25 Things That Make No Sense About Detroit’s Abandoned Car Factories

The Detroit we know today is in direct contrast to the one from 1950. It was a bustling city back then that had managed to become, what The Week confirms, the fourth-largest city in the country at that time. That was all thanks to the booming auto industry of which Detroit was the beating heart at its center.

Not long after that, however, the city started going through a decline. Just eight years later, the Packard Motor plant closed down. In the years following, the city would reach new milestones, such as Motown Records. There were always setbacks though, and the auto industry wasn’t able to get back on the right track.

The city racked up a lot of debt, leading the city to ultimately go broke. That led to a lot of auto plants closing down. The production lines in factories went dark, the machinery became run-down and the same level of success in the auto industry never returned.

Everyone accepts that the factories have closed down and that the city may not be the center of the auto industry again. Yet there’s a lot about the empty factories themselves that don’t make a whole lot of sense.

Whether it attempts to revive the derelict factories or odd decisions investors are making or what's happening to these factories today, there's a lot of puzzling activity going on. While there isn’t a simple solution to all these abandoned factories, one can’t help but examine the many nonsensical things surrounding these abandoned buildings that haven’t been able to rot in peace. We’re going to look at all the things that don’t make sense about Detroit’s abandoned car plants.

Continue scrolling to keep reading

Click the button below to start this article in quick view

Start Now

25 There Are Whole Cars Still Left Behind

via YouTube user Abandoned Exploring with Dali

Footage of Allan Hill, who lived at the Packard plant, reveals a lot about what it looks like inside. One of the most striking details are the cars still lying around. In a YouTube video by EVANA TV, there’s a scene showing Hill’s living quarters and several cars intact. It’s doubtful he brought them there, so one can only surmise they stayed behind.

Much of his stuff sits on top and around the stray vehicles. Whether they work or not is a whole other matter though.

24 One Man Wants To Turn An Abandoned Plant Into A Techno Nightclub

via Free Detroit Press

Investors have different visions for the abandoned car factories of Detroit. One of them though may have the most ambitious and quizzical plan of all. It’s so odd, it may not even make sense to the general public.

The Metro Times reports that Dimitri Hegemann is looking to turn the Fisher Body 21 Plant, one of the most iconic of abandoned buildings still standing today, into a nightclub. He has a proven track record when it comes to doing this, so maybe he’s able to get it done.

23 Paintballers Use The Plants For Competitive Matches

via yourpaintballhelp.com

The abandoned car factories of Detroit, once large buildings employing thousands, attract paintballers. It makes sense on the surface, considering all the obstacles one can hide around; not to mention the post-apocalyptic setting, which offers the ideal backdrop. The site CherylHoward.com notes that among the many types of people drawn to these abandoned factories are paintballers who want to play the sport.

While it makes sense to the paintballer to go there, it baffles the rest of the public who perceive the area to be dangerous.

22 A Company Moved Into A Former Car Factory, Only Used 1% Of The Property

via The Property Enterprise IoT Insights

This next one boggles the mind. The Packard Plant seemed a desirable property to move into after it closed down in 1958, what with all its real estate at one's disposal. According to the site Sometimes-Interesting, a Chemical Processing Company did, in fact, move in not long after it quit making cars.

What makes little sense though is how much of the premises they actually used. The same source notes they used 57,000 square feet, which comes out to less than 1% of the factory’s space. It makes one wonder why they chose that location in the first place?

21 Someone Lives In An Abandoned Factory

via Jalopnik

The Packard Plant is long abandoned, but some see it as a potential residence. A man by the name of Allan Hill, according to The Daily Bail, lived there for seven years. Many think he’s crazy for doing it, considering the dangers of living out of an abandoned factory.

He has some dogs to keep him company though and has carved out a living there for himself. It may not be much, but Hill made the most out of his humble abode there.

20 People Start Fires

via Pinterest

When a factory closes, little good comes out of it. People lose their jobs, the area falls into disrepair, and unless someone turns it around, it takes on dingy characteristics. According to the site CherylHoward.com, people regularly start fires in places like the Packard Plant.

Once a vibrant auto plant, the area literally has black smoke rising from the area at times thanks to these fires. The only way it could make sense are if some people are freezing and so desperate to stay warm that they make fires there.

19 Artists And Intellectuals Gravitate To Abandoned Buildings

via Detroit Free Press

Although abandoned places intrigue some, the majority aren’t interested in going anywhere near them. With that being the case, many will appear puzzled by the group of people moving drawn to the empty factories: artists and intellectuals.

