By on June 16, 2009

Am I the only one who misread this Autoblog headline? Yes, I read “porno” instead of “promo.” So, yes, my mind is in the gutter. But so is Detroit. Autoblog’s wistful nostalgia does absolutely nothing to convey the horror of modern-day Motown. For that, you need to turn to the Wall Street Journal. Their article about the death of retail in the Motor City is, perhaps, one of the most depressing dispatches from the Motown Meltdown that I’ve ever read. To wit: “Last week, Lochmoor Chrysler Jeep on Detroit’s East Side stopped selling Chrysler products, one of the 789 franchises Chrysler Group LLC is dropping from its retail network. It was Detroit’s last Chrysler Jeep store . . . Hundreds of buildings were left vacant by the nearly one million residents who have left. Thousands of businesses have closed since the city’s population peaked six decades ago . . . Meanwhile, the former Lochmoor Chrysler Jeep is now Lochmoor Automotive Group, a used-car dealership and repair shop. Gina Russo, daughter of the dealer’s longtime owner, is being groomed to take over the family business. She has agreed to start selling small pickup trucks made by India’s Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd.”

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48 Comments on ““Vintage promo film made for Detroit’s 1968 Olympic bid reveals city’s precipitous decline”...”

  • avatar

    Yeah, the headline could be interpreted that the ’65 film was revealing a decline. I was expecting Jack Webb to jump in during the “this is the city” opening.

  • avatar

    i read: vintage PORNO

  • avatar

    Yes, a better headline would read something like this:

    VIDEO: Film promoting Detroit’s 1968 Olympic bid depicts prosperous contrast to today’s Motor City

    Two problems with the original title: First, it’s unclear if the decline is seen in the vintage film, or now. Second, the placement of the word “promo” is perceived as “porno” when scanned.

    My thanks to Mrs. Brown, my senior-year English teacher in high school, for teaching me little subtleties such as these.

  • avatar

    What osnofla said.

  • avatar

    Man that video makes me sad. If you look at the city now, and then look back to what it was. It’s amazing.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Boy it pains me to say it, but Michael Moore had it right with his very first film. The shortsighted, overpaid executives ruined an industry, a city and a state. Sure the UAW and the government played supporting roles, but the stars of this tragedy all wore nice suits, flew in corporate jets and had office wives.

  • avatar

    I think you folks need to get your minds out of the gutter.

  • avatar


    They do still have a good medical center

  • avatar

    The headline is alright …. but that body copy!

    “Interestingly (and perhaps tellingly), this sanitized look at Detroit all but glosses over mounting troubles with blustery talks of ‘rebirth,’ it utterly omits mention of the hitmakers at Motown Records, and in retrospect, it fails to adequately address growing racial tensions in the city (Detroit’s infamous riots would lay siege just two years later in 1967).”

    Please, Olympic Committee, give us the games. They will be a riot! A year in advance!

    “There’s no getting around the fact that the World’s Automotive Capitol ain’t what it used to be.”

    Thank you for mentioning that. Wouldn’t have noticed.

    And is it just me who wonders why a bid for the 1968 Olympics is made 1965, 3 years before the games? The city of the next Olympics usually makes an appearance at the previous Olympics. That was 1964 in Tokyo. Mexico City 1968 was picked October 18, 1963 – even JFK knew that.

    So, was that movie, “apparently commissioned as part of a failed bid for the 1968 Summer Olympics,” was it an early case of too little, too late?

    Or do we just have another case of moronic writers? With a little googling, even autobolog could have found out that this was a puff piece for Mayor Cavanaugh and his city planners gone wild. The Olympic bid was lost years before the film was made. None of Autoblog’s 28 commentators caught it. The B&B would have cut us to shreds.

  • avatar

    Imagine if they DID get the Olympics, then the riots!

    “Gott in Himmel! There are NEGROES here! This wasn’t in the film!”

  • avatar

    “without a doubt this is Detroit’s finest hour”.

    Nailed it!

  • avatar

    “…part of a failed bid for the 1968 Summer Olympics (which went to Mexico City instead).”

