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Six Flags Autoworld
Here's an entry about a topic near to my heart -- AutoWorld, a Six Flags amusement park based on America's love affair with the automobile. Surprisingly, it was not a success.
Memories of AutoWorld...
Before I can begin to describe AutoWorld to you, you need to know a little bit about me. I spent the first 20 years of my life in Flint, Michigan. Flint is a weird place. It has historical significance for being the birthplace of Buick and General Motors. Not coincidentally, the UAW (United Auto Workers) was also formed in Flint.
Of course, that's all in the past. Flint hasn't been known for too much in the past thirty years or so. Well, unless you count stuff like high crime rates and high unemployment rates. Flint is a dying city.
The thing that I will always remember about Flint (besides the best coney dogs you'll ever eat) is AutoWorld. Six Flags AutoWorld opened in July of 1984 and was marketed as an amusement park. This was the big plan to bring back the economy of Flint. "C'mon Mabel, get the kids in the car, we're going to Flint to see the car amusement park!" As an amusement park, AutoWorld flopped. But it was pretty cool as a museum. Doomed before the doors opened, AutoWorld died a painful death.
My first memories of AutoWorld were trying to go as often as I could. My dad worked for Buick, and I remember going to an employee-family-only day before the park actually opened. At the time I thought that this was a huge perk. (Now I'm sure that this was just a way to test the rides to make sure that they didn't kill anyone.)
Between conning my dad into taking me and field trips, I probably went to AutoWorld around eight or nine times.
Enough talk, you say, what was it like? First off, AutoWorld tried for curbside appeal and wonderment with a big, geodesic dome. Imagine if EPCOT was almost completely buried in the ground and you'll have a pretty good idea of what it looked like.
The interior of the dome was all built up to look like Flint ("Vehicle City"). But homeless people, abandoned buildings and cars on blocks were nowhere to be found. You see, inside the dome was a Disney-fication of Flint from the early 1900's complete with the (highly filtered) Flint River running through the dome.
The first display that you came to was a small cabin. Inside, was a mannequin. When you pressed a red button on the outside of the cabin it kicked on a film that projected onto the mannequin's face. I cannot begin to tell you how freaky this is. I still have sweaty nightmares about this technology. At any rate, turns out the fellow with the celluloid face is none other than Jacob Smith, founder of Flint! He welcomes you to AutoWorld and talks a little about the origins of Flint.
Moving on, you walk through the cobblestone streets of Flint. Everywhere there are little shops full of tchotchkes emblazoned with the AutoWorld logo. In the center of the dome is a Ferris wheel (the largest indoor Ferris wheel at the time). I also remember that there was a carousel that had been beautifully restored.
Once you left the dome area, you were in an interactive museum. Here are some of the items that I remember:
An arcade. All the videogames were free, but they were provided by D.A.R.E. The games were all about dying. For instance, there was a drunk-driving simulator. There was no way to win this game. It was all a matter of time, and how many innocent bystanders you were going to take out with you.
A really big frickin' car engine. It was supposedly three-stories tall, but it was on a giant pedestal, so you didn't really grasp the size of it.
Animatronics. There were rides that you could take through little corridors full of robotic puppets. One of them was about the history of the automobile. There was another that had a factory worker singing a song to a robot welder.
An IMAX Theater. AutoWorld introduced me to the IMAX experience. Back then, the IMAX movies were only about 20 minutes long, but they had an impact on me. One I remember was called "Speed" and it showed how the perception of speed has changed in the past 100 years. There was another film shown later about some sort of robotic pterodactyl/glider and the flights that it made.
Cars and exhibits about cars. The rest of the park was disguised as a car museum. There were a lot of cars there. There were old cars, new cars, test cars, and even the car from Magnum P.I.!
AutoWorld gets down-sized
AutoWorld only stayed open for less than two years. After the first year, Six Flags pulled their name off of all of the signage and souvenirs.
Once AutoWorld was closed, she wasn't allowed to go gracefully into the night. At first, there were seasonal openings. I remember that AutoWorld was open between Thanksgiving and Christmas one year. The big addition for this was a --- robotic singing Christmas tree. (woo!)
From then on it was closed and AutoWorld visits became impossible. It was occasionally rented out to local schools for proms and things like that.
In 1994, I got my chance to say goodbye. Channel 66, the local Fox affiliate was hosting a "kid's club party" at AutoWorld. My best friend Suzy and I attended. It was pretty sad, many of the rides had been removed, or were non-functional and most of the display exhibits were gone. But, Jacob Smith was still there in his freaky projected-face way!
In 1997 AutoWorld was gutted, then imploded to make room for a parking lot and library for the University of Michigan-Flint. Autoworld cost around 80 million dollars to build, and never saw a profit.
AutoWorld was a stupida. It wasn't just about Flint. If AutoWorld had been built anywhere else, it would've failed there, too. It was an abysmally bad idea that people got behind and championed. Thank God that there are people in this world who couldn't see a white elephant if it sat on them. Otherwise, there might never have been an AutoWorld.
I'll miss yah, AutoWorld.
Note: There is very little written about AutoWorld on the 'net. These are all personal memories, and could be figments of my imagination. I have included all of the pictures that I have been able to find. If you would like to learn more about Flint, and see a little bit of AutoWorld, rent Roger & Me (a comedy/mockumentary about Flint by Michael Moore) sometime.
--- Later --- So tell me, do you remember AutoWorld? I noticed that this page is getting some traffic, so feel free to add your piece of the story. Thanks, Matt
Update: 4/4/06 - With the recent redesign of the site, I have also revisited this page, and have added some additional photos that have been lurking on my desktop.
Some additional housekeeping items - I wrote a bit on AW for a new website called flinthistory. Check them out, or read my article here. Also, I am working on a larger project related to AutoWorld. If you have your own memories of AutoWorld that you'd like to share, I'd love to listen. Please contact me.
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I do indeed remember Autoworld. I grew up in Flint from 1980-1991. I was in Kindergarten when Autoworld opened. I remember missing the day of school when the Kindergartners were taken through the lunch line by 1st graders so we'd know how to do the whole lunch thing when we entered 1st grade after the summer. I was very excited to see Autoworld, but strangely, I was a little distraught that I missed the lunch line tour ... how was I going to do it when I started 1st grade!?
I was the mother that took Shelley out of school to go to Autoworld therefore missing the lunch line tour. We were "extras" in the ad they were making about a family visit to Autoworld. Most of the towns people didn't see it as a white elephant....more of a dinasour since the pointy windows atop the dome reminded us of a stegasorous. I remember many hoped that Autoworld could do for Flint what fried chicken dinners had done for Frankenmuth. Sad thing about Autoworld was that it wasn't an amusement park nor was it a museum. If it had decided to be one or the other then it might have lasted longer.
I grew up in Flint from 1966-'84. So I was leaving for Cali later that summer. But, I did go to the opening since I lived not too far. My brothers and sister thought it was a great idea; it had a lot of potential for the downtown area. And we all know that downtown needed a face lift.
We went to Autoworld on my Mothers birthday, August 27th 1984. It was the day before I started 1st grade so my memory is not all that great. The only thing I remember vividly is the big paper flowers on a wooden dowel. The going price for them must have been outrageous because my mother repeatedly told me no. My father came back from the "guy" displays(cars, motors,etc)with my two older brothers. He gave in to the overpriced attempt to refurbish flint(probably since he was employed at GM's Fisher body at the time, which went the way of Autoworld a couple of years later). It's funny that I remember the paper flowers my sister and I got so well, because I dont have too many memories otherwise. Your pictures were very interesting to me, especially since I began to think alot about Autoworld when I stared at U of M flint while they were tearing it down. The de-construction was visible from the skywalks and classrooms. During boring lectures I found my mind wandering to memories of big paper flowers and creepy dark tunneled rides, thinking it was no wonder the place folded. I never really had any solid memories of the place, I just knew it was the weirdest place i would ever be in (I have yet to prove myself wrong!). The whole place was like a funhouse to me, and years later I sat in my college lectures wondering about it. What if it had been a success? Thank you for your pictures though, they helped me recall the place, and it was oddly satisfying-like driving by a gross accident, knowing you should not look, but you look anyways. Thank you.
