Exploring Detroit’s Abandoned Car Factories

Exploring Detroit’s Abandoned Car Factories


In 1950, Detroit was the fifth-largest city in America,
with a population of over 1.8 million. Today, that number has declined by over 1 million people, and the city now ranks 23rd in the country. As a result, there are tens of thousands of
abandoned homes, businesses, schools, and factories throughout the city. Over the next few episodes, we’ll be venturing into ruins all across the city to witness the decay firsthand. Join us as we see what’s left. [♫ theme music ♫] Thanks to Dollar Shave Club for sponsoring today’s video. Go to dollarshaveclub.com/properpeople to get your first starter set for just $5. In this episode, we’ll be focusing on the city’s abandoned car factories. Detroit was at the center of the rise of the automobile, and the automobile was central to the rise of Detroit. In 1913, Henry Ford opened his Highland Park Factory, the first in the world to use a moving assembly line. With this innovation, the automobile industry in Detroit exploded, and the city became its definitive manufacturing hub. People migrated to the city from all over the country to take advantage of its booming economy, bringing its population from 500,000 to 1.8 million in just four decades. And then, as quickly as Detroit’s population had climbed, it began to fall. With the passage of the Interstate Highway Act of 1956, cities all across America began to transform. Freeways bulldozed their way through low-income neighborhoods, and strangled off downtowns from their surrounding areas. [archival narrator] “In many areas, slums have been cleared to provide right-of-way for the construction of attractive modern expressways.” On these very highways, the middle class began to leave the city for a new auto-centric way of life in the suburbs. As a result, city demographics began to shift towards lower-income African-American families who couldn’t afford a car or a new suburban home. Even for Black families who could afford new homes, many developments had policies outright banning them from purchasing one. Seeing the trends, even more middle class families began to leave the city, and white flight was in full effect. The tax revenue provided by the remaining lower class was nowhere near enough to sustain a city the size of Detroit, and it began to fall into disrepair. Detroit’s wealth had vacated the city, enabled by its own highways and its own products. This is the Conner Stamping Plant on the east side of the city. It spent most of its later years producing parts for Buick, Oldsmobile, and Cadillac vehicles. In 1986, GM shut down the plant, laying off its 700 workers. This place is falling apart. I can feel these things flexing under my feet. It’s boarded up here. We could just climb through this window. It’s a bit of a squeeze, but not too tight. – It’s pretty empty in here.
– It is. – But this place is huge, there’s gonna be some buildings that are better. Let’s go down here. – Tall ceiling in here.
– This looks pretty crazy. There’s some belts for the machinery here. Or maybe rubber seals from barrels or something. It’s wide open. The plant actually dates all the way back to the 1920s, when it was used by the Hudson Motor Car Company. They were a smaller independent automaker that eventually went out of business in the ’50s. After a few years of sitting idle, the factory was purchased and reopened by Cadillac. – It’s pretty stripped in here.
– It is. Look at the size of this elevator. [birds chirping] I wonder if Ken Block was doing Gymkhana in here or something like that. Definitely a lot of tire tracks. Just areas where it looks like a vehicle is coming through. As it turns out, The Grand Tour had recently filmed an episode where they raced through the middle of the factory. There’s a car on the wall. And United Auto Workers. #1 Quality Team. – It smells like a fire.
– The whole building does. – More in here. Outside smelled like oil and grease. – A little stage, probably for… meetings and presentations. Union gatherings. – Then this room just opens up to that factory.
– Yeah, not an exit door. – Are there any rafters supposed to be here?
– Most likely. – You can see stairs over there that just end nowhere.
– Yeah. There’s a locker room back here. – I wonder if this is a cafeteria?
– Yeah. This looks like… a fridge? But it also looks like a morgue in a hospital,
but it’s clearly not. – It does feel very hospital-like.
– Doesn’t this look like a morgue? – It does.
– Like, the – you put the bodies in there. Yeah, this is the kitchen so out there must have been the cafeteria. GM logo. There’s all their brands. Buick, Cadillac… and what the heck is that in the middle? Do you know what that is? That logo in the middle belonged to Oldsmobile, which became defunct in 2004. – Oh, this is where all the shelves were, full of the tools and spare parts. – They’re gone. – Completely overturned, stolen. Geez. I think we might be a little bit late to this place.