    I have seen the future…

  • avatar

    Hard to believe that the company that brought us the ’66 Toro ships us the Aveo.

  • avatar
    ex gm guy

    Anyone else see the movie “The Full Monty”? For those who haven’t, it’s set in England. There is a city promotional film (Sheffield, I think) shown during the film, that provides a stark contrast to the conditions in which the working men find themselves. This promo reminds me of that one. I graduated from a suburban Detroit high school in 1967. I remember busing, “white flight”, the riots, and all the signs of incipient decay. I can only imagine what it all looks like now.

  • avatar

    “the world’s longest undefended border”

    Which at the time was a bragging point, not a complaint. How things have changed, and not just in Detroit.

  • avatar

    ex gm guy,

    That was a very good movie, thanks for the reminder.

    Hmmm… a vintage porno film involving that blonde, that mink stole, that shiny Cadillac, complete with tailfins. There’s a certain attraction in that.

  • avatar

    Coleman Young happened.

  • avatar

    It reads as a warning. The ‘Big Dogs’ used Detroit as a chew toy.

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    From optimism of Jerome Cavanagh to the disgrace of Kwame Kilpatrick.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    I can only imagine what it all looks like now.

    As a student of industrial decline (and sometimes rebirth), Google Street View is an incredible tool. To see the once-majestic buildings and neighborhoods that have slid into 3rd world status is intriquing. Detroit and St. Louis both have tremendous ruins to explore.

    But all communities have ruins (see ).

  • avatar

    Hmmm… a vintage porno film involving that blonde, that mink stole, that shiny Cadillac, complete with tailfins. There’s a certain attraction in that.

    I’m not going to watch that video now. I prefer the daydream above to the reality.

  • avatar

    And Pittsburgh just beat Detroit to win the Stanley Cup, after Detroit was just 1 game away from taking it.

  • avatar

    In order to intice commuters from Toronto,they call it the “new Oshawa” Canadas version of Motor City. The new Oshawa is made up of bedroom communities with prices 30% below Toronto.The old Oshawa is sliding fast.

    Old Oshawa relies on whats left of GM and GM Canada pensions. If one or both were to discontinue “old” Oshawa would make Detroit look like a boom town.

  • avatar

    Bertel Schmitt :
    June 16th, 2009 at 1:35 am

    And is it just me who wonders why a bid for the 1968 Olympics is made 1965, 3 years before the games? The city of the next Olympics usually makes an appearance at the previous Olympics. That was 1964 in Tokyo. Mexico City 1968 was picked October 18, 1963 – even JFK knew that.


    Essentially, Japan put itself on the map. Then Detroit wanted to catch up, only finding itself losing to Mexico.

    Is that coincidence?

    BTW, are 1988 Seoul and 2008 Beijing games projecting anything?

  • avatar

    Yeesh, that WSJ article is truly sad. No grocery stores. Borders started 40 miles outside Detroit and now has no stores in the city. No Chrysler or Jeep dealer in the city. Only 4 Starbucks! (I’m ok with the 4 Starbucks, independent coffee FTW. But still, most cities have 4 Starbucks in a 2 block area.)

  • avatar

    The 2008 Olympics got Beijing a new skyline, a new airport, several new subway lines, and some of the world’s lowest room rates for 5star hotels: There is a glut of rooms an a dearth of lodgers.

    Back to the movie:

    It’s no Olympics promo. The Olympics had long been awarded to Mexico when the movie was shot.

  • avatar

    5O% of the people are not functionally literate?
    What a sad statement that is.Have you ever tried to teach and adult to read. I have,and its not easy.

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    The ruins of Detroit.

  • avatar

    So the last Cryco stealership is going to be selling used cars and Mahindra & Mahindra pickup trucks? That should be interesting, given the rabid anti-import segment that lives in the south-eastern part of Michigan…

    Of course, Detroit is hardly alone – I can’t image that any village/town/city in SE Michigan is any too prosperous (well, outside of Ann Arbor) these days, given the face plant performed by GM and Cryco.

