Detroit Motors

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Challenge Brief

Design Brief:

Design a vehicle for the visionaries and entrepreneurs who will revitalize Detroit. These are the people who will raise Detroit from the ashes of recession. Small businesses like bakers, builders and mechanics. Creative entrepreneurs like designers, musicians and painters.

This vehicle will need to have cargo capacity and towing ability for at least work, and perhaps even work and play.

Detroiters are often outdoorsmen and women. They enjoy the lakes and wilderness of Michigan by boating, camping and hunting. If you wish, you could incorporate any type of leisure activity into your vehicle's design. But remember, the main purpose of this vehicle is to support a Detroit entrepreneur and the work of the entrepreneur.

Design a vehicle they will be proud to name after their hometown, and describe the Detroiter your vehicle supports.

(To view interview with Detroiters, or to view a more complete history of Detroit’s struggle, check out the LM:Life Blog!)

Nowadays, if you ask anyone to describe Detroit, they will tell you stories of the auto world.  They might remember stories of Henry Ford’s great invention, or Ransom Olds’ innovation, and they will certainly recall the more current battle of American automotive survival and the absolute necessity for this city to introduce new enterprise and new jobs. 

As Detroit and much of the world is surrounded in a recession, it is difficult to remember that we have been in difficult situations of painful evolution before; this city has been ravaged by war, by disaster, and by depression and each time the people of Detroit have survived.  In the past Detroit met the necessity of change with open arms and, in the past, Detroiters came out stronger in the end.   It is time to do this once again.

The recovery of Detroit starts with individual ingenuity, hard work and perseverance.  Let us reflect on all that Detroit has overcome in its past, so that we may know what Detroit is capable of overcoming now.  Let us remind ourselves why Detroit is worth fighting for, worth saving.  And once we know what Detroit is capable of, and why the city must fight, let us create an action plan fueled by the people, and supported by a community of Local Motors designers. 

It is these individuals, the people of Detroit and the people who support Detroit, not corporations or even governments, who will raise Detroit from the ashes of recession.  

Detroit’s History of Struggle and Rebirth:
(Short Version – see the long version in the LM:Life Blog)

Since Detroit was settled by the French in 1701 it has been a dramatic center for conflict and rebirth.  First, the French battled the American Indians and later the British.  Then the Americans battled the British on the same land.  Eventually, Detroit became an American town.

Only a few short years after Detroit became an American town, it burned to the ground.  All of it burned to the ground – except for one building, which is still standing today.  The flag of the city of Detroit, Michigan captures the epic turbulent history of this city in two Latin phrases: “Speramus Meliora” and “Resurget Cineribus,” meaning "We hope for better things" and "It will rise from the ashes."  These phrases are still relevant today as Detroit hopes for better things.

Detroit rebuilt.  They had no choice!  Only a few short years after Detroit rebuilt, the British invaded the city AGAIN.  But this time the invasion lasted only for one year.  Detroit soon recovered, and pressed forward.  Less than 100 years after the British invasion of 1812, Ransom Olds and Henry Ford revolutionized the auto industry.  The city began to flourish.

The city and the automotive industry grew until the stock market crashed in 1929.  Auto production, much like today, dropped dramatically.  People were without jobs, and some were without food.  Instead of falling apart, the city came together and people supported one another.

The city government created some jobs like apple sellers, and they created a Civil Conservation Corp that employed over 11,000 men in the state.  The Civil Conservation Corp replanted trees, cleared roads and made Michigan a more vital place.  Back in these days, cars were made out of wood.  The Civil Conservation Corp was simultaneously making Michigan more beautiful, and they were preparing for the resurgence of industry.  This depression was difficult, but the time was not wasted!  Detroit adjusted, and reinvented itself.

The Fisher Building became a haven for homeless men.  Soup kitchens gave free food to thousands.  And the Detroit Red Wings granted access into the hockey games for donations of clothing.  The Detroit Tigers baseball team worked even harder for their fans during these difficult times, and they brought home the World Championship. 

Detroit has endured more difficult events in its past.  How can we support this dynamic city now, in its current struggle?  We will support the entrepreneurs, and we will design a vehicle to support unique needs!