Employed by Darin and Armstrong, I was the construction manager for AutoWorld; the top man on this magnificant project. During the course of pre-construction, this job took me to the Los Angeles area 41 times as I coordinated all the activities to prepare for this major construction effort. I participated with, and observed, all those who made a genuine effort to make AutoWorld a reality. Among those were Flint's mayor, a U.S. senator, Flint Downtown Development Authority, Flint Area Conference Incorporated, the Mott Foundation,CRI Incorporated, the architectural firm, engineers and many others. The tone throughout the many developmental meetings, by everyone involved, was to create a major project in Flint that would be beneficial to a community with a saging economy. I personally compliment everyone who labored so diligently to pursue that cause. I am proud of the fact that I was allowed to be a part of AutoWorld's team of experts. I will always cherish and respect those noble friends I made twenty years ago.
I was about 10 when I first visited AutoWorld. I lived in Grand Rapids, and we were there sometime shortly after it opened (I remember I got a free stuffed Bugs Bunny doll on my way in the door). I also remember those mannequins with the projected faces (yes, they were quite creepy), and the Imax film called 'Speed'.
My favorite part of AutoWorld was the rides. At the time I was fascinated by the animatronics, and I would ride them like 6 times in a row to try and see how everything worked.
Sadly, I don't recall much else about AutoWorld. I do remember going back there when it was open shortly for the holidays, and how sad I was that it was not nearly as nice as it was when it had first opened. I'm not sure if it seemed less exciting because I was older, or because it was in bad shape.
Anyway, thanks for this article. Even though AutoWorld seemed to be a bad decision, it was a great part of my childhood. As you said, it is hard to find anything about AutoWorld on the internet (everything seems to come right back here). The pictures are great, and I would love to see more if anyone ever finds some.
Jon, I was about 10 when I first visited AutoWorld too! Nice.
Here's an update- the Carousel from Autoworld is at a museum for old popcorn wagons and carousel's in Marion, Ohio.
This is totaly unrelated to Autoworld but it has something to do with another of our memories as Flint-town kids in the 80's... Pennywhistle place! It opened in 1984 (same year as Autoworld). I remember going as a kid alot and then my first job was there in the summers of 96 and 97. Well I recently found out that it went the same way as Autoworld. I am pretty sad. Does anyone know when it was wrecked? I did some research and found that it was shut down in 2000, but dont know when it was demolished. I enjoyed working there but I knew it was on its last legs the years I worked there.
I am from Garden City and remember going to AutoWorld, I know I was pretty little, must have been about 4 or 5 since it was open from 84-85. I remember the IMAX theater and the rides on the cars. I also think I remember that I really liked their french fries - I think they were the waffle kind. I know we went there 2 or 3 times.
I also remember Pennywhistle Place - went there when we used to go camping all the time and camped by the Huckleberry Railroad
Growing up in Flint (Still living here and attending UM-Flint)I have several fond memories of Autoworld. I remeber when they were knocking down the Old IMA portion of it the building was built so strong they couldn't use explosives and had to resort to the wrecking ball. That was classic.
On a side note it was not demoed for a Library for UM-Flint as a beautiful library already sat across the river, the William S. White Building now stands in its place, a classroom building.
I loved you description of Autoworld. The end of the document did not sit well with me, though. Christopher Guest creates mocumentaries. "Drop Dead Gorgeous" and "On Edge" are mocumentaries. Michael Moore dedicates his time and energy into creating public awareness about Corporate and Political injustice. Although "Roger and Me" was funny, it was not a fictitious depiction, it is a documentary. You and Michael are from Flint, so you know best how the city has changed. Please the guy credit for his work. Thanks.
I was 17 when Autoworld opened. I remember the mayor and the governor were at the opening, talking about how Autoworld (and Water Street Pavillion) would reinvigorate Flint. Sadly, it was not enough. I really enjoyed the rides. I wish it were possible to have video from the park. A 'virtual Autoworld' would be very nice.
Back when I was a Marketing Consultant for Consumers (Power) Energy Co., Autoworld was one of my commercial accounts. It was closed to the public at that time but was still fully operational. Several times during that HOT, HOT summer I would purchase a fast food lunch and make a "customer contact" with the Maintenance Supv. and sit in the air conditioned dome, along side the flowing Flint River, next to the bridge, and eat lunch. It was very cool there and very quiet. It was also very sad. I remember that to this day, over twenty years ago. My son still kids me about what a failure Autoworld was. But to see the project go from a dream, to plans, to construction, to completion, to Grand Openning, to closing and finally to distruction is sad.
I have never been to Flint, so obviously I never visited Autoworld. I recently watched "Roger & Me" again, and decided to do a little online research to find out what happened to this begin indoor theme park that closed so quickly after it was built. I was not surprised, but sad to read, that it was torn down.
It reminds me of Old Chicago. I was born in northwestern Indiana, and once went to Old Chicago. It was an indoor amusement park with a ring of retail shops around the outside of it. I haven't researched it yet, but I plan to. I do know that it, too, was torn down. I think it was in a city called Sandwich, I'm not kidding, somewhere outside of Chicago.
Why do indoor amusement parks not survive in the midwest? Will the Mall of America's Camp Snoopy in Minnesota go the way of Autoworld and Old Chicago? Hard to imagine, you never know.
Thanks for a great tribute to a lackluster piece of Americana.
I was working for Six Flags and was actually the Manager of Operations and Maintenance when Autoworld opened. I tell anyone who will listen that it was probably the best job I ever had. When I got there, about 10 months before opening, there was a lot of work to do, and as a 25 year old, I had the energy to do it. I made a lot of good friends, and stay in contact with many of them today, including Bob Lamb, who is in China, Eric Cole - Chicago and Phil Clark-in Miami.
I was a bit apprehensive at first about what I would find in Flint, but found that the workmanship was superior, the work ethic great and the staff really fun to be around! The winters were rough on a Georgia boy, but we worked indoors, with a beautiful plants and trees where the temperature was always a pleasant 75 degrees, so it really didn't matter all that much.
I still believe that Autoworld was a bit ahead of its time, as many indoor locations have been successful since, but I'll admit, it was in the wrong city at the wrong time. But overall the product was good and the enthusiasm was high. I remember dealing with Michael Moore on the project and years later, I learned to appreciate "Roger and Me" for what it was, and even laughed at some of the AW footage. I've seen his recent work and also appreciate it for what it is/isn't....
I watched as Autoworld was dismantled and hated the thought of all that time, effort and money going down the drain. As a themepark consultant, I still use it as a great lesson (location, location, timing, location)...
I haven't been back to Flint in 18 years, but still keep three pictures of Autoworld on the wall of my office..just to remind me.
I have been searching for Auto World information forever. Growing up in Belleville and with several family members involved in the automobile business, I suppose it was natural that I would flock to this "park". My visits here were probably towards the end of the time here, still I will always remember the little horses who talked to you during the rides, explaining the history and such.
The careousel was always a favorite of mine and while I remember the Ferris wheel I never did go on it. It was so big! I also remember walking past an overpriced candy/popcorn seller.
Once, on a trip here, a carnival was going on out in back of the building and my mother won me a stuffed pegasus playing darts. Actually that was probably on our last trip there.
I wasn't aware of the holiday seasonal events or that the building itself had been torn down. :( Sad to see, but I'll always have my memories I suppose.
Luckily my dad took me to see Autoworld when I was just a kid. I thought it was awesome and was glad to have this experience. I was in automotive heaven! I distinctly remember the ending, walking through a huge life-size engine like something from Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times but only I didn't want to leave... It was the coolest thing I had ever seen! I remember taking a long look as my father and sister waited. It would be my last as Autoworld closed soon thereafter.
10 years later I returned to Flint where I studied engineering at GMI Engineering & Management Institute. I was there the weekend that Autoworld was imploded but that seemed like such a waste. I didn't go too see it. It was such a beautiful building and I couldn't understand the reason for it's destruction. But perhaps it planted the seed for my interest in cars and I count myself as one of the lucky ones who saw it.
I saw "Roger & Me" in my Anthropology class in 1994 as a Freshman at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. I just saw it again last night and could not turn it off. Today, I was intersted in learning more about Autoworld. Thanks for the Information and allowing others to share their experiences. I enjoyed reading this. It is a shame that it is gone but it seemed like that it was doommed from the very beginning. I feel like it is a waste of money because millions of dollars was spent on this project that ended up being demolished. I kept thinking, "Why isn't all this money going toward the families and communities of Flint. I guess people tried to remain positive and hope that they could turn around the community. I guess sometimes optimism can get in the way of reality.