    Thankfully, my folks left a cesspool called Owosso for western Michigan. I hated travelling to Owosso – stuck in the 1950’s, and damn proud of it, dammit! Can’t image that Owosso isn’t the same, in a worse kind of way, today…

    On the other hand, the decaying industrial town I grew up in in the ’70’s renovated its’ downtown, which it did quite nicely, I thought. Certainly it corrected the hideous early 70’s “renovation” that I know and despised for so long. :-) Now, the biggest problem is that the area (SW Michigan) can’t hold on to their young people.


    P.S. If you are looking for sympathy for Detroit and the US auto industry, you won’t get it from me. The arrogance and greed epitomized by “jet-gate” from a failed business plan (GM) and carefully orchestrated raid on the public purse (Cerberus) summed up why the US domestic auto industry should have been allowed to fail.

  • avatar

    Oshawa is really the tale of two cities. There is the old Oshawa south of highway 2, which is and was heavily dependent on GM and still houses GM worker families and whatever manufacturing that remains. Except for the waterfront area, which in the last two years has seen teardowns of old homes and the rise of waterfront estates, a lot of old Oshawa is decrepit.

    There is the new Oshawa which is North of highway 2, with brand new subdivisions, schools and plaza’s which is doing quite well with investments in a new Cancer treatment and research center, soon to be built new provincial courts and the new university which is attracting students from all over.

    I was in north Oshawa recently, where I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation between two women bitterly complaining that property taxes where rising because home prices in the north end where rising due to the influx of university faculty/admin staff and “Toronto people” (which I believe are the commuters who cannot afford half milion dollar Toronto homes in “decent” Toronto neighbourhoods and thus are willing to move east to Oshawa).

    Oshawa has a long way to go before they hit Windsor or Detroit territory.

  • avatar
    Stein X Leikanger

    Beijing got some mojo from the Olympics, but the reason those hotel rooms are empty is because people found out about the smog.

    Who wants to spend their vacation in a yellow fog?

  • avatar

    I know Detroit probably better than anyone on TTAC. I have spent years studying the cultural “aftershock” created by racial strife as well as the decline in industrial output. People always throw around the term “white flight” as if it is some sort of quick answer or explanation to Detroit’s problems.


    Let me be frank about the word “Detroit” and what it means. The coastal people usually use the term “Detroit” to describe the automotive industry and NOT, I repeat NOT to describe an actual city. Detroit the city has become synonymous with cars in the way Hollywood defines movies….or better yet, the way Vietnam, to us nimrodic Americans, describes a war and NOT a country.

    From roughly 1905 to 1965 or so, Detroit was one of the world’s wealthiest cities…yes, true fact. Detroit has the best schools, housing, parks, infrastructure, and transportation in the nation. Detroit had the second largest upper-class after NYC, with a quarter of the population. Detroit was America’s greatest city. It was the place where the American Dream could be realized on the grandest scale…more than in NYC, CHI, LA or Phila.

    So what happened???

    The 1967 civil disturbance was not a “racial” riot contrary to what the New York Times or some white guy who lived in Detroit back in 1958 says. People started leaving the city in around 1960 or so. The City of Detroit is geographically small at about 140 square miles. Basically, it became crowded and many of the white collar folks and people with money started to slowly trickle out to places such as Redford, Warren, Southfield, East Detroit, Grosse Pointes and St. Clair Shores. These places are/were considered “inner ring” suburbs. Grosse Pointe Park is just now starting to turn a tad rough. This started in the early sixties.

    Them “eye” talians stayed on the east side and fled north to Warren, SCS, GP and Clinton Twp, which in many parts, looks like something out of the Sopranos. The Polish folks stayed in Hamtramck but eventually made way to Warren and Sterling Heights. The Christian Arabs (Chaldeans/Lebanese) stayed on the east side in place such as Sterling Heights and Utica. The Jewish folks moved up Woodward to Oak Park and Southfield and then onto Farmington, and Bloomfield. They were never allowed to live in GP due to the wasp point system. Dearborn remained is now Muslim-controlled. The blacks remained in Detroit and into Southfield, which is their middle class haven.

