avenue. Make the first major right onto St. Jean Street. Cross Mack Avenue and you will get to -
    • Mack Avenue Engine Complex (4500 St. Jean Street)
    • Make a right onto Hem Street at the end of St. Jean, going by Advance Reproduction and Wayne State, and then a quick right onto the Conner Street circle, going back north in the lower half of the traffic circle.
    • Continue up Outer Drive for a long distance, going past the Mt. Olivet Cemetary. At Triumph Hospital, stick to Outer Drive where it forks to the left. Cross Van ****.

This is a rather nice area, with a divided avenue. We stopped across from Mt. Elliott Tool & Die, got out of the car, took some photos, and left again. Actually we parked on a side street opposite the plant and then made a second U-turn to get back on the road.

There were a large number of vehicles around the plant, mainly Rams, indicating that perhaps delivery services are still running behind schedule.

Keeping going north up Mound Road to -

Font Fence

Advertising Billboard Signage Company Sign

  • Make a right onto East 9 Mile Road, and then your first right onto Sherwood Avenue.
  • Chrysler parts distribution center (21035 Sherwood Avenue, Warren, MI)
  • Cross 8 Mile Road, then make the first left onto Savage Avenue. Take it nearly to the end (three blocks) and make the odd "distant right" - at roughly 2:00 - onto Conner Street. Follow that a couple of short blocks to
  • Conner Avenue Plant (Home of the Viper and once Home of the Prowler)
  • You can take Conner Avenue or Savage back to Van ****, if you started in Utica. Take 8 Mile Road West until you hit Route 75, then take 75 North back to Auburn Hills if you started at the CTC or Chrysler Museum.
Visiting Plymouth Road and Trenton Engine

This is a long route that takes you through some very bad neighborhoods and you probably shouldn't do it. You may wish to visit Trenton Engine and skip Plymouth Road, though it's a long drive to get to Trenton, too.

Chris decided to go via navigation system, given the issues we'd had earlier. I understand his reasoning but for whatever reason, we went through some pretty desolate neighborhoods, past burned-out row houses that had not been recovered or boarded up, - albeit uneventfully. As we went down the main road into Dearborn, the neighborhood gradually improved to the point where we stopped for lunch at a chain restaurant.

Probably the most attractive of any currently visible Chrysler site is the Plymouth Road Office Complex, six miles away. It was the Kelvinator factory, then a Nash factory, and ended up as the Jeep-Truck engineering center before Cerberus put it up for sale, moving the engineers there into the CTC (which DBAG and Cerberus had emptied out).

  • This is the direct but possibly dangerous route.
  • Go down Van **** South, then, after Seven Mile and East Nevada Street, make a right turn onto East Davison Street. Follow until East Davison joins with Route 8 and then take Route 8 West to Interstate 96 West. Take exit 185 towards Grand River Ave / Schaefer Highway. Take Shaefer Highway south (left) past Fullerton and a succession of minor streets until you hit Plymouth Road.
  • Make a right onto Plymouth Road and the plant is just past one block away.

Landmark Tower Building Clock tower Architecture

  • To return, get back to Schaeffer Road, and go North back to Route 96. Or continue on:
  • Keep going down Plymouth Road for around 2 miles, past Hubbell Street, and Greenfield Road. Make a left onto Southfield Freeway - a fairly major street. If you reach the golf course, you've gone a mile or so too far.
  • Take Southfield for around ten miles - the road will turn a few times. Once you've passed Route 75, be on the lookout for Fort Street - Route 85; make a right onto Fort Street - Route 85. Stay on that for another nine miles, then make a left turn onto Van Horn Road. (You can also get onto 75 South and get off near Trenton).
  • Trenton Engine (2000 Van Horn Road). (The two plants share a parking lot and are on the same property.)
    • To get back to Auburn Hills, take Van Horn back West, make a right onto Allen Road, a left onto W Road, and get back to 75 North.

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Building Vehicle Car Car dealership Architecture

We spent a lot of time in Trenton trying to find Trenton North, which of course is in the same lot as Trenton South. It's a nice little city and refreshing after some of the areas we drove through during the day.

Other area attractions: Meadowbrook, home of one of the Dodge Brothers' widows (near Auburn Hills); the Henry Ford historical village in Dearborn, which has Edison's very well reconstructed laboratory; the National Automotive Historical Collection; and far, far more.

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