Interstate I-94 East from Ann Arbor, Michigan to downtown Detroit is a monotonous drive. Low-rise housing complexes, mall parking lots and the Detroit Metro airport pass you by on the mostly flat route, snaking its way towards the heart of the Motor City. But if there’s one weird landmark you’re not likely to miss along the way, it’s Detroit’s very own Uniroyal Giant Tire, rising more than 80 feet above the roadway.
This giant disk of premium rubber has been greeting Detroit-area commuters for more than 40 years. First built in 1964 as a monument for the World’s Fair in New York, the tire was originally a working Ferris wheel which could hold 96 riders. After the Fair’s conclusion the wheel was moved to its current home along the interstate. It’s been confusing and delighting motorists ever since, suddenly rising into view like a celestial hubcap sent from the heavens above.
It’s fitting that Detroit, a city that has long staked its reputation on the auto industry, would have such a landmark. But perhaps these days, with all the doom and gloom that’s been forecast in the state of Michigan, it’s become more a ghostly reminder of glory days past than a symbol of Detroit’s hopes for renewal. Still, for anyone who’s ever driven that flat road East towards Detroit, it’s a much needed symbol of whimsy and pride that never fails to make you smile.
The good folks over at Autoblog (who must have their hands full today on
the New York auto show) sent me a link to a new park concept coming out of Las Vegas. General Motors (who has been
struggling lately) is opening
a new outdoor "autotainment" park called "The Drive," in sunny, slimy Las Vegas. The driving
experience is opened at the Sahara Hotel & Casino on April 10, and promises the opportunity to drive two separate
driving courses on the 11-acre site. Speedsters can take on the high-performance loop, and the more adventuresome who
like a good bump in the road can try the off-road adventure.
Autoblog quotes Steve Tihanyi, GM’s director of
marketing and entertainment alliances, as saying that "‘The Drive’ represents a significant marketing
opportunity for General Motors, allowing us to showcase our products in a unique fashion that will provide a fun-filled
time for the millions of people who live in or visit Las Vegas." Yes, I can see this having very wide appeal. But I
would hope that they offer a breathalyzer test before you drive…free drinks, Vegas and vigorous driving don’t really
mix well. Oh, and if you’re curious about which cars you get to drive, autoblog lists them: Chevy Corvette coupe
and convertible, Pontiac GTO, Cadillac CTS-V, Pontiac Solstice roadster, Cadillac STS-V, Saab 9-3 convertible, and
Chevy SSR on the performance track, or the HUMMER H2, HUMMER H2 SUT, mid-size HUMMER H3, 2007 Cadillac Escalade, 2006
Chevy Silverado Diesel and the 2007 Chevy Tahoe on one of the two dirt tracks.
I confess, I’d do this.