During the first part of the 20th century, Indiana was a hotbed for automobile manufacturing. While the state was home to several luxury manufacturers like Duesenberg and Stutz, it was Ford that changed the face of automotive manufacturing.
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The Ford Indianapolis assembly plant opened in 1915. It was one of the most spectacular auto assembly plants in the world, a reinforced concrete structure with an atrium that held a giant crane.
At its height in 1923, the factory was the largest auto production plant in Indiana and the United States. It drew visitors from around the country to tour the impressive facility.
Ford Indianapolis was also the birthplace of the Indianapolis 500, the most celebrated and most prestigious automobile race in America. During its early years, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway hosted multiple races on a weekly basis.
But in 1911, track promoters decided to hold only one event each Memorial Day: the Indy 500. The inaugural race drew 40 qualifying cars and 80,000 spectators.
The Indy 500 continues to be the premier auto racing event in the United States today. It attracts more than 300,000 people annually and features a rolling start in which entrants follow the pace car into the green flag.
For the 1953 Indy 500, Ford supplied a Sunliner convertible to pace the race. It was painted in the official “Indy” colors and had the same official Indy decals as the real race-used car.
Ford’s former Indianapolis eastside plant was sold to Visteon in 2000, a supplier that was spun off from the company. Then, in fall 2005, the plant was taken back by Ford as one of 17 money-losing Visteon factories that became part of a new entity, Automotive Components Holdings LLC. Since then, most employees at the factory have accepted buyout or retirement offers from the company.