– I think so. – I mean we’re late to Detroit in general, but at least we’re getting to see some of what’s left. There’s a smoke detector beep going off somewhere. Pretty crazy that one of those still has a working battery in a place this messed up. It’s coming from somewhere over here. – These are all baseball cards up these stairs.
-Yeah. Wow. The floor is covered in them. – Wow, they’re hockey cards actually.
– They are.
– Do people even care about hockey cards? – Nah, there’s a mix of baseball and hockey.
– Okay. – I feel like baseball cards are like,
the main thing people collect.
– They are. It’s like a bunch of wooden bricks mixed with baseball cards. Or hockey cards. Look at this, this one’s still wrapped. – Holy shit, do you see all those shiny glimmers?
– They’re all cards. – They’re all cards.
– These are all wrapped, too. – Brand new packs wrapped in foil. Holy crap. The mountain of sports cards in this room were a clickbait sensation on the internet a few years ago, with headlines claiming that urban explorers had made a discovery worth millions. In reality, they’re worth next to nothing, evidenced by the fact that they’re still sitting here years later. The true story is that they were stored here by a local Detroit businessman and simply forgotten about when he passed away. Okay, I’m gonna open some packs.
Let’s see what we get. Start with this one. Yeah. Inside the packs the cards are pretty much mint. What do we got… Tony Iob. C.J. Deb. These are very low-quality cards, you can tell. Rob Leisk. Jason Weidell, Greg Lutz… Michael Johnson. Ken Belanger… George Dorian… Gregory Ryan… These look like little kids! – [laugh] – Is this even like a professional league?
And Jason Allison.
– Here, hold ’em up to the camera? – It said the league on the pack. I’m gonna have to… Ontario Hockey League. They’re so low quality though, just the way that they’re…
– Do they have their stats on the back? – Yeah. They’re all from ’91, ’92. – Yeah. – I think I see what might be the most interesting thing we’ve seen here so far.
– This was part of the power plant area. – Probably. We are getting pretty close to the power plant. – Some kind of…
– Wow.
– Only one of them’s left. Probably more. Ingersoll Rand is the brand. – Alright, let’s head into the power plant.
– What is this? – Oh, it’s really wrecked. Controls in here anywhere? – No? – They were probably just right here.
– They’re probably, yeah. I think 200, 300 scrappers must have hit this [laugh] the amount of pipes that are cut. – I mean it still looks cool.
– It does in its own way.
– In a really apocalyptic way. – Every pipe is cut.
– This place was hit so hard by scrappers. It’s crazy. It’s still cool to see these control panels. All the gauges and dials. As we were getting our final cinematic shots, we noticed the building was beginning to fill with smoke. – Oh shit, look at that. – Yeah. I don’t know. I think below… – Below? We were just down there. – I saw it rising. – Light down there.
– What?
– There’s a light down there. Someone’s here. – Let’s get our shit and go. Not wanting to run into the wrong type of person, we quickly made our way out. It was time to check out some of Detroit’s other abandoned car factories. This is the 3.5 million square foot Packard plant that dates back to 1903. At the time, it was considered the most advanced car factory in the world. The last Packard automobiles rolled off the assembly line here in the late 1950s, and since then the plant has never operated again. We had plans to explore it, but to our surprise, there was actually security patrolling, and given how wide-open the building was, there was pretty much nowhere to hide. [Sarcastically] For the safety of the community, do not enter. Moving on from the Packard plant, we arrived at our next location: Fisher Body Plant #21. – Holy shit. We need a new phrase to stop saying “how fucked is it?” because then we just like, immediately…
– How blown out is it?
– How blown out is it. It’s extremely blown out. – Wow. This is all collapsed.
This is the tower that was leaning over.
– Yeah. – Look at the metal supports, they’re kinked!
– It looks pretty gnarly in here. Wow. For this exploration we’re joined by our friend Cary,
a Detroit local. He has some fantastic shots of the city on his Instagram, which we’ll link in the description. – Which one? – Really. – There’s no stairs? – No. [laugh] – Then from there there’s stairs, though?
– Yes. – Okay.
– Isn’t that weird? [clanking]
– Oh shit! – Probably should use the actual rope!
Looks like it’s tied in.
– Yeah, I’m very- I’m gonna use the rope. – Yeah the rope’s tied in. – This is pretty fun! [laugh] – This looks like the tunnel that the cars would go through on the assembly line. – I saw the track down there. – Let’s just do a loop around. See what we see. – Yeah, look at the track on the ceiling.
– Yeah. – It would pull… body panels through there, yeah.
– …the panels to go right through here. – It would dip down into something here.
– Right here, yeah. – There’s like sprayer nozzles… this is pretty neat!
– This might have been like, priming and painting and stuff.
– Yeah. Or just treating the metal.