    Let’s see….the first wave of auto workers didn’t come from the Deep South. They came from Ohio and Appalachia along with northern and Eastern Europe. These folks were mostly poor, white and uneducated. Most settled in an area called “Downriver” in communities such as Ecorse and Taylor. The second wave of southerners brought large numbers of BOTH blacks and whites looking for excellent wages with little skills required.

    Let me be clear….the suburbs of Detroit aren’t bad. In many places, they are as nice as anything Chicago’s north shore. However, it is true that people in Detroit have no hope and limited choices. To be born black and male in Detroit must be a punishment for sins in a previous life because I would wish that upon NOBODY! Imagine…..being born black and male in Detroit with NO father and a mother who has 3…4 other kids all with different fathers. Imagine being brought into a war-torn neighborhood with no heat, no food and the worst schools in the country. These people have NO choices whatsoever. They cannot control industry or the failure of politicians. I believe 90% of the kids in Detroit do not have a father around. Bu, bu, but, all they need to do is pull yourself up by the bootstraps.

    SE Michigan remains the most segregated metropolitan region in North America. Everyone usually knows where they belong and it seems to work, which is sad to say. Contrary to Gran Torino, there are no Hmong families living in Highland Park. Probably nobody with “ski” at the end of their last name either. Detroit itself remains probably around 90% black. The whites in Detroit are either ultra-poor and uneducated or gay and in love with dilapidated auto baron mansions in places such as Indian Village and Boston-Edison.

    Had Detroit hosted the Olympics, I highly doubt the city’s decline would have been halted. The Olympics do absolutely nothing for the future economy of a city. It is more of a showcase for boosters, politicians and corporations. The 1996 Olympics did NOTHING for Atlanta in the long run. Highly doubt the Olympics would have saved Detroit from the path that it went down.

    The term white flight can really be put to use after 1970 when busing took effect. Busing was the single most devastating thing that happened to Detroit in those years….far worse than the 1967 civil disturbance. The people with money (whites) fled the city in droves. Of course, Mayor Coleman Young didn’t help with his “hit 8 Mile” rhetoric, but still. Whites controlled all the business and money in the city and basically took it with them….that’s it….that is what happened to Detroit and why it is in the shape it is in. Without businesses and commerce, the black community was devastated. From there, crime took off and Detroit had its highest murder rate of 714 in 1974.

    No offense the “best and brightest” here but if you have never been to Detroit then you really have no idea about the place. Statistics and news articles reveal little about the city. Of course, I am biased because I am from the region and I am a Detroit (city) booster and semi-apologist.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    derm81: thank you. I think that is one of the best posts I have ever read at TTAC.

  • avatar
    long time listener

    There are some great pictures of abandoned buildings of Detroit here:

    No affiliation, just love these pictures and similar works that show modern “ruins.” Some of these buildings must have been fantastic in their prime.

  • avatar

    Go to for the absolute best discussions about the city and its architectue and ruins. There was once a thgread about Detroit’s factories that reached into the thousands of posts with images and info not found anywhere.

    If you know where to look, Detroit has some incredible architecture. If you are into the international theme, try Minoru Yamasaki and his work at Wayne State. If you want to see really beautiful homes, try Palmer Woods or Grosse Pointe Farms.

    Albert Kahn is just one of many great architects from Detroit.

  • avatar

    To add to derm81’s remarks, Detroit lost 300,000 people in the 1950s as the suburbs in Oakland, Macomb and western Wayne county started being developed.

    The first true shopping mall in the United States, Northland Center, opened in 1954, just outside Detroit across Eight Mile, in Oakland County.

    Detroit had a true race riot in 1943, started on Belle Isle between southern whites and blacks, and over 40 people got killed. The riot of 1967, though it started in the black community, ended up with equal opportunity looting, at least if you look at the archival photos and film. The ’67 riot did, though, permanently hurt Detroit because while “white flight” had begun in the 1950s, most of the businesses still remained within the city limits. Since many businesses were burned and looted in the ’67 riot, it led to many of those small and medium sized businesses moving to the suburbs, either for fear of another riot or because of the steeply climbing crime rate. Who needs razor wire to protect the employee parking lot?