Current Struggle in Detroit:

The Detroit auto industry and local economy has been on the decline for the past 8 years and the unemployment rate is up to 21%.  Then, as if the depressed economy was not enough trouble for Detroit citizens, the mayor of Detroit resigned in 2008 due to allegations of corruption.

In December of 2008 Chrysler and General Motors (GM) received billions of dollars in bailout money approved by the US Government, and supplied by US taxpayers.  Both companies are undergoing major transformations, and the future of both companies is still uncertain: Will they go bankrupt?  Will they sell some of their brands? Will they layoff more workers?  Sadly, when the auto industry plummeted, so did the housing market.  In December of 2008 the median price of a new home in Detroit was $7,500.  Some are sold for under $1,000.  Some are given away in hopes that the new owner will pay the back taxes.  What does this mean?  It means people are not only losing their jobs, they are losing money and they are feeling stuck.  Moving on is difficult when you cannot sell your home, and when you can no longer afford to purchase a home in a new place where a job might be waiting.  Will the housing market rebound? 

No matter how these answers unfold, it is time for Detroit to rebound. 

Why is Detroit worth fighting for?  Is it worth it?  YES!

This is a city of incredible spirit, of world-class music, sports, and art.  Plus, this is MOTOR CITY where Ransom Olds first mass-produced cars, where Henry Ford first made them affordable and where Alfred Sloan first made them special.  We see evidence of the city's incredible automotive heritage every year, the third Saturday in August, at the Woodward Dream Cruise.  Over 1 million people come to the Motor City to watch a parade of beautiful automobiles.

The people of Detroit, and the heritage of Detroit are worth the effort of rejuvenation.  No questions asked. 

Every city brags about its music, but Detroiters have effectively transformed the entire world of music – twice.  First with Motown tunes, and next with Techno, Detroiters created two music genres, which would impact songwriters and musicians around the world.  This type of talent and ingenuity is worth fighting for. 

The Detroit Tigers are a world-class World Championship baseball team.  They do not always win but Detroiters always support them; and the team always supports their fans.  The Detroit Lions Football team made history because of the team’s losing streak in 2008, but you can bet Detroiters will be at the Lions games next season.  Detroiters and their teams have ups and downs, and they persevere together. 

Let us not forget the Detroit Pistons, the Detroit Redwings or the Belle Isle Grand Prix.  In Detroit you will always have a team to support; and by providing excitement your team will support you, too.

Really, Detroit is not known for its beauty.  But it should be.  Some of the most beautiful art deco architecture still stands in Detroit.  Cadillac Place, the Fisher Building and the old Train Station are great examples.  In Bloomfield Hills, a Detroit suburb, there is a school called “Cranbrook” which was designed by renowned architect Eliel Saarinen. 

If the architecture does not give you your fill of beauty, stop by the Detroit Institute of Art or any of the wonderful boutique art galleries in Royal Oak or Ferndale. 

Detroit is a beautiful city home to people of incredible spirit!  It is worth fighting for.  Detroiters have fought for their city time and time again.  While it is not always easy, this fight, which is fought with hard work, bravery and innovation, will always be necessary.  The Local Motors Community supports you.  We hope this competition is inspiring and encouraging.  And one day, we hope to bring the Local Motors experience to Detroit so we may fight alongside you.

There are no provided requirements.


4 Wheels1LM1Roadcar - legal for street use1LM1Tail lamp vertical distance from ground to centerline of light not less than 15 inches (381 mm), or more than 72 inches (1828 mm)1LM1Headlight vertical distance from ground to center line of light not less than 22 inches (559 mm) or more than 54 inches (1372 mm)1LM1Turn Signal lamp vertical distance from ground to centerline of light not less than 15 inches (381 mm)1LM1Ground clearance for reaching off-road job sites, and for navigating deep Michigan pot holes1LM1Design the ability to tow boats, ORVs, dirt bikes, etc.1LM1Include a powerful engine for towing and cargo1LM1Consider the harsh Michigan winters. Roads are often covered in snow and ice

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