Did you notice on the parking lot sign, that "Autoworld" is spelled "Autoword"?
I was born in 1984 and lived a few blocks from Autoworld until 1987. I don't have any memories of Autoworld whatsoever excpet for when the For-Mar arboretum held some sort of event there in the early '90s. I know I visited Autoworld several times as a young child, but I wish I could have remembered a little of what it was like. I have been forced to formulate my opinion of the complex based on two words, "white elephant." I'd just like to know what it was like and why it was such a failure. The only visit I remember wsa after the entire place had been gutted. Anyway, I don't think this experience should cause developers to shy away from Flint, the city could be saved with the right plan. I just hope that plan comes along.
Oh wow, I am very happy to see that many of you remember Autoworld. I recall going at least once when I was a kid but unfortunatly i do not remember exactly what year that was. Just like many of you i remember the huge ferris wheel because it seemed at the time like the biggest one I had ever seen. I also remember the not quite to par audio-animatronics and dark rides. For some reason i also remember there being like a kiddie rides area set up outside of the dome over by the fence and enterance. You know those litte merry-go-round motorcyle/car like fair rides. I never went on them but remember them somehow. Now I live in FL and work at Disney and most people think i am crazy and making up things when i talk of Autoworld. It's nice to see that other people remember it like me. I think even Six Flags forgets or denies its exsistance.
P.S. notice most Defunct park sites do not ever recognize that it even exsisted.
I went to Penny Whistle when I was like 13 or 14 and remember having a blast. I didn't know it was demolished until I drove by there looking for it. Its just a big park now.
I was hoping to take my nephews there next summer. Does anyone have any pictures of Pennywhistle Place? email@example.com
Urban Parks Program Grants (NPS) - County of Genesee: Penny Whistle Place, located at Bluebell Beach, was a major "pay for play" feature that was closed in 2000 due to safety conditions. A feasibility study determined that Penny Whistle Place was no longer safe for public use. The facility was demolished in March 2002. Since 1999, water quality problems have forced the closing of Bluebell Beach for swimming on many occasions throughout the season. $206,774 of UPARR funding was used to install a barrier-free playground and aquatic feature spray ground to expand aquatic alternatives.
I remember begging my parents to take me when I was a 12-year old living in Warren (home of the General Motors Tech Center). Since I like EPCOT Center, I actually enjoyed the entire AutoWorld experience, althought the only thing that still stands out in my mind is the great tasting chicken nuggets and criss-cross fries I ate. Yet when I left, I had a sad feeling that I would never go again...and indeed I never did.
I've lived in Flint since '76. It's not nearly as bad as folks like to make it.. I never did get to Autoworld though, just the IMAX theater after the park itself was closed. I always thought that the whole Autoworld failure was a result of people thinking their agendas would trump the marketplace... people weren't going to go downtown (revitalizing downtown was an agenda item) to a place that couldn't make up it's mind to be a theme park or a museum. (The Mott foundation's educational agenda). If they'd been smart, they would have made Autoworld part of the Crossroads Village complex... the train could have moved people from the 19th century village to the 20th century autoworld.. When autoworld died, it took the Waterstreet Pavilion and eventually the Hyatt Regency with it.
I frequently have a thought, almost a premonition, of what could have "saved" flint the way Autoworld was intended to. With its huge skylit dome, the Autoworld building should have been made into a casino. So many of us in Flint enjoy gaming and have to drive to mtpleasant or windsor to do so. And think of the good jobs for u of m students. I just know it would have been a success! Oh, what could have been!
To begin with, I have to agree with the remarks left by Jim on January 1, 2005. Flint is not as bad as every makes it to be. I have lived in this area my entire life, and to me it is home. I love Flint and the surrounding areas. I remember Autoworld, although it wasn't like Cedar Point, it was a nice place to visit. I am very nostalgic and the fact that it is gone makes me sad. I also had the pleasure of visiting "Old Chicago" that was referred to in an earlier comment. Like Autoworld, Old Chicago had a short life and is now gone. Here is a link that will give the history:
It is interesting and I think you will enjoy the history. These are parts of my life that are gone but are wonderful memories.
If you came from the Flint area how could you ever forget Autoworld? I was ten in 1984 and Autoworld seemed like the biggest story in the world then. We made the one obligatory trip there with the school and to tell the truth I recall very little from this experience. I remember the cobblestone path, the Ferris Wheel, the lame educational rides (Ughhh, nothing is worse when you are a kid than educational rides), the giant engine, and yes the freaky animotronic puppets. But mostly I just remember thinking that being in 'Old Flint' was a lot nicer than being in the present Flint.
But here is where Autoworld will always stake a claim to some deep recess of my heart and I can't believe that noone has recalled this delightful moment. But Autoworld actually opened up for an entire summer around 1990, when in some magical place at some divine moment someone actually thought, "Let's try Autoworld again". I remember this because I had the very distinct and partially pleasurable honor of actually working at Autoworld that summer. Yes, it was a watershed moment in my life as a teenager when I donned the baby blue polo with the embroidered Autoworld logo on the breast and could call myself...employee. How lucky am I, eh? So they still had the Ferris Wheel, the cobblestone path, and I still thought, "This is nicer than the real downtown". But this time they opened up outside of the building for even more space to host all the good times that were about to unfold. They added a new, bad ride, a tent with a...really...good...singing group (I still can't hear In The Jungle without a cold shiver coming over me), and those rip-off carninval games. That's what I did, the carnival games. I actually took more money from people who came to Autoworld, how do I live with myself? Well, to everyones suprise, it didn't work this time either. What a shame. And eventally I went to college on the other side of the state, graduated, and moved away. I want to end though with just a select few but very defining memories of my beloved hometown, Flint, MI.....Angelo's, Maryland St. (where I was actually born AT home because of a NHL final game, you understand right?), the Flint Generals and the huge block that everyone paints over and over on Hammerburg Road.
Born and raised (still living) in ol' Flintowne (as I call it). Hammerburg block is less than a mile away :P
I remember Autoworld, vaugely as a child. The afformentioned '90 summer occured in during what I now call "Year Five". I explored with wonder, but summer as it opened, various parts were closed off until nothing was left except my ravaged childhood. :(
PS: Angelo's isn't run by the original owners anymore, and the food sucks now. Oh well, there's always Latina's.
I lived in Flint for the first 24 years of my life, from 1960 until 1984. I got married and moved to the Lansing area after graduating from U of M Flint. Having been at U of M Flint in those years I was able to watch the entire Autoworld project come to life during it's construction. AW was built on the site of the IMA Auditorium, which had been a baketball arena and concert venue. I saw Jimmy Carter there at an election eve rally the night before he was elected in 1976 (I still have a commemorative button). The auditorium interior was gutted and used for the portion of Autoworld where the giant engine and rides were located.
I visited Autoworld once, it was in the fall of 1984 or perhaps 1985. Someone at work was handing out fistfuls of free tickets which makes me think that it was more likely 1985. I remember the Jacob Smith portrayal with the image projected onto his face. It didn't strike me as creepy, just cheesy!
My only other memory of Autoworld was on a cold winter morning in the 1990's when I bundled up my two small children and drove downtown to view the demolition of the auditorium portion of the complex. I remember the successive dynamite concussions thumping against our chests, which brought the building down domino fashion from the south to the north. A friend of mine who grew up in Flint thinks the $80 million would have been better spent by giving it to him and allowing him to jet set around the world going to parties and premieres promoting Flint at every media opportunity. I'm sure this concept couldn't have been any worse then the Autoworld idea. I live in Ann Arbor now and don't visit Flint much other than to run the Crim Race now and then.
I went to Autoworld on a trip across country. I was ten. Only thing I disagree with is your description of Roger and Me as a Comedy/ Mockumentary. Its a true documentary, and not that funny.
I've had a couple of folks question my use of the term 'mockumentary' to describe Roger & Me. Here's the deal. A documentary (according to dictionary.com) is "Presenting facts objectively without editorializing or inserting fictional matter." Roger & Me is definitely not a documentary based on that definition. The movie is very biased - it wouldn't be nearly as interesting if it wasn't.
Moore himself has been quoted as saying Roger & Me
was not a documentary, but "an entertaining movie, like Sophie's Choice." Well, I suppose he would know.