    This has left virtually no employment opportunities inside the city. Since the area has limited public transportation, this makes it very hard for people still living in the city to get to a job if they don’t have a car.

    There are also limited shopping opportunities. I live in Oak Park, about 3 miles from the city limits and Greenfield Road is crowded with blacks from Detroit driving north to go shopping.

  • avatar

    Good comment @derm81.

  • avatar

    Thanks for a great post derm81. I also would like to vouch for the detroityes site, its posters are a wealth of information and the discussions are revealing (and often contentious).

    I left Michigan in the mid-90s (when the auto industry was going gangbusters) and still have a few friends hanging on in Detroit. At least the Book-Cadillac hotel reopened, a small victory.

  • avatar

    Even the black population is fleeing Detroit, mostly for Macomb County. Can’t say I blame them since the Detroit Public Schools are done for. The city will be, in time, recplaimed by nature as it already has been in many parts. I think there is a History Channel show on tonight about cities in the future and what they look like after years of neglect…forgot the name but think Detroit is in it tonight.

  • avatar

    Great post derm81…. In your writing I can sense the your passion….well done!

  • avatar

    One final thought:

    The worst and the best that can happen to a city has already happened to Detroit.

  • avatar

    There are some great pictures of abandoned buildings of Detroit here:

    No affiliation, just love these pictures and similar works that show modern “ruins.” Some of these buildings must have been fantastic in their prime.

    Great pictures but it is sad to see the decline in Detroit’s fortunes. I live just outside Oshawa Ontario and even though the main industry is in decline, there is nothing remotely like those images in Oshawa besides, Detroit is many times the size of Oshawa. I would love to see Detroit’s former glory restored. many of those buildings are quite beautiful.

  • avatar

    I see many of you have already mentioned it but there are a million pics of detroits rotting core(pse) if you google ruins of detroit or any other building in decay. Some of the famous ones are the train station, theaters and of course the many empty auto factories (also, famously going away – tiger stadium)

  • avatar

    I note the predominant culture residing within Detroit at various eras.

    Indicating to me that all cultures are not “equal.”

    And indicating the ongoing indoctrination regarding “diversity is our strength” and that multi-culturalism is to be embraced is a falsehood.

    My personal worthless opinion is directed towards my incessant babbling about class warfare with divide-and-conquer the impetus for the ongoing indoctrination that diversity and multi-culturalism (as ‘practiced’ in today’s society) are desirable.

    The future of the USA looks mighty bleak to this Disgruntled Old Coot.

  • avatar

    Beijing got some mojo from the Olympics, but the reason those hotel rooms are empty is because people found out about the smog.

    Who wants to spend their vacation in a yellow fog?

    Old info. No true anymore. From my 39th floor office, I see all but blue skies. Other people noticed that as well. Why? No idea. Maybe the just turned the filters on they always had. Also, banning the polluting cars from the city helped.

    The cheap hotels are caused by the common suspects:

    1.) Oversupply. Too much building before the Olympics.
    2.) No enough demand. Falling exports means fewer business trips, as the airlines are painfully aware of.

    In 2007, when the smog was worst, hotels were booked solid ….

  • avatar

    You mean that History Channel show was about Detroit’s FUTURE?

    I thought I was watching the news!

  • avatar

    Even the dead are leaving Detroit.
    Detroit has long been an sociological case study in urban decline.

    As an amateur aficionado of architecture, I am fascinated by urban and industrial ruins, and Detroit has some of the most stark and hauntingly fantastic ones anywhere (along with St. Louis as a good runner up). Big round of gratitude for those who have taken the time to document and display these treasures for us to peruse.

  • avatar

    In reply to becurb:

    I’ve lived in Owosso for 45 years, raised two children here, worked here, own a home here – for the last 10 years I have had to work out of town but I still choose to make my home in Owosso because it is a great small town. Owosso is a wonderful community that is surviving its dependance on the auto industry by reinventing itself. Last year my husband and I decided to open a new business and we made a choice to open it in Owosso which turned out to be a great choice. This community is very supportive. We are not a perfect town but I believe the enviornment you live in is often what you make of it and what you choose to embrace and support as opposed to complain about.

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