– Treating the metal most likely, yeah.
– Anti-corroding. – It would dip it in here. – Another dipping thing. Oh, I think there would have been a wall here! You just walked through a door.
– Yeah. – This whole thing was closed off, that way it wouldn’t…
– Yeah.
– … spray out or splash anything. Used to all be enclosed. And there were windows in it,
so you could observe from the outside. – A lot of dipping stations. – You can see an original drawing of a car. A very old car. – …stairs up? – Open cabin. – Now these stairs are lookin’ pretty, uh, rickety but…
– They’re alright. I mean they weren’t moving like the other ones. – Yeah. – Nothing on this floor.
– It’s like a wind tunnel! – There’s nothin’ here. – This is kind of cool.
– It’s the wash basin. – Yeah. – That glass is so sick. – Oh yeah, it’s very green up here. This plant was built in 1919 as an expansion to the existing Fisher Body Plant. Instead of creating complete cars, the Fisher company only created bodies, which were then sold to other companies for use with their own chassis. During World War II, the factory was converted to help in the war effort, producing parts for fighter planes and bombers. After the company’s absorption by GM, the Fisher brand name was eventually phased out. The plant would close down for good in 1984, as the old building could no longer be retrofitted to support modern machinery. – Oh, shit. – It’s sealed? – I don’t know. Looks it. – Yeah, that’s completely sealed. – We could go up another floor, maybe the other staircase will be open?
– Yeah, maybe. – We can look down into that floor. This might be where the tracks on the ground are.
– Maybe, yeah?
– There’s even a forklift sitting right there. – Oh shit! – Well it’s gotta be a way to get down there.
– Yeah. Probably the other stairwell. – Well this window’s busted out, I’m wondering if this is… Yup! There’s a ladder. Oh wait, the ladder’s fallen. It WAS a ladder.
– Really. – Right there.
– Holy shit. – You could still climb down there.
– Yeah. – Well let’s see if there’s an easier way first.
– Yeah, ’cause it’d be a bitch getting back up. – Yeah, this is the floor that is the main attraction though. – There’s gotta be stairs in this part.
– There might be stairs over there.
– Yeah. – Holy shit! – What? [goose honking] – Really?
– Goose. – What?
– Just a goose. – It’s a goose.
– Oh! [laughing] – It looks like he’s about to fuckin’ attack us. [honking]
– Where is it? – Right above you. – He’s hissing.
– Is he a savage goose? – Oh shit, he sees me. Oh he sees me! [laughing] Oh it’s angry! – Yeah, he probably has babies up there. [angry honking] – We should back up, that is a very…
– Aggressive goose!
– …violent goose, I can just tell. That is a savage goose right there if I’ve ever seen one. [honking] – If I went up this ladder right now…
– Oh, he’d attack!
– I’d be in a lot of trouble. [laugh] – How much damage can a goose do? – Why don’t ya find out?
– [laughing] – You first!
– All right. – Yeah, we’re going. – That looks awesome in there; we gotta find our way down in there. – Is he following us, really? [honking] – Oh, he’s flying somewhere. Oh shit! – Dude this is all his territory. – He’s angry!
– We’re messing with the wrong goose. [laugh] – Look at him go! – Crazy motherfucker! – He’s following us! [laughing hysterically] – Hooooly shiiit! Fucking goose! – Whew!
– Haha! – Holy shit, dude, he was just waiting to attack. He was waiting for us to turn our backs that entire time. – What the fuck! – Dude, as he was coming at us I was ready to throw a punch. I was literally ready to throw a fucking punch. [both laughing] – Oh my god. – Fucking goose, man. He was not playing. We gotta go in this way now because of him. – Watch this thing, the goose, come inside and attack us too. It’s just standing there, watching. – You see him?
– Yeah! – Holy fuck. I’m scared. – Where is he?
– On the edge of the building over there. – This is sick up here, this is definitely the best floor of the place. – Just making sure there’s actually rungs there. ‘Cause some of the other ladders did not have rungs. – Someone coulda scrapped ’em. – I haven’t heard Cary in a while. The goose might have got him.
– Yeah. – You guys down here? – Yeah. – You guys used this ladder, right? – What?
– Did you use this ladder? – Yeah.
– Okay. – Wow. The light’s nice. – This is almost cooler than the Cadillac factory…
– Yeah. – … ’cause this actually looks like cars were made here, you know?
– Yeah. – Full assembly line. – What was once storage for tools and parts is now just storage for spray paint. Bunch of vents in the ceiling. I wonder if this was like, a drying tunnel. Oh, and once it came down off these tracks here, it looks like… you could freely roll it horizontally… get it over here… do whatever else with it. With the sun finally dipping below the horizon, it was time to make our exit. Stay tuned for the next episode, where we’ll be checking out even more of what Detroit has to offer. The sponsor of today’s video, Dollar Shave Club,
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About the Author: Michael Flood

