Jan Andrew, Communications Consultant, RAMedia

"A Family Celebrates its History with Michigan’s Car Industry"

Joe’s Family John, Marion, Andrew, Amelia, and Joe Jr (1930’s)

After years of living in California and New York, abandoning my car for the subways back in 2006, I returned recently to Macomb County in the Detroit suburbs to be close to my family. My new home is in the city of Warren, which was renown during World War II as part of the county’s “Arsenal of Democracy” because it was home to many of the plants converted to produce World War II’s heavy arsenal of tanks. While Warren still prides itself on being a hub of both the defense and auto industries, it has adopted a new nickname for the area, “The Arsenal of Innovation,” because of the focus on new technology. I like that shift.

I also like the idea that General Motors originally owned the property in my suburban neighborhood – it makes me feel closer to my mother, who had proudly retired as a supervisor in the late 60s. My father retired after more than 30 years on the assembly line with Chrysler.

My brother Bill, recently retired from Chrysler’s engineering department, loves to restore cars and a few years ago he took on the project of restoring my grandfather Joseph Lehotan Sr’s 1929 Chevrolet. His goal was to have it ready last year when General Motors launched its 100 year celebration of the first Chevy. Despite problems getting parts, Bill was able to get the engine purring again and the chassis rebuilt and with some help from my other brother Gilbert, he started driving it that way to local car shows. He also had a photo display of the new auto from the family archives. It was a big hit with the public.

This January, I surprised my brothers by announcing that I wanted to attend the Detroit Auto Show in the remodeled Cobo Hall Convention Center. Bill’s 1929 Chevy had been on display in one of the showrooms there last February as part of Autorama. I missed it, but I wanted to start sharing in my brothers’ excitement about the car culture again.

One of the featured displays at this auto show was the 1903 Model A. Ford, recently bought by Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford so that it could be a focal point for the 150th anniversary this year of the birth of his great grandfather, Henry Ford. Amazingly that encounter gave me one of the first connections I had with the Ford Motor Company, since no one in even our extended family worked there. I later learned that Henry Ford was a farm boy whose ambition was to build a car for the people, not just the rich, because he wanted to help farmers and other workers expand their horizons and make their lives easier. I finally had my link to Ford: I come from farm families on both sides. I can now truly say I feel connected to all of the American car industry and glad it is making a comeback. And, oh yes, I finally decided on a Chrysler 200.