Ford bids a fond farewell to its historic Product Development Center

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Ford Media

Nearly 75 years after Henry Ford II announced the creation of Ford Motor Company’s Product Development Center, the automaker is planning to build a larger, more modern facility on the same site in Dearborn, Michigan. Before that can happen, however, the old one has to go, but not before a walk down Memory Lane—or, more appropriately, down Mahogany Row.

Ford is celebrating the storied history of the design, research, and engineering center, which was dedicated in May 1953 and has been the launching point for nearly every Ford model in the U.S. since 1955.

“To think that every vice president of design has worked here in some capacity. And all the cars that have been here … This place could tell stories,” says current vice president of design Moray Callum, who hosts a two-part YouTube salute to the historic Product Development Center. “I’m sad to see it go.”

Callum says one of the features of the facility that he will always remember is the corridor outside the showroom in the Styling Building’s circular rotunda. Nicknamed Mahogany Row, the wood-paneled corridor is curved so you can’t see around the corner as you’re walking, which Callum says was “pretty trendy” for the time. That area housed Ford’s design brain trust for 67 years.

Ford Product Development Center - archive pic of Styling Center exterior
Ford Media

The Product Development Center includes the main showroom (“modeled after the Ford Rotunda,” according to Ford), studios, and a courtyard that Callum says served as both “a great space to stand back and look at the cars” and a meeting place for special events and car shows.

In part two of the video series, Callum talks about a few of the items on display in the showroom: a 1999 Ford Thunderbird concept, the original clay model for the 2016 Ford GT, and a 1961–63 Lincoln Continental, which he called “understated but elegant.”

Henry Ford II announced the creation of the PDC in June, 1946. It was built on an 800-acre site across the road from The Henry Ford Museum and included nine new buildings, in addition to some that were already there. Among the first cars designed there was the Thunderbird.

Demolition on the Styling Building has already begun. The new Product Development Center is being designed by Snøhetta, a Norwegian architectural firm. The Central Campus and Hub Neighborhood portions of the sprawling campus are expected to be completed in 2025.

“As sad as it is to see this go, we’re all excited about the new building,” Callum says. “… I think people will have the same sense of excitement and pride that they’ve built something new and something fantastic.”

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