I love six flags and Im going
You know.. I constantly shake my head every time I see Roger and Me.. It just reminds me of the 80's and how the rich get richer. and never mind whose mother you have to step on to get what you want..
I am from Michigan.. I remember going to the Water Street Pavilion often.. I recall it was a hell of a drive from Oakland County and the place was desolate when we got there.. I remember the sea gulls in mock flight dangling from the skylight.. I remember the crazy mirrors that stood in the aisle of the hallway.. On the way out.. I remember the colorful houses.. I'm just sorry the tax payers money was squandered that it couldn't have been put to better use.. That the Hyatt Regency took so much money only to be bankrupt.. Why o why did they not give the money to the people and decide on a brain child that could restore Flint.. It may not have come to anything, but at least it would have empowered its citizens..
I'm 18. I wish Autoworld was still around. I would most definately go visit it. It seems like an awesome place.
I went to AutoWorld in the summer of 1990, about 2 years after we moved to the Flint area from Livonia. I was about 12 then and I also remember those waffle fries. They must have brought them back for that one big summer. It was an interesting experience. Something that I will never forget. I remember the ferris wheel and the carousel that they had there. I also remember parts of the place not being open, which I thought was weird for an amusement park. Many of the shops were open, but had very little to buy. My dad worked for GM and in Flint, he took a transfer when GM closed the Fort Street plant in Detroit, at the Coldwater road plant and I think that he wanted to show us, my mom and I, a little of the history of what he did for a living. I also remember that he thought it was a little on the cheesy side also.
Well this past weekend I was at the Ren Cen in Detroit, which is now the GM World Headquarters, and they have "GM World" on the first level with a bunch of old and new cars. Everything from one of the first Buicks to role off the line to the Hummer H2. You can sit in the new cars, but not the old ones. They have movies playing about all the brands and everything that GM does. It reminded me of that 1990 trip to AutoWorld. It was kind of cool to look at the cars, but then made me feel sad for places like AutoWorld. "GM World" closes at 9pm every night and they turned everything off and the place went dark and I thought even more about AutoWorld. A lot went into building AutoWorld and what came out of it, nothing but a giant show made out of the opening and giant show made out of imploding of the building.
I just wish that it would have survived as a momument to what Flint was, so that people could see that Flint was once a great place to be. In Flint's hayday they had one of the best school districts in the state and was one of the places that many towns wanted to be like.
Just some thoughts from me.
Another piece of history, the IMAX at AutoWorld is either the only one or only one of the like 5 that have ever been destroyed.
I was quite young when my family visited Autoworld. We went there often, almost every week, so it takes up quite a bit of my childhood memories. I remember the man with the lighted face, the ?bumps? as my sisters and I called them, the Ferris wheel, the spinning chair on the carousel, the puppets, the ?Wonder wall,? the giant engine, and the Imax theater (gosh how I loved? I think it was called ?Speed.?
I remember when it finally closed down, sat there for years. I remember watching it get torn down.
I miss it a great deal. It fills me with anger knowing I will NEVER be able to see it again.
Pennywhistle place was just recently torn down. I live literally? 3 miles from it. For a majority of my life, we would see it as we crossed the bridge going over Mott Lake.
I was born in Flint in 1976 and lived in Burton until 1998, being 8 years old when Autoworld opened. I remember that the animatronic puppets in the rides reminded me too much of being at Showbiz Pizza (now Chuck E. Cheese's) or Huckleberry Junction in Genesee, both of which we'd already been to. The engine towered above you from its column. I remember going through the park map with my family, wanting to go and see every ride and item. Afterward, we said what most people seemed to say: "Gee, that was nice, but there's not really anything to keep me coming back." That's why hardly anyone showed up after the inaugural season. I remember Flint Journal columnists describing Autoworld as a "schizophrenic theme park," wanting to be a car museum and a theme park, but not enough of either.
Then I remember being a bio student at UM-Flint (Class of '98!), continually seeing from the skywalks the relic that had effectively been closed for over 10 years, wishing the U would hurry up with its takeover of the site, which had been in the works for some time. I remember thinking how great that would be, having something useful there, instead of a flop. When they imploded it one cold Saturday morning in January of 1997, we watched it on WJRT-channel 12. Our house was 2.5-miles away, but the implosion was so loud that it made our two large picture windows rattle! Seeing the devastation from the skywalk the next Monday was amazing. The fact that the IMA portion didn't fall with it is a great testament to the builders and their quality of work.
On a side note: I am sad to hear that Pennywhistle Place was torn down (great memories there) and that Mott Farm will be closed this spring of 2005 due to cuts by the Flint Schools. :-(
Thanks for posting some hard-to-find information on the web about a childhood memory of mine, Matty!
Oh Autoworld! I have fond memories of visiting Autoworld which opened (coincidentally?) around the time my parents got divorced. Nothing more depressing than visiting AutoWorld with your newly divorced dad who's living in his parents' basement. I, too, was freaked out by the manniquin with the projected face. I distinctly remember standing in a long line waiting to ride the incredibly lame ride that wound its way thru a bunch of hallways. After the animatronic stuff, there were just a bunch of boring car displays, which my dad enjoyed, but which I (as a 12 year old girl) didn't really appreciate. I was having some serious AutoWorld flashbacks after seeing Roger & Me again on that "true stories" cable channel yesterday.
My parents grew up in Flint and I nearby [E of Flushing]. Moved away in 1961 and wondered if AutoWorld had any connection with the IMA Bldg. from the stage of which I once sounded a fake trumpet wearing a green felt 'Robin Hood's merry men' costume to open the 'Red Feather' meeting. The 1st Flint Science Fair was also held in the IMA Bldg.. Talking post-Sputnik late '50s folks!
Thanks to Tim L.'s post of 16Feb05 for answering my question about AW & IMA.
Oh yes, Autoworld. Proof positive that sometimes when you have an idea, it's better to take an aspirin and go lay down somewhere. I remember visiting Autoworld on its opening day and wondering where all of the money went. The description of the mannequin in the previous posts is generous. It was more like a $3.00 styrofoam head (the kind my mom would use to style her wigs) mounted on something they borrowed out of Mayor Rutherford's garage.
I remember all of the hoopla surrounding this imaginative plan. The city was going to pull out all the stops. The best and the brightest were hired to create a Disney-like atmosphere. In the end- the city, the Mott Foundation, but most sadly, the taxpayers were left with a kind of stunned look on their faces. Where did all the money go?
My theory is that Autoworld was never meant to succeed. Instead, it was a brilliant plan to help some people get rich. The park was designed to fail. I'll give you a perfect example.
On opening day, more people filled Autoworld than on any other day during its entire run. You couldn't squeeze a flea into the building. You also couldn't move. Lines for the amusement rides were hours long. You couldn't pause to enjoy displays because any time you stopped, a huge traffic jam resulted. Stairways were jammed pack so that egress would have been impossible. If there had there been any kind of emergency, people would have been trampled.
This is proof that Autoworld could have never sustained the types of crowds that its designers projected. It was a farce... a facade. It was con of the first magnitude. It was an 8 on the Richter scale and the city of Flint is still suffering the aftershocks. Most amazing of all, no one ever went to jail.
I didn't think AW would last.The Journal put out a very large special edition about it when it opened.I saved the whole thing.Still have it
I loved AutoWorld and miss it. Its really sad that it was torn down for a parking lot. I mean this thing costed 100 million by the time it was said and done, and athen another 10 million to tear down.. I am not sure what that 100 million in 1983,84,85 is today, but thats a lot of cheese.
After the failure, Bill White of the Mott Foundation wanted that white elepant removed, so they tore it down. I thought it would of a made a great Vistors Center, or a new home for the Slaon Museum... too bad... I miss AutoWorld, thanks for sharing the memories.
Ryan Eashoo, Flint Michigan
Yes AutoWorld was mean't to fail and lots of people mad lots of money on it. I applaud Ryan Eashoo of Flint Michigan. I rememeber his crusade to save AutoWorld. Ryan Eashoo, Cynthia Desgrange and Kristina Lakey all started that group Friends of AutoWorld to save it.. Good Try!
I remember taking my kids to AutoWorld, they loved it, and so did I. The dome was incrediable, and full of life not seen outside of its doors.