100 Comments

  1. Amazing-America abandoned the industrial area that won WWII! THink of the lost value of these abandoned plants-and the thousands of homes that housed the workers-all left to rot. And yet, had our leaders had any brains, none of this had to happen. Of course, Detroit was slow to react to the competition posed by Japan and Germany-but (like England) we had the technology first-we should have stayed on top.

  2. ingersol rand makes air compressors, suprised you guys didn't know the oldsmobile logo, some of them are still on the road. it all comes down to exposure I guess.

  3. It never ceases to amaze me how much things deteriorate. Like, the roofs and the walls? I don't wash my walls or ceilings, and they don't look like this. What the hell happens to these places? Ambient nature atmosphere does this? It just surprises me.

  4. In my country, as property taxes here are based on the land value, an abandoned site like this still incurs the same taxes as when it was an operating factory. This is the incentive to hand them back as the ultimate ownership of land is held by the Crown. The government would resume these properties and the occupiers who have "improved" the land by building factories, have to rehabilitate them back to a state where they can become parks or sports playing fields for community use.
    Imagine if all these sites were parks and gardens and sporting facilities?

  5. Detroit is also one of the worst cities in the US for crime. Exploring abandoned places in that city is very dangerous….

  6. You guys should always were safety boots and for god sake wear safety helmets!! Look at all that crap dangling from the ceiling. As for these old abandoned factories why is it that the companies that close and abandon these buildings are not responsible for them. Why are they left to rot ? They should be torn down by whoever owned it. The city or state should not have too.

  7. Whats the name of the Jameson Nathan Jones song used in the video, went thru his Bandcamp catalog and couldnt find it

    …was it specifically made for this series ?

  8. I'm a Jackson MI, native. We were like flint/detroits second hand man and cross roads. My dad's been in the UAW wiiith Chrysler since 2000. I was just a kiddo then, but I grew up with stories about these factories that his father was able to see just as they were shutting down.

    I got into urbexing when I was 15, and to drive to Detroit and explore was once my biggest dream.

    It's spooky at night, but anywhere thats sheltered and forgotten will house some freaky people and a few needles.

    Detroits ruin is so beautiful and simultaneously heart wrenching to me, being so close to home.

    I love your cinematography. Thank you for giving these places the final glimpse they deserve <3

  9. There's more likely than not some very valuable cards in that room.. what a shame you guys didn't look into it more

  10. As a photographer, it is fantastic to see these buildings, with their tragic history and fantastic scenery for painting with a camera.
    However, I do get a feeling that you are not too aware of the dangers of such buildings. I am not thinking about muggers – I am thinking of the decay of the buildings, which affects their floors, roofs and walls, making many of them hazardous because you never know when a floor will give way or a wall cave in. Which actually is why Packard had the sign about security for the safety of the public.

    Of course, it is probably just an impression and you probably plan your trips well. Just be careful, guys.

  11. Please check out the bell isle abandoned zoo, pretty neat 👍 cops watch it alot now tho and they did add no trespassing signs….

  12. I can’t help but to think this is what our jobs will look like in the future. Just a memory and dust and debris..

  13. I hate GM and their products. I will never buy one until the day i die. They deserve to go down. They build shitty cars back then and now still do. I don't care if they look good outside the engine and interior are still crap.
    I haven't mentioned the stupid mistake they made on EV. They were never serious about EV and they sold their soul for the bucks when they scrapped their EV to the pressure of the oil cartels.

    I hate them even more when the tax payers bailed them out in 2009 because of their stupid management and lousy products while i lost my house from the recession with no government help.

    F. GM and the US government!!!!!!

  14. So funny when they didn't know oldsmobile symbol crazy they didn't know. Even crazier how that used to be a high quality car…. next they won't know Pontiac or Saturn.

  15. Omg!!! I’m randomly watching this video and the hockey player Tony Iob mentioned at 12:30 was my neighbor growing up in Renfrew, Ontario, Canada. I’ve just sent this link to his sister!

