MCG couldn’t find that darned old auto factory anywhere. Naturally, it was under his nose the whole time.
Above is a very familiar photograph in the collector car world. A legion of auto writers (MCG included) have used this old PR image to illustrate their stories about the car pictured, the stately Continental Mark II. Often mentioned in these articles is the building in the shot, typically identified as the “Continental Division plant on Oakwood Boulevard.”
Sidebar: Now is a good time to mention that technically, the 1956-57 Continental Mark II was not a Lincoln. It used a Lincoln drivetrain and was sold and serviced through the Lincoln dealer network, but the Continental Division was regarded by Ford as a stand-alone entity—hence the brand new building above with the elegant signage on its facade.
It was after churning out one of these Continental stories some years back that MCG happened to mention the well-known photo to friend Bob Casey, transportation curator of the Henry Ford Museum. “Oh, yes. I know that photo,” he said. “Hey, where was that building, anyway?”
Du-uh. At that moment, MCG realized he had no idea. It was one of those things he thinks he knew at some point in the distant past, but if he did, he was unable to summon up the info from his creaky memory banks. MCG had mislaid an entire auto plant and now he would have to go track it down again.
If you’re not familiar with the area, this might be harder than it sounds. The Ford mega-complex in Dearborn stretches out nearly a mile along its Oakwood Boulevard side and includes dozens of buildings arranged blocks deep. And naturally, the lovely Continental signage in the photo would have been removed decades ago.
So it took some looking around, but MCG was able to locate the building. Actually, the building’s address is on Oakwood, but it’s at the far end of the Ford sprawl, and the unique facade shown in the photo doesn’t face Oakwood but Interstate 94, where, luckily, it’s visible from the road if you happen to be looking for it. Here’s an aerial view:
Though a wing has been added to the right of the frame, there’s the building in our photo. This facility is still in use by Ford today as a pilot plant, where production lines are developed and tested. If you’d like to perform your own drive-by, here’s a map with the plant’s exact location.(17000 Oakwood Boulevard, Allen Park, MI.)
The red diamond marks the spot at the north-most corner of I-94 (Detroit Industrial Expressway) and Oakwood Boulevard. By the way, the rail line shown crossing Oakwood on our map is Henry Ford’s old DT&I Railroad featured previously at Motor City Garage. If, as long as you’re in the neighborhood, you’d like to view the electric railroad’s catenary trestles, this is a good spot. The rail line, which features some double and triple trestles along this stretch, runs northeast from here straight into the gigantic Ford River Rouge plant.
When the Continental Division was folded after the 1957 model year, the plant became home base for the new Edsel brand. Here, a 1958 Edsel convertible duplicates the Continental Mark II’s pose. But then Edsel soon went kaput, and the building eventually was converted into a pilot plant. Proper name: Ford New Models Production Development Center.
Finally, here’s a view of the plant when it was nearly new, taken from the westbound lanes of Interstate 94, when the highway itself was relatively new as well. Though the greenery is more mature, the view today from this spot is essentially the same. Just ahead is Exit 206A/206B for Oakwood Boulevard.