I wish it were still open. I miss jackin around with friends at Autoworld. I guess I will go jack around at the Former Hyatt Downtown...that too is another sad story...anyone care to elaborate on what happened to the Hyatt
I remember those young people trying to save that building. AutoWorld was a Marvelous place, very special place. Ryan Eashoo and Cynthia Desgrange are hero's in my eye. Gosh its hard to believe that was 10 years ago already.
May AutoWorld Live on in our memories forever!
I never thought something so silly and destined for failure would bring out such wonderful memories for people. I grew up in Flint and it's funny but i miss it. My dad worked for GM so I can remember going to Autoworld a few times. My brother took me there once, he knew the guy who did the voices for the animatronics and he got them to talk to me and say my name. I loved the movie Speed at the IMAX, especially the long spiral descent out of the theatre and out of the complex. I actually saw a copy of it in a computer store one time... I live in San Diego and I met someone out here who had been to Autoworld. I don't know who's idea it was to build a theme park around the automobile but I'd like to thank them for giving me such wonderfully stupid childhood memories.
Hi, I grew up in Flint from 81-94 I don't remember too much about Autoworld, (being in it) but I went there with my grandparents a bunch. I was only 2 when it opened. I always remember driving by it after it closed down, and wishing we could go in to ride the rides, lol. Since I have lived in Flint, I know it has gone down hill. I have family there still and visit often, and my friends still live there also. I am glad I found this on the web. I was looking to see if Penny Whistle was still open, lol. I figured that would have been gone by now too, but it is still up. Thinkin about taking my daughter there this summer. Thanks for your article, and I am gonna check out that movie, I have never heard of it before. Thanks for bringing back the memories!
I spent most of my childhood in Davisburg, and I must have been about 5 or 6 when I went to Autoworld. The only thing that made a real impression was the indoor ferris wheel. While my Dad and I were stopped at the top, he pointed out a bat flying nearby. Maybe that's why I am a neurotic twenty something now! :)
I found this site because I, too was looking for Pennywhistle place online. To tell the truth, I hadn't thought about Autoworld in an awfully long time, but you know what other memory it brought back? Water Street Pavilion. Is that still there?
Christy Toth Smith
I remember those kids in the parade. I knew Louise Rose and had the please to meet Ryan Eashoo and Cynthia Desgrange.
Gosh how time flys by. I miss AutoWorld.
I remember the Water Street Pavilion. I used to work around Flint back in 1987, and would go to that place for coffee almost on a daily basis. AutoWorld was there, and it appeared to be pretty well preserved and sealed. What a place for urban exploration! Seeing it sitting, unused, unloved (so to speak) made my heart sink. It will always remain a mystery to me, having never seen it in operation. It is indeed sad for all that time, work, and money to go to such waste.
Just a comment to Lisa and Christy if you come back to this page- Lisa you mentioned that Pennywhistle "is still up". I hope no site on the web told you that because it was torn down about 3 years ago now. I wanted to save you and your daughter the trip of going out to a torn down piece of flat land. I worked there in its last ailing summers.
I've never seen AutoWorld, it was gone long before I came to Flint. However, I am now a student at the University of Michigan - Flint. I do my work/study as a janitor/housekeeper at the White building that is now at the former location of AutoWorld. I'm writing a book about Flint, and was just doing some research on the history of AutoWorld. Nice website.
Wow. Talk about old memories flooding back. I worked at Autoworld the spring and summer of 1985 as a security officer. It was quite an education for a farm kid right out of high school! I found your site as I was trying to find the girl that got away. Her name was Dreama B. We both worked there and lost touch a year or so after the park closed. I had almost forgotten about Jacob's projected face. It was a little strange wasn't it!
Great site. I'm sure that I will be able to share more as the recollections come back.
Hey everyone. I have really been caught up in Flint, Michigan history and have done some study on Autoworld. I remember going once as a kid, I believe on opening day.
Someone should have known that this park was going to be a failure. Through my research I learn that Downtown revitalization occurs through business and civic involvement not government. The area has recently received some upgrades. The cast iron arches have come back. The Hyatt Regency has been purchased and is still operational as a hotel (Character Inn). There is talk by Kettering University of restoring the river front and the Durant Hotel has recently been purchased (Although details of plan have not been released yet). Flint is slowly turning around.
As far as Michael Moore. His movie is a mockumentary. I don't see why the citizens of Flint love him so much. He made a movie poking fun of the citizens of Flint, critizing GM for moving out Flint, made millions of dollars and then moved out Flint himself.
I remember AutoWorld, but nothing of inside. I never went inside. My father forbid it.
Secretly though, my mother encouraged me to go there and ask for a job. In 1984 I was only 15 years old. I don't know what kind of job I could have had there, but I went. I stood in line on a very hot day for several hours, and didn't receive anything so much as a call back. I remember on that day I left the line and went to sit in the concrete park along the Flint River. I had a blast walking and running under all the concrete waterfalls that made up the whole flood control project. I went to the amphitheater and gazed into the riverside restaurant at the Hyatt. I wondered what hotel food tasted like.
My dad says AutoWorld was a joke from the start. Who goes to museums? was the only positive thing he had to say! :-) My parents lamented the fact that AutoWorld was not intended as a replacement for Flint Park, an old amusement park on the North Side that they remembered from being teenagers in the 1950s. I said Oh, they'll build a rollercoaster ... Who ever heard of an amusement park without a rollercoaster? The marketing of AutoWorld was shockingly abysmal. Cedar Point it was not.
I didn't know for years that it had been demolished. I went to Flint for a visit, and drove downtown. It was gone! I was as if AutoWorld had been a figment of my imagination. Thankfully, I said, Water Street Pavilion was still there, and the Hyatt as well.
I'm glad I found this page today, through the Flint article on Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flint%2C_Michigan .. I don't know if the group still exists but there were pre-opening marketing materials made for both AutoWorld and Water Street Pavilion. Hyatt put out beautiful brochures for the hotel right before it opened. Someone should have something to scan and post to the net.
I noticed someone above noted the Hyatt is now called Character Inn. I thought Radisson still ran the property but no longer. Character Inn apparently isnt even open as a hotel to the general public -- only certain Christian groups can rent space in there, for meetings and sleeping rooms as a package.
Do they still use Riverbank Park for free concerts and Independence Day fireworks?
Does anyone know if the large block that use to get painted regularly by the Southwestern H.S. still exists?
The block in front of Southwestern Academy still exist although painting the block is no longer permitted via Don Williamson.
I was like 5 or 6 when I went to autoworld. I don't remember much, it almost seemed like a dream every time it would come to my memory. I remember the two cars with the front ends in the air, on the derby ride and that is really the only thing I can picture. Besides the diamond looking roof. If anyone has any pics of autoworld please let me know! thanx!
I miss AutoWorld, how tragic they tore it down. Flints mentality is tear things down, not build things up.
I grew up in Flint 1978-1991 and I remember AutoWorld.... only went once, but I was sad to hear about it's fate as I moved to Louisiana. I miss my hometown even if it is falling to pieces.
Hi, me again.
I'm back up in Flint right now visiting some friends and family. I've also done a little poking around and should have some additional stuff about AutoWorld up soon. Of course, I procrastinate alot, so take 'soon' with a grain of salt.
For Miles - If we're thinking of the same band, that played in the tent outside, it was a group called Evolution out of LA. They did a rock n roll review.
For Jon G. - Late breaking news, straight from the Flint Journal... Mayor Don Williamson has decided that it's okay to paint the block now, and will even give out cash to the 'best' designs submitted to a board on a semi regular basis. Or something.
Thanks for the update on the "rock". Isn't it just like politicians to take a local tradition that has always thrived with a life of its own and organize it, legislate it, approve it, and by doing so KILL IT!
Reminds me of the awesome pick-up games of wiffle ball that just kind of evolved as were growing up as kids in Glendale Hills in Flint. But, as soon as one of the parents got the brilliant idea to have us move the games out of the front yard (we were killing grass and flowers) to a planned out and organized spot in the backyard, the game quickly died, the spontaneity was gone and so were we.
Thanks Don, can I still get a deal on '81 Chevette?
