Local History – The Motor City Dragway

Approximately 10 years ago, I heard a myth of an abandoned drag strip somewhere northeast of Detroit, not far from where I was living at the time. My curiosity was peaked and my 16-year-old self set out on the internet to find as much information as I could, including a location so I could go check it out. This is the story of my findings, and the site formerly known as Motor City Dragway.

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This dragstrip was built in the mid 1950’s amidst the nationwide drag racing craze, and became one of lower Michigan’s most popular dragstrips during the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. A lot of big-name drag racers raced there, as well as many famous cars. The venue closed in the late 1970s due to a decline in drag racing interest. Shortly after closing, the owner of the property dug ditches, to prevent young thrill-seekers from running the 1/4 mile. As of when most of these pictures were taken, the property had been sitting vacant almost 30 years. I visited the property several times between 2006 and 2007, taking a cheap point-and-shoot camera with me on each occasion. I’ve since only revisited the property once, around 2011, and most of the interesting artifacts were freshly removed while scrap prices were still high. Time hasn’t been kind to the condition of what remains.

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Looking down the road, it’s impossible to tell that there once stood a busy race track on the right side of this photo.

 

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The only visible marker of the drag strip in the overgrowth is this sign post.

 

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Looking deeper into the woods, you can see what appears to have been some sort of entry gate near the main entrance.

 

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Oh shit! Better be quiet, I wasn’t sure if the drag strip was also owned by the homeowner, but I sure as hell wasn’t trying to find out either. Ultimately, I decided that it wasn’t worth getting caught trespassing, so I left and came back at a later date, entering from the north side of the property.

 

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Entrance from the north side of the property, which also houses an unused silo.

 

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I kept finding more and more of these poles with loudspeakers, I was definitely heading in the right direction!

 

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The first building I discovered is what appears to be some sort of communications or control tower.

 

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This is what the main tower used to look like, and here it is in 2007.

 

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Bathroom building and what appears to have been a concession stand.

 

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Looking down the strip, and some of the remaining markings. It was an eerie feeling, to know drag racing legends once lined up exactly where I was standing. You start imagining, the sights of shiny new 2-ton muscle cars made of American steel, sporting big chrome bumpers. The sound of cammed V8’s and loud headers, crowds cheering in the bleachers, and the announcer’s voice blaring over the loudspeakers. Then there’s the smell… of tire smoke and leaded gasoline, alcohol fuel and fresh rubber being laid on the pavement. And in an instant, you snap back to the current time. The strange silence, occasionally broken by the sound of a bird or a breeze rustling some branches. The sight of the once-smooth surface now shattered and slowly being reclaimed by nature. And for a moment, you wish you were able to experience it during its heyday.

 

– Arvin Mahida (Fantom3)

 

More information and a ton of other pictures can be found here.

 

Other miscellaneous pictures:

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