Car Factory Tours
What's up with factories being totally geographically divorced from their high tech visitor centers? Don't get us wrong, we're not saying that the brand new Mercedes-Benz Museum is an insufficient tribute to the cars: With eight great levels of automotive fun all wrapped up in a gleaming metal shell that evokes an engine block, what's not to like? But for those who need a firsthand look at how a Benz comes together, a haul out to the Stuttgart suburb of Sindelfingen is in order.
An auto infotainment bonanza on a truly epic scale, the Ford Rouge factory tour aims for awe with its high tech circuit of Henry Ford's still functioning dream city. Count how many times your tour guide uses the phrase "world's largest" as your group winds through a 360 Virtual Reality theatre, a "living roof" garden/observation deck and a functioning F-150 assembly line.
What do Romy and Michelle, Austin Powers and Batman all have in common? They've been known to drive a Jag on film, according to the Internet Movie Car Database. With such a storied history, the British brand seems like it would be a valuable asset, which makes it all the more surprising that American car maker Ford is thinking about selling it and the also oft-driven-onscreen brand Land Rover. The car still sells steadily, but the U.S.-U.K. exchange rate has depressed the American market for the expensive cars driven by silver screen heroes.
Since Ford is also considering relocating Jaguar production to another location (i.e. one without a minimum wage), now is the time to visit England's Jaguar plants, Castle Bromwich in Birmingham is rumored to be closed for tours until after the new XF sports sedan is released in 2008, however Halewood on Merseyside are still open for touring. You won't get a new Jag to take home, but someone we know got samples of the fabrics used in a Jaguar's interior -- in case you wanted to stage a backyard version of "Pimp My Ride."
Still want to try and sneak in on those new XFs? Get yourself here and don't let 'em know we sent you.
[Photo: Martin Hartland]