I first read about Autoworld about a year ago (Born in '88) while reading a (negative) book about Michael Moore. Does anyone have any more pics to post? Seems to me like to the people here it is some sort of lost-world where. Or anything about the assorted rides? (Can't have an amusement park, even a semi one, without rides)
It's great to see that AutoWorld online has again sparked controversy, fascination, pride and disgust. I grew up in Flint and loved AutoWorld. Maybe it didn't have a lot of rides, but you had to drive 2 hours to Detroit for Boblo Island or 3 hours to Cedar Point to get anything other than go carts at Playland. It's a sad story in the end though and Flint is still searching for a way to stabilize and become prosperous again.
For anyone connected with Flint, check out the nonprofit network www.flintclub.org. We have nearly 500 people around the world who care about Flint on the email list. Our monthly newsletter has headlines, events, stories and other things you may be interested in.
So glad to find this site! My parents went to some grand opening party at Autoworld. I think I got to go once. All I remember is the ferris wheel. I was born in Flint and lived there until 1991, I was 12. I still have family there. There is some strange force or vibe that draws me to Flint every chance I get. I'm always checking on real estate, pretending I'll move back someday. Just wondering if anyone else out there feels this way. People think I'm crazy for feeling this way about Flint. But I can't explain it. Maybe it's just because it was my childhood, and I remember it as good. Maybe it's just the amazing history in this town. Does anyone remember the University Club when it was thriving? I used to go to lunch there all the time when I was little with my grandmother. I got married in 2001, and we were barely able to have our reception there, couldn't even use the parking ramp, it was falling apart! Regardless, I loved it. and for one short night I felt like a kid again on top of a building in a beautiful restaurant with floor to ceiling windows, looking over, what was from up there, still the beautiful Flint I always remember.
I thought since people had asked about the hyatt regency/character inn, I'd plug in some (admittedly spotty)info, because it's a wierd story, in and of itself. From what I remember, after a number of owners all failed to make it profitable the Hyatt Regency was bought by an uber conservative christian group, the institute in basic life principles (www.iblp.org) and staffed with vollunteers who actually live there. When the deal originally went through, the city was wary that their agenda would ultimately be to close it off to the public and turn it into a private conference center for religious zealots (which it appears is exactly the case) so they put a clause in, that it had to remain open to the public as a hotel. One of the things that the group did to discourage the public from staying there was to ban smoking, the consumption of alcohol, and listening to any type of music that had not been previewed by the staff first, on the premises. (www.characterinns.org)
This caused a big problem the first year after the group took over, as the Flint Jazz Festival took place right behind the place every year at Riverbank Park and the group didn't like the "devil's music" coming from right in their backyard.
MY MOM AND DAD TOOK ME THEIR IN 1985 WHEN I WAS ABOUT TWO I HAD MY PICTURE TAKEN WITH DAFFY DUCK AND BUGS BUNNY.
As a new staff member at the University of Michigan-Flint and a new resident in the City of Flint, I am eager to learn about the history of the university as well as the city. As I was on my way through the University Center on a quiet summer day, I stopped in the student lounge to look at pictures on the wall. There is a photo of a semi-aerial view of the campus taken in 1995 when Autoworld was still intact, but not in use. I was totally intrigued by the photo, and wanted to know more. Thank you for this site.
Even though I grew up in Detroit and went to college in East Lansing, I never heard much about Autoworld. It's a very interesting story, but a sad one as well.
The City of Flint and the Flint Journal have a pictorial history of different events in the city, and the implosion of the IMA portion of Auotworld is recorded on a website. There are about six frames of sucession of the implosion. Also, there is a photo from the flood of March 1947 in Flint. The historians noted that the IMA Auditorium was "calked tight" and withstood the flood. You can view the pictures at:
I'm enjoying reading these posts! I, too, was looking for info on PennyWhistle Place. :) But I have very fond memories of Autoworld -- prolly for a different reason than many, though. My now-husband used to work there. He operated the "freaky animatronic puppets" and was inside the roving robot, Bumper T. Fenderbender (not all the time, of course!). I used to sit in the booth with him and laugh my head off at the looks on people's faces as the character would tell them what they were wearing, etc. He also ran the IMAX there and I often sneaked through the backs of the rides to bring him dinner (he wasn't really given breaks!) and let him run to the restroom while I watched the film projector. I enjoyed the atmosphere at Autoworld and often just hung out on their benches, enjoying the peace and scenery. My mother was fine letting us visit alone because she felt it'd be safe; tough to be kidnapped from an inside place, I guess. I do have to question their security, though, if they let me just wander about behind the scenes unquestioned and unstopped! LOL! It's too bad it is gone, though I suppose I can see why. Perhaps it was, indeed, ahead of its time.
I remember the park when it opened. It was good times going inside the park with my friends just laughing, eating popcorn and riding the Ferris wheel. It was very fun back then, I'm sad to see it go. It was the hotspot for me when I was 16.
i would love some pictures of pennywhistle place!!! Anyone? I loved that place, the big heavy bags you c ould run through. The zip line, the big rope net on the second story. The musical footpads. Loved it!!!! Please send me pics if you have them. firstname.lastname@example.org
No better way to time-travel than the 'net. I grew up in Flint until I moved to the Southern U.S. in 2000. I must have been 4 or 5 when I went to Autoworld a few times. I really thought I was older because I remember so much, but I couldn't have been. With my dad an AC/Delphi employee for the past 16 years, it's all very sad story to me.
I remember the video games they had at Autoworld. And every now and then I laugh when remembering. The games were very death oriented indeed. I especially remember the drunk-driving game. You had to select the kind of drink you wanted, either a martini or beer (maybe something else) and how many. Then the object was to drive home without crashing in to a tree or an oncoming car.
To tell you the truth, you would crash no matter what because the graphics were white lines on a black background in semi-3D. So you couldn't see anything really. And I can't really remember what the difference was when you selected more or less alcohol. My friends and I would take turns to see how much we could "drink" and not crash. The D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse and Resistance Education) program was really teaching us kids life lessons there. :)
That really sucks that Mott Farm is closing as one poster mentioned. People ask me about Flint and why I moved down South. They wonder why I don't really like Flint and would not move back. For one, it's because all the places I had memories of (Autoworld, Pennywhistle, Mott) keep getting destroyed. It would have been nice to share my memories with my (future) kids. Oh well.
I remember Val Rose, Ryan Eashoo, Cynthia Desgrange, Kristina Lakey all fighting to save AutoWorld back in 1995.
Its sad that Flint would allow such a place to be torn down. I miss all the people who we met with to fight to save it. Including Matt Taylor.
I remember being impressed and I have good memories of the place. I was bummed when it closed. My father did a "one man skit" there as Johnny Appleseed.
Wow.....That was so long ago. I still have the photo of it from the Flint Journal from before it went down when we were still trying to save it. GOod times. Spppppaazzzzzzzzzz attack!
The biggest thing that I remember about Autoworld isn't Autoworld itself, but a flood that happened after it was built. I was in grade school at the time, so I don't remember anything specific about it yet. The Flint River ran through the dome. One year, it rained enough to flood. The city did something to keep Autoworld from flooding, which resulted in neighbourhoods flooding. My grandmother's neighbourhood, near Powers High School, flooded. She was at the top of the street and only lost everything in the basement; people further down the street were much worse off.
I just want to thank Cynthia Desgrange and Ryan Easho for fighting to save this once great place in Flint Michigan
I have lived in flint my entire life. From 1987 till today. I got to go to auto world when I was around 2 or 3. I dont remember much, just little details like the ferris wheel, the bumper cars[how i remember is beyond me], a few shows and oh yes the giant engine, I do believe it went in circles but i may not remember much at all. I lived on Franklin and Delaware right around that area on the east side. I got to meet Micheal Moore personally as he visited our school. I had some good memories of flint, and some bad ones. My father was a drug addict through out my life and we were not able to keep anything nice, but I still love him.
Mammaries of Autoworld? Sure, I gots me a ton. We used to poke around in its wreckage circa 1994-95. Drunk on malt liquor, we took the steam engine replica and repeatedly smashed it into a DDA car. While an auto show was going on under the dome, a gal pal of mine and I snuck in and had sex on the lunar vehicle display. Final mammaries? very drunk... whiskey. 4 a.m. the night before it was blown to smithereens, me and 3 friends pulled down the safety fence, liberated a few canoes from the Jacob Smith diorama, and sent them over Hamilton Dam. The next morning my windows shook from the implosion. When I found out the north wall was still standing I had to take credit. One of us must've disconneccted some wires during our drunken sojourn through the dome.