According to Metro Times, many of these younger people are moving from New York City to Detroit. Part of the appeal are these abandoned factories. What exactly do they want to do with these large, empty spaces that once produced automobiles? You’ll have to read on to find out.

18 They’re Turning Factories Into Art Spaces

via Metro Times

Artists seem to care less about what happened in the buildings before. They may not know AMC once produced Jeeps out of a certain building, or that Chrysler designed the Dodge Ram pickup there.

The great appeal of these abandoned spaces is they’re ripe for artwork. Metro Times reports that many young people attracted to Detroit are turning the factories into art spaces. It doesn’t seem to matter to them that their work lies in or around an abandoned factory many people won’t see.

17 Filmmakers Shoot Movies There

via Talk Film Society

Movies are usually made in controlled environments, such as a studio or lot. People often picture them filmed in sunny Hollywood or even in Georgia, where a new film industry is coming alive. The abandoned factories in Detroit seem like the last place to shoot a film. That is unless that movie takes place in an apocalyptic setting.

The site CherylHoward.com reports that Michael Bay shot the blockbuster Transformers: Dark of the Moon there. It’s somewhat appropriate considering the movie is about cars that transform into robots.

16 People Vandalize The Abandoned Factories Still Standing

via Magnetic Magazine

If a building is already on its last legs and looks worse for wear, why not leave it alone? For some reason, as per the site Sometimes-Interesting, people damage the buildings—or what’s left of them. For proof of this, one need only look at images of the abandoned factories over the years.

While there are signs of natural deterioration, there’s also evidence of tagging and broken in windows. It makes no sense why people would further damage these buildings that once symbolized prosperity.

15 There’s Still Running Water And Power

via The New York Times

There’s something that doesn’t make much sense about at least one of the abandoned factories: it still has running power and water. As revealed in a YouTube video by EVANA TV, Allan Hill—who lived out of the Packard plant—was able to live with amenities that required power.

There’s a scene with lit bulbs in one room and a working computer. The site CBC even reports running water on the site, but it’s not hot. One scene shows Hill even doing some welding work.

14 DIYers Salvage Materials From Vacant Plants

via gannett-cdn.com

Those who are DIYers would rather figure out a solution to their projects than pay someone else to do it. That requires a lot of work on their end but can often be more satisfying. Not only does it require time to actually work on the project, but also time gathering the materials.

As the site CherylHoward.com notes, DIYers love the abandoned plants for the materials lying around that they can put to use in their own projects. It seems though that the risk involved with exploring the area and actually finding something they can use is slim.

13 The Factories Are Rampant With Looters And Break-Ins

via Detroit Free Press

Being that the factories once produced cars, one can only imagine what kind of valuable equipment and materials they once stored. That was years ago though, and yet, according to Sometimes-Interesting, the factories still get looted. That was even still happening while the Chemical Processing company were still tenants of Packard.

It makes little sense though that there’d be anything still of value in those factories today unless some things are being brought in. It’s the intel that has us raising our eyebrows.

12 People Visit Just To See The Abandoned Factories

via YouTube user Anton Daniels

People of all kinds go to abandoned car factories in Detroit. They’re drawn for a number of reasons. Many just want to go to see what it looks like, to walk among ruins and come back having survived it with photos.

This makes no sense to much of the public, who views the area as lonely, deserted and potentially dangerous. Despite all these warning signs, people go against what’s rational to explore these ransacked areas to experience it for themselves.

11 A Lesser-Known Company Occupied The Packard Plant Longer Than Packard Did

via Greg Lamont

To this day, the Packard Plant has a reputation for making cars. In truth though, there’s another company that moved in shortly after auto operations had ended. Sometimes-Interesting reports they moved into the abandoned plant back in 1958, only to find a new location in 2007.

That means they occupied the space longer than Packard ever did. That makes little sense as far as the public’s perception goes for this plant, especially since it’s more remembered for making automobiles than it is for the chemical processing company that was there for longer.

10 People Still Visit Even Though Thieves Steal From Them

via The Independent

Expanding further on the previous point, people visit these abandoned places at their own peril. With people scoping out the area for valuables, visits put their things at risk. According to the site CherylHoward.com, thieves in these abandoned factories have even gone so far as to go after visitors.

They may try to take whatever visitors have on them, whether it’s a wallet or a nice camera to photograph the area. It doesn’t make sense to some that visitors would be willing to lose their valuables over exploring the area.