  16. why not check out the ghost adventures of haunted buildings ive been into asylums myself that have been really rank. ghost adventures.com

  17. I have such a fascination when it comes to abandoned buildings. The history behind it. What kind of memories were made in places that you walk into? Maybe some worker told his co-worker that he's going to have a baby in that locker room. What if a new invention with the car was thought up in one of those rooms? Just so much history to these buildings. It's a shame to see them trashed. One big thing i wish i could see with every one of these abandon places is to see them revived and come back to life. I know that would NEVER happen, but it would be amazing.

  18. there used to be a joke bumper sticker about NOT buying American made products and where are your kids are gonna work……….this is the reality.

  19. Hey! It's awesome you went to Fisherbodyplant 21! I go there all the time, that place is used a lot for street racing in Detroit. It has so much history and is amazing to explore. Such a cool place. Here's a video of some street racing there: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gURlzEe2PfM

  20. I went to the Conner plant with some friends at night about 2 years ago and we heard a girl scream in the building. We got caught by security driving around but went back when they left

  21. Gm is struggling today . The amount of abandon buildings will increase with time. Some of Detroit's manufacturing has recovered , but it will only lead to manufacturing demise in the future. A different era of people who refuse to see the importance of independent manufacturing in the USA. Sad.

  22. in same narrator voice In 2019 the city of Detroit and the entire state of Michigan shot themselves in the foot. killing another industry within the state The vape industry. they immediately lost tax money given to the state. …but its all for the youth. The youth will just move to a different state.

  23. 6:21 The grand tour used that bit with the tyre marks to build a racetrack in the old plant in S3E1 adn the trio (JC, JM, RH) had three modern day versions of Detroit tyre burners. Keep up the good work… vids looking awesome!!!

  24. My dad was born and grew up in Detroit. He admired it, for its growth and its decline. He passed a couple of years ago, but in his honor I went to Detroit to go explore and walk in his footsteps. Thanks for doing this, the knowledge and history you have documented in this video will live on for years to come.

  25. @The Proper People
    Where can you discover the graveyards fully???
    Film the ghost at graveyards,please!
    Becareful at the gravesites.
    Bring multiple guest from YouTube,please?
    I heard gyms there are haunted.
    Discover the schools that still teach.
    Where are the gyms and G.E.D. testing sites???
    If any females know the complete answers,
    just talk to me here @George Brown 3

  26. This is the end product our outsourcing our industries for decades and decades,maybe our politicians should view your videos
    to see their damages,,that basically are UNfixable,very very sad😢😢😢😢😢Thank you,for the great memories 👍👍

  27. its actually sad that these democrat run cities go under like this see what socialism does guys i been looking under duck.com for info why actually Detroit is the way it is actually shows a list of years that were democrat ran this if you want here is the link https://www.quora.com/Since-Detroit-has-been-100-percent-Democrat-run-for-30-years-mayor-and-city-council-is-Detroit-a-good-model-to-show-liberalism-at-work but this was a cool video thanks @properpeople mellow feelings i rarely see any other videos with high quality camera work you guys are awesome

  28. Your videos tell a story of the hey days of Detroit. It’s better days. I look at those homes from the beginning of your video and wonder what it would have been like to buy one of them new. The smells, excitement, the feeling moving into a new home. Just imagine the joy those home brought to the homeowners.

  29. I know this is off topic, but have you ever heard about the west chicago radiation cleanup? It's an interesting and sad thing. My grandmothers good friend (Jennifer Fawell is her name, also mentioned in the article) is the girl who triggered the whole investigation and cleanup of the town. My grandmother told me this story as we were driving through west chicago (Since I live nearby). Heres the link to an article on it https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1993-03-21-mn-13479-story.html

  30. When you had no idea what the symbol in the middle was, I was screaming in my mind "its oldsmobile! How do you not know this!" Then I told myself that not everybody is a car guy.

  31. Omg theres trash holy this omg theres a goose holy this omg theres cards holy this omg where in Detroit holy this omg theres some stairs holy this my goodness I know your trying to promote hate towards God and Christian's and your purposely blasphemous towards our faith and your more then likely paid to promote blaspheme tobget the youth and others to think it's ok to say it but your choice is your choice but my goodness you cant be to obvious at what your about because if you was not doing what your supposed to do you wouldnt have any views or followers so you have to do your job but wow how many times over and over again you said holy this and that makes you look pathetic

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