I worked at Autoworld for those first 2 summers. First year at the main gift shop (cant remember the name) and then at the nice resturant upstairs. The one thing that I remember that still drives me crazy...is the barber shop quartet that sang the same 5 or 6 songs all the time...day after day...week after week. I heard it in my sleep, in the shower, driving around town. Those guys drove me crazy. It smelt nice inside, I also loved the criss crossed fries, remember the craziness of opening day, man, the crowds fell like a lead balloon after that first day. The paper flowers (which were $2.50 each) That line worker singing with the robot (who soon replaced him on the assembly line) the song "Me and my buddy!" The song ended with the line, "we make your dreams come true!" Yeah, dreams of the unemployment line...thanks Buddy!
I still have my Autoworld employee badge a fresh faced 17 year old kid on it. I've come a long way since then. I remember meeting then Governor Jim Blanchard and former Mayor Jim Sharp and how proud and happy they were. The smiles didnt last long! I left Flint for good shortly after. It was the best thing I ever did. It's a shame whats become of my home town. Im embarrassed to mention where I am from. Flint has become such a sad sad place. Jacob Smith, Charles S. Mott and Frank Manley are turning in their graves.
It's ashame that no matter what is done in Flint, only the bad things are reported in the media. If it is a good community event, it may or may not get mentioned. I was raised to never visit flint because of the crime.... hence the reason i missed out on the Autoworld experience. I now work in Flint... I like it. I enjoy the history, and guess what, the people here are not all car thieves. I feel bad for Flint because of what the media and politicians do to this community. I bet if the residents of this community came together and took it back, Flint would be great. I also bet there are some local churches that could help make this happen by focasing on the young people.
My dad was a Carpenter and helped build the Hyatt, Auto World, and Water Street Pavillion. They were all beautiful buildings. It is sad what has happend to them and to the City of Flint. I have been on the roof of the Hyatt (3 days before opening day!), and was inside Auto World several times before it opened and after. We attended the pre-opening day events. We were allowed in before the general public because of my dad working on it. While the idea behind Auto World may have not been great, the workers took great pride in that building! It was truly a piece of art! I have pictures and mementoes that I will always treasure of Auto World. It was sad to watch it being torn down.
Flint is a dying city. I only wish there was a way to save it! I hate to tell people that I am from there. I lived in Flint until 8 years ago. It is and probably always will be "Home" to me. But there isn't much left.
People say Flint is dying and there is a way to save it. First is to get rid of the dead weight money crooks running things, mainly the city council.. Support investors such as the landbank who are doing things with vacant buildings and land. The biggest thing is us as citizens to have a presence there. Go eat at the torch or Haloburger, visit the local shops that are still open and craving your business. During the daytime with UM the streets are busy. Once there is an accomadting atmosphere for a nightlife, Flint will experience a renissance comparable to downtown Detroit or Grand Rapids.. The ingredients are there.. SUPPORT FLINT
Its amazing how many people actually remember Autoworld. What makes this sad is that the people who created this ACTUALLY THOUGHT that this was going to revitalize the City of Flint. My family has pictures of when Autoworld opened up. They went that summer. My mom was actually 7 months pregnant with me and my twin in the pictures and my older three brothers and sisters loved Autoworld. Too bad they tore it down. Its kind of sad how the city that is known for its beauty of the automotive industry is sadly destroying itself. We are destroying the places which brought Flint alive in its heyday. I work in one of the local hotels and its sad when people who graduated from high school here in the 40s and 50s and went on to have successful careers come back to their hometown to find it destroyed. Just this past summer, Kettering was having a reunion for its 1st graduating class of the GMI Institute. A man who had lived here 40 years ago tried to comfort his wife in the lobby of the hotel because she was crying at what Downtown flint had looked like just that afternoon after they had driven down there. She vowed never to return here again. I find that to be so horrible that our history is being destroyed. Why would the city destroy the old IMA building. That is our culture. Does the city know how many historical figures set foot in there? I was talking to an old nurse at Hurley hospital and she was telling me how when she was 13 yrs old, she was at an event and sat right behind Charles Stewart Mott, the man who had such great passion for this city.
Buick City has been razed and now Buicks old headquarters is soon to be razed. Flint's culture is being ruined because we are destroying our automotive culture. These are the people and places which gave their life for this city-heck, they even gave money out of their paychecks to build the old IMA arena. Well, I guess it all doesn't matter now for the auto industry, seeing that Delphi just filed for bankruptcy. That will soon kill more automotive jobs in this city.
I love Flint. After I graduate from college, I will move away, but I will return with the intent to make a difference for this city. I want to see a prosperous and thriving downtown with tall high rises and individuals with smart minds living and working within the city.
I'm so glad I found this site. I recently moved from the metro Detroit area where I have spent my entire life, to the Flint area. Since we have been here I wondered about Autoworld - what was it, and WHERE was it. This site has answered my questiosn.
I wonder: Why is it I never went there, and why don't I remember a single person I knew going there? I was 13 in 1984. Didn't they do any marketing to the Detroit area? Maybe we in Troy blinked and just missed it!
Thanks again! Very interesting, and I can't wait to check out all the links.
I used to live in the Detroit area and remember that Autoworld did broadcast some commercials there. They used the slogan "Six Flags Autoworld. Leave the Real World Behind". It was very disappointing that it couldn't succeed. I went there once and had a great time. But as Michael Moore said in his movie "Roger & Me", some people don't want to celebrate human tragedy while on vacation, since that was when GM was closing several plants in Flint even though they were making record profits. It sure was a great shrine to cars.
We visited Auto World after it had been open just a little while. I liked it a lot and thought it was really well done. I am glad you have set up this site to help me remember.
The thing is, it wasn't a place that you would go to over and over. If you had been there once, you probably wouldn't be excited to go back. As someone said, it wasn't really an amusement park and it wasn't really a museum.
Here in Anderson, Indiana, there is a big controversy b/c a entrepreneur had a similar plan, had gathered lots of ppl who believed in him, and wanted our mayor and city council to give him a large, desirable piece of (former)GM property to create this museum 'thingy'. The mayor did some research and never gave the man any encouragement. So the man made big headlines in the local paper when he said he was taking his marbles and going elsewhere.
In my opinion, one Auto World on this planet is (was) enough.
I'm 19 and was born in Feb. of '86 right here in Flint, MI...in a hospital that no longer exists(St. Joe's). So unfortunately I never got to visit Autoworld...although I may have visited it when I was still in the whom? Any who, I still live in Flint with my family. This month marks 30 years of service with General Motors for my dad. He's a journeyman millwright. He worked at Buick City for many years. When that closed in 1999 they moved him to the foundry in Saginaw, called SMCO, or Saginaw Metal Casting Operations where he continues to be a millwright. He ran production for a couple years when he first hired in, but decided he hated it, and knew he was vulnerable if lay-offs were to hit. His father retired from the Chevy manufacturing complex known as "Chevy in the hole". There are no more plants left down in the hole. The last Delphi plant down there was closed about a year ago. And yes, Flint is a very dying city. I own the movie "Roger and Me" and it's very sad. But I still love my city and my family still drives GM cars and I think Flint and many surrounding cites are still very much dominated with GM vehicles.
Hi, My name is Robbie. I was born in Chicago,but grew up in Wisconsin. My mother grew up in Flint. My dad (from Gary Indiana) met her while they where both in College. I remember my fond memories of coming to Flint every summer for two weeks to visit my grandparents for a family reunion. My "papa" as we called him took me (then 12 yrs old) to the grand opening when all politcians came open then place. It was sooo hot and sunny. Just a beutiful day. I was bored "young" and wanted just to go inside and see it. The next day he took me.....I loved it. I am sad to see it didn't work out. I think this project was way before its time. Six flags pulled the plug way to early on Flint. My "Papa" passed in 1991 at 79 yrs and I was about to turn 19 yrs old. This place reminds me of him. I miss him. He was a wonderful grandfather to me as a young boy. I'm glad to took me. My favorite part. -The robotic spot welder. Go figure. But also that concrete block by the railroad tracks that was always spraypainted by "vandals/artists" is that still in Flint"? .................Robbie
I found this site while doing research for a paper in my college Urban Geography course. We saw the movie "Roger & Me" in class and I was looking for the exact information about AutoWorld and I found it. Reflecting back on the early 1980's it is truly sad what has happened to the manufacturing sector of the United States economy. While other industries grow, it seems as though the american manufacturer is always being undercut by foreign competition and taking it on the chin. My heart goes out to all of those in Flint who lost jobs and please always know that you are in my prayers.