9 Investors Have Ideas For The Plants, But None Go Through

via CBS Chicago

Everyone has ideas for the abandoned properties in Detroit. It’s easy to come up with a vision, but actually executing it is another thing entirely. For one, it takes lots of money. Even then, it’s going to take years of work to restore these plants into something new that will attract the public.

According to Sometimes-Interesting, there have been lots of interested parties considering the potential, but none have been able to make it happen. Granted, part of that has to do with getting approval from the city, and they haven’t received it.

8 One Of The Largest Factories Remains Abandoned

via archpaper.com

The Packard Plant is one of the biggest factories in Detroit and it’s remained abandoned since the late 1950s. To give one an idea of how big the Packard Plant actually is, we’ll look at some of the other big plants in the country. The Tesla Factory in Fremont, California, is about 126 acres, as per Visual Capitalist; Mitsubishi Motors in Illinois is about 54 acres big.

While Packard spans 35 acres, it was one of the biggest at its time. For a plant that big to go abandoned and remain empty all this time makes little sense.

7 The City Of Detroit Either Wants The Buildings Plowed Down Or Updated

via Fortune

It seems that the city of Detroit—who is smack dab in the middle of all this—will accept one of two extremes: that the buildings go down or be remade. According to the site CherylHoward.com, these buildings are something of a drag on the city. They likely just want to move on to the next chapter, hopefully, one that helps the city.

They’d rather the buildings get torn down or made anew, but it’s going to take some investors and a lot of capital to do so.

6 Packard Plant Closed In 1950s, Yet Still Stands Today

via Hemmings Motor News

Although touched on earlier, this warrants its own entry. The Packard Plant was one of the biggest factories in Detroit, and yet it closed down. The Week reports that it originally opened for business in 1903, only to close down its massive 35-acre plant in 1958.

What makes little sense to anyone is why this building still stands. There’ve been plenty of years for someone to swoop in and turn it into something new, yet the plant remains vacant without any interested parties.

5 Automakers Have Given Up On The Area

via Pinterest

Major automakers once flocked to Detroit. Today though, they don’t want to go near it. In essence, they’ve abandoned the Motor City and aren’t looking to go back. According to CNBC, in a report from April 2018, Detroit is benefitting from pickup and SUV sales.

With Ford turning away from the U.S. car business though, as they report, it looks like Detroit’s future looks dim. GM may also follow suit. It doesn’t make sense though considering Detroit’s legacy as an auto city.

4 The City Went Broke

via Pinterest

It seems like all the success Detroit had in the car industry could last forever. Perhaps that’s naive to think though, considering how things turned out. To financial experts, maybe it makes sense why it turned out the way it did. For the majority of the public, however, it doesn’t make a lot of sense why the city went broke.

Upon digging, one will find it’s a rather complicated story that spans decades. Even then, all the details may not add up to a sensible explanation for how many of Detroit's car factories closed up.

3 Many Abandoned Factories Still Stand Today Without Producing Cars

via New York Times

The auto industry in Detroit ran out of steam. This greatly concerned city execs and those calling the shots, as the Detroit Free Press notes when looking back at its history. The industry there stalled and eventually hit such a low point that many car factories had to close down as a result.

What doesn’t make sense though is why many of them still stand today. Wouldn’t it be easier to demolish them? That’s a complicated question with no clear answer.

2 Reflects Poorly On The City And Its Productive Past

via Post-Gazette

The buildings don’t do the city of Detroit justice. Once an industrious utopia of the auto world, its long fallen on tough times. That has most clearly manifested in the vacant buildings all throughout the city that once built automobiles. Unlike the products these buildings made, however, these buildings are going nowhere.

It doesn’t make sense that in recent years the buildings stand as monuments reflecting the city’s troubles, especially when it was these very buildings that helped bring it to prosperity in the first place.

1 The Man Who Lived There Called The Abandoned Factory “Peaceful”

via Detroit News

It’s crazy enough someone actually lived in the Packard auto plant; what’s more, he actually called it peaceful. “Some people criticize me about living here,” said Allan Hill, in a YouTube video uploaded by EVUNA TV. “Some people say I’m insane.” What doesn’t make much sense though is that Hill went on to say it’s peaceful living there.

One would think that with all the vandals, filmmakers, paintballers, explorers, and more, the place ought to be a nightmare. We’re surprised that’s not the case, at least from this tenant’s point of view.

Sources: The Week, Metro Times, Visual Capitalist, Sometimes-Interesting, CherylHoward.com, The Daily Bail, CBC, YouTube, CNBC, Detroit Free Press

More in Car Culture