Get Your Motor Runnin’ at These Metro Detroit Auto Attractions & Events

No Auto Show, no problem — there are plenty of other local places for gearheads to get their fix

Detroit has been without its marquee automotive gala, the North American International Auto Show, since the doors closed on its 30th annual iteration in January 2019. This January brought news that the streak will continue at least until next year. But Detroit wouldn’t be the Motor City if it had only one place to see cars. Here are some other great auto attractions and events, whether your preference is speed, period pieces, or the latest and greatest.

Driven to Win: Racing in America

driven to win - metro detroit auto attractions
Courtesy of The Henry Ford

When: Permanent 

Where: Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, Dearborn

The Henry Ford Museum’s newest permanent exhibit, presented by General Motors, also happens to be the country’s largest public collection of racing memorabilia. The 24,000-square-foot space is filled with objects that illuminate the evolution of racing and its gifts to the world, such as the rear-view mirror. The 29 cars on display stretch from Henry Ford-designed automobiles to present-day viral video sensations from the gymkhana series. Guests can even place themselves in actual racing conditions by taking a turn in one of the driver’s seat simulators used by the pros — for an extra charge.

For more information, visit thehenryford.org.  

Driven by Design

When: Spring 2021

Where: The Ford House, Grosse Pointe Shores

April marked the debut of a much-anticipated new visitor center at the one-time home of Edsel and Eleanor Ford. The opening exhibition affords visitors the chance to view three extremely rare vehicles brought together for the first time. The lineup includes a 1932 Ford Model 18 Speedster, a 1934 Ford Model 40 Special Speedster, and the world’s only prototype of the 1939 Lincoln Continental. The trio of cars are just one showpiece in the Ford House’s biggest construction project since the lakefront mansion was completed in 1928.

For more information, visit fordhouse.org.  

Motor City Car Crawl

When: Aug. 5-Aug. 8

Where: Downtown Detroit

With the GM World closed until further notice, the best chance to view fleets of the latest cars, trucks, and SUVs downtown is during this four-day festival spread out over six major central city parks. A line of vehicles selected from the 185 members of the Detroit Auto Dealers Association will connect Beacon Park, Cadillac Square, Campus Martius, Capitol Park, Grand Circus Park, and Spirit Plaza with food and entertainment spread throughout. Most days at the Car Crawl are free to attend. On Aug. 7, however, a ticketed fundraiser carries the promise of a “significant headliner that everybody knows,” according to DADA Executive Director Rod Alberts.

For more information, visit naias.com.  

Automotive Hall of Fame

When: Permanent

Where: Dearborn

This auto attraction in Dearborn is dedicated to the human visionaries who shaped the automobile industry, but it wouldn’t be complete without a couple of cars on display as well. The permanent collection houses some of the earliest engine-driven vehicles alongside 1960s Honda racers and ancient big-rigs of the trucking industry. Be sure to appreciate the world-changing genius behind the ignition key as you test your strength cranking up an old-timey jalopy.

For more information, visit automotivehalloffame.org.  

Concours d’Elegance of America

concours d'elegance - metro detroit auto attractions
Courtesy of Concours d’Elegance of America

When: July 23-25

Where: The Inn at St. John’s, Plymouth

This upscale classic car showcase is now under the management of the Hagerty Group, the world’s largest insurer of classic cars and wooden boats. The new team looks to refashion the prestigious event by beefing up its digital offerings and bringing in a younger crowd. The official judging takes place on the show’s final day, with the run-up days filled with can’t-miss activities such as subjecting beaters to an endurance test.

For more information, visit concoursusa.com.  

Woodward Dream Cruise

When: Aug. 21

Where: Woodward Avenue, Oakland County

Billed as the world’s largest one-day automotive event, the Woodward Dream Cruise sees thousands of classic cars parade along a seminal Detroit thoroughfare. The action starts in Ferndale and rolls down to Pontiac before doubling back. Spectators line the entire route, with the intersection at 9 Mile being one of the most popular spots. Joining the procession is free and open to all, even those whose cars are younger than the latest iPhone model. Just be sure to avoid the two right lanes closest to the curb, which are reserved for classic cars.

For more information, visit woodwarddreamcruise.com.  

Motor Bella

When: Sept. 21-26

Where: M1 Concourse, Pontiac 

The main replacement for the 2021 North American International Auto Show is being billed as a “bridge to the future” that dispenses with many of the typical auto show trappings in favor of a more dynamic event in a carnival-like atmosphere. The six-day event will be held entirely outdoors and will include a 1.5-mile track for demonstrations of the latest technology. Do note the first two days are reserved for industry workers. 

For more information, visit motorbella.com.  

Roush Automotive Collection

Roush Automotive Collection - metro detroit auto attractions
Courtesy of Roush Automotive Collection

When: Permanent

Where: Livonia

Jack Rosch is as close to a living legend as they come in automotive circles, having founded a host of racing and auto accessory companies, including his own NASCAR team. His lineage of trophies, technology, equipment, and, of course, the cars themselves are on full display at a 30,000-square-foot facility in Livonia. The privately owned collection is open to the public year-round, although guests are strongly encouraged to schedule their visits to this auto attraction in advance.

For more information, visit roushcollection.com.  

Detroit 4fest

When: Sept. 25-26

Where: Holly Oaks ORV Park, Holly

This off-road event coincides with the last two days of the nearby Motor Bella, and caters to those who prefer to see automobiles put to the test and more than a little dirty. This free event pits hundreds of professional and amateur drivers against the makeshift mountain terrain. The recent increased attention of automakers on Jeeps, trucks, and other off-road vehicles bodes well for those spectators searching for a glimpse of what’s to come.

For more information, visit 4festevents.com.  

American Speed Festival

When: Sept. 30-Oct. 3

Where: M1 Concourse, Pontiac

A new event modeled after the premiere Goodwood Festival of Speed in the U.K. zigs where Motor Bella zags. Whereas mainstream cars and SUVs are the focus of Motor Bella, the American Speed Festival celebrates vintage and exotic autos. This year’s event is themed around Cam Am racers and kicks off with a daylong Dine and Drive Tour that includes a viewing of 150 cars in a private, mostly off-limits collection. The 1.5-mile race track lies at the heart of the festivities, ensuring the event isn’t limited to stationary showpieces.

For more information, visit americanspeedfestival.com.  

Stahl’s Auto Foundation

When: Permanent

Where: Chesterfield

Few auto preservationists can match the laser focus of this nonprofit, which highlights the engineering landmarks that fueled the rise of the auto industry. It’s a journey that begins inside the foundation with 1800s stagecoaches and continues to the sports cars of the late 1960s. Vehicles from the Great Depression and Art Deco eras are particularly well-represented. Stahl’s also separately displays a collection of self-playing music machines from the early 20th century. 

For more information, visit stahlsauto.com.  

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