Piquette Plant Reveals Ford’s Early Experimental Secrets

The Ford Piquette Avenue Plant unlocks a secret space used by Henry Ford to develop the groundbreaking Model T in 1907-08.

Bob Gritzinger, Editor-in-Chief

September 22, 2017

2 Min Read
Shotwellrsquos yearlong project to recreate Secret Experimental Room opens to public Sunday
Shotwell’s year-long project to recreate Secret Experimental Room opens to public Sunday.

DETROIT – The up-to-now hidden room in the historic Ford Piquette Avenue Plant opens to the public from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday revealing the space where Henry Ford and his team created the Model T.

Called the Secret Experimental Room, the L-shaped area on the third floor of the plant at 461 Piquette in Detroit shows where Ford and a small cadre of seven draftsmen, engineers and machinists labored from January 1907 to September 1908, when their creation, the Model T, was revealed. The car soon became the best-selling model in the world.

Workers at Piquette Avenue assembled the first 12,000 Model Ts by hand before production shifted a few miles away to Ford’s Highland Park Plant in 1910.

The exhibit, created by the nonprofit organization working to preserve and share Ford’s first plant that was one of the cradles of automotive manufacturing, tells the story of the development lab via backlit informational panels while videos recount the importance of the Model T in automotive history.

Visitors will get a closer look at the Model N chassis – the vehicle that served as the Model T starting point – a drafting area and three period-correct machine tools driven by an overhead pulley-and-shaft system powered by a DC motor.

Even the wooden beams and paneling used to restore the room are cut and hewn to size and type to match materials used in the early 20th century.

“We put a premium on authenticity and research,” says Steve Shotwell, Piquette board member and vice president who is leading the team restoring the room. “The beadboard is identical to a scrap from the original wall that we found wedged between a roof beam and the ceiling plaster, and we milled period-correct 2x4s to frame the walls.”

Major funding for the Secret Experimental Room project was provided by the Woodward Avenue Action Assn., the National Scenic Byways Grant Program and Jerry and Dorene Hammes.

The Piquette Avenue Plant is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday April through November and Friday-Sunday December through March, with group tours scheduled year-round. Visitors to the free open house Sunday also will be able to experience Model T rides sponsored by the UAW International and the Ford Fund.

[email protected] @bobgritzinger

About the Author(s)

Bob Gritzinger

Editor-in-Chief, WardsAuto

Bob Gritzinger is Editor-in-Chief of WardsAuto and also covers Advanced Propulsion & Technology for Wards Intelligence.

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