The Family Drive

Sep 28, 2011


Henry Ford

By Al Zehnder, CEO of Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth

Can you just imagine Henry Ford driving home after he developed his first automobile, loading as many of his family into the car and going for a drive? I wonder where they went? Were there street signs? Was there a speed limit? Stop lights? What were the roads like?

We’ve all experienced it. Tossing the kids in the back seat and sometimes just driving to nowhere. Just because it’s a nice day. Just because we just bought this thing. Just because we wanted to go out for an ice cream cone. Or, just because.

My dad liked to take us for a drive or I think he actually said, “let’s go for a ride.” I remember one summer evening driving down the Dixie Highway in a convertible we had. My sister and I were in our pajamas standing up in the back seat with the top down. We were headed to the A&W on Genessee Street in Saginaw. The kind of A&W where they came out and took your order and then hung that tray with all the food on it on your rolled down window. That’s where my dad introduced me to coney dogs with onions, french fries and root beer in a glass mug. That meal still brings back that memory to this day.

Frankenmuth was just host to one of the premier automobile celebrations in the Midwest, if not the nation, Frankenmuth AutoFest. Over 2,500 classic and antique cars were on display for the entire weekend. I hope you didn’t miss it, if you did, it’s always the weekend after Labor Day. It’s basically a celebration of our state’s history and love affair with the automobile. As we walked among the crowds and the cars, you could just see and hear it, people making the connection with a car and some event or memory in their life. That’s what cars can do. They give us a reference point in time, conjure up memories, they have the ability to make us feel good, maybe young again. And there it was for me as we made our way up the street. A 1953 Chevrolet 150 Business Coupe. Now Business Coupe meant there was no back seat, just a flat space. They were marketed to travelling salesmen so they had a space for their samples. I’m not sure why my dad bought that car but we (my sister and I) modified that “no back seat area” by placing two folding lawn chairs in the space. My parents apparently approved of the “upgrade” because I remember going for drives like that! Additionally, we lived on a large piece of property at the time and in his weaker moments, my dad allowed (or maybe he just wasn’t home) my sister and I to drive that car around our property by ourselves. I needed her because it was a three speed on the column and with my two hands on the wheel, I was working the clutch and brakes while she shifted. I could barely see over the wheel and out of the windshield. Geez, can you imagine letting your kids do that today!?

Well, October is a great time of year for a family drive. Gently toss the kids in the back seat, buckle them up and head out somewhere. See the beautiful Michigan fall colors, enjoy the crisp autumn air, enjoy the family, make some memories. If your drive takes you close to Frankenmuth, consider stopping at Zehnder’s, a “family drive” destination since before Henry Ford.

~Al Zehnder, CEO of Zehnder’s of Frankenmuth

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