I remember going to Autoworld in the late '80's and early 90's. I, like many of you who posted comments was a little kid when I visited Autoworld. I was born in Flint in June of '86. I lived in Mt. Morris until '88 and moved to New Lothrop, about 35 miles from Flint. I remember my Grandparents took me to Autoworld quite often. Unfortunately, I don't remember a lot of the inside of the park, but a few things stick in my head. I remember that IMAX movie, Speed, quite well, espacially the part where the cars go through and you feel as though you are left standing in the dust. I also remember the bumper cars and when Autoworld was on the demise, my Grandpa and I were the only ones in the ride, with our bumper car hitting all the parked ones. I also remember the big ferris wheel and my Grandpa ripping a big one at the top when we stopped! Oh how I suffered on that ride! The other only memory I have of Autoworld was during the Christmas of 1989 of 1990. I remember this lady up on stage singing the song Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, and her calling me up on stage to sing with her and I forgot the words. She gave me a kiss when we finished the song and I was so embarresed! Hahaha. I sure do miss that old place. As far as I'm concerned, that was the coolest place in Flint. I love going to The Machine Shop now, but I think if I had a choice, I'd pick Autoworld in a heartbeat. By the way, I also remember Pennywhistle Place. I went there on a field trip once, sometime around 1992. All I remember was the big net kids crawled across. That was cool. Anyhow, nice website. I will be back to read the Autoworld memories periodically.
We're studying the effects of the structural unemployment that GM so affectionately spread through Flint in my economics class and the poverty/crime rate increase since the factory closing astounded me. All the sources Ive read, and the documentary 'Roger and Me' make Flint sound like a real drag of a place to live, but when I stumlbe across post sites like this people generally seem nostalgic about Flint. Do you think its a good place to live? Is it better for some than others? Do the students that attend the University stay in FLint, or fo they leave? What do you think is the biggest differnce in Flint since the factory closure? Im sorry if these questions are invasiove, rude, or rediculous, that is not my intention, I am just eager to here from someone who actually experienced the affects of the change, instead of a Detroit reporter or my econ teacher.
Well, I actually live in Flushing...right next to Flint. But, I guess I would say it's okay to live in Flint if you're one of the 10,000 that work for GM in this city. Flint is currently listed as the 4th most dangerous city in the U.S. But we still have Hurley Hospital and a few other medical jobs that I'm sure pay fairly well. I know that there are a couple of accounting firms around here. We also have U of M, Mott, and Kettering as far as teaching positions, but are probably very limited. We have alot of low-paying retail and restaurant jobs....I mean alot. For quite a few years I believe retail jobs were the largest employer in the county. But I think within the last year or so, manufacturing reclaimed the title....which is what we like to see.
My dad worked at Buick City until they closed it down in '99. He now works at the foundry in Saginaw called Saginaw Metal Casting Operations. I own the movie 'Roger and Me' and although I think Michael Moore put the film together fairly well for the amount of money he had to spend, and it being his first film...I don't think he did enough research to fully support his theory that GM is such an evil company. With the passing of the Free Trades Act and the increasing number of people buying foreign cars, GM had no choice but to downsize the company. Ford and Chrysler have done the same, but since GM is the largest automaker, it gets the most publicity and ridicule.
I could really say alot more about this. But let me know what you think and I can elaborate more if you'd like.
AutoWorld was a fun place, I miss going there. I was born in 79' and remmeber going on Opening Day. It was bigger than life. I also remeber going to watch it Explode, it was a sad day in Flint.
I remember Cynthia Desgrange, Ryan Eashoo and friends trying to Save it. Louise Rose and Matt Taylor filed a injuntion to stop it, but eventually the Mott Foundation Won.
I saw "Roger & Me" in my Anthropology class in 1994 as a Freshman at the University of Michigan. I just saw it again last night and could not turn it off. Today, I was intersted in learning more about Autoworld. Thanks for the Information and allowing others to share their experiences. I enjoyed reading this. It is a shame that it is gone but it seemed like that it was doommed from the very beginning. I feel like it is a waste of money because millions of dollars was spent on this project that ended up being demolished. I kept thinking they must of wanted this place to fail. They could of made it into a museum or mall. :(
I think people who are leaders in Flint Michigan need to think better than this. We need people who have passion to make Flint better. People like Dayne Walling, Ryan Eashoo and Matt Schlinker.
Rest In Peace AUTOWORLD! We will forever love you.
I remember Autoworld. I went there when it first opened, I was 16 years old. I don't remember much of the visit, i just remember it wasn't that exciting. Maybe because I had been to Cedar Point, Knot's Berry Farm and Disneyland already and it didn't quite compare. I have a better memory of Safetyville when it was at Kearsley park. I was only 8 years old then. I left Flint when I was 18 and joined the Army. I go back home maybe once every 2 years. My parents moved out of Flint to Linden so i don't really go into Flint when I visit. It is depressing to see it the way it is now.
I live in Hawaii, I can see Aloha Stadium (where they play the pro bowl) from my bedroom window. I do miss Flint but I don't think I could ever live there again.
Anyone on here from Flint Central that graduated around 1986? Our class must be the worst class in the history of the school. We never even had a year book or any reunions...that I know of.
Michael Moore is an idiot!
i was only 5 years old,but i still remeber the great day i had at autoworld.i pained me to see it closed,since i really wanted my kids to see it.maybe in the future,there will be a autoworld 2
I worked at Autoworld in 1984. I was 17. I graduated from Central in '85 and left for Ann Arbor. I worked at "The Humorous History of Automobility" and I still remember its inane theme song, which I had to hear 8 hours a day every day. I remember that I was recruited to work there because I was a good student, like it was some privilege. I had to take the job because jobs were scarce and I wanted to save up enough money to get out of Flint. I snorted a lot of ground-up No-Doz during those days, just because the repetitiveness of the job put me to sleep.
I remember going to Autoworld when I was younger I can't quite remember what year. I was a very weird experience. I do remember getting my picture taken there the kind where you dress up in old fashioned clothes. I also remember the ferris wheel and cobblestone path. For pennywhistle place it was TERRIFIC I think mt family went there atleast once a week during the summer and Mott Park too which is no longer open. Kind of sucks that I can't share those experiences with my children.
One more comment. I took my son to Mott's Children's Health center today, which I heard of through a referral. The organization who referred me gave me a xeroxed map, and among the landmarks on the little map is "Autoworld" - so now I know where it was. They could probably use a new map.
I went to Autoworld when I was 9 years old in 84. I thought it was pretty cool from what I remember. Everything that a boy could ask for. Shiny cool cars. Crazy, artificial robots "animatrons". The memory that always stuck with me for some odd reason was some of the art work that was on the wall. There was a painting of a Delorean rusting away in a field. The car was last made in 1982, but by 1984 it was a ghost of a car because the Queen of England had all of the molds thrown into the English channel. An artist must have put his thoughts about the car into that painting. In my mind the painting was for-shadowing in a spooky way, if you relate it to Autoworld. A cool design, a supposedly good idea, a lot of money and time put into something and all of a sudden it's over.
Ha, does anyone ever think...for a minute...that Michael Moore is the problem with Roger&Me and specifically FLINT?
That man made a few cool million bucks on Flint and moved out. Take this scenario. The movie pushed GM's decision to close plants in Flint. GM was (and still is) getting their collective behinds whipped by non-US auto makers. They close plants to help stave off cash problems (uh, remember, Chrysler went belly-up in the early '80s?)
Lardbutt Moore puts Flint's woes on the screen and gets even more publicity from the liberal media. Hmmmm. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot! Let's advertise things like "Pets or meat" and try and get other big businesses to move into town. You think Toyota, pharma-companies, tech-companies want to be associated with a town best known for "Pets or Meat" or even worse....Autoworld!
Advertise your misery...not good for a free economy to encourage investment...they chose to be liberal and use "public" money to "create" an economy. It failed! Now, the liberal mayor wants to have a City Assembly Plant, pubically owned! HEY IT WAS CALLED COMMUNISM! IT FAILED TOO!
Stephen, your doctor called. He wants you to stop watching Fox News for a few months to get rid of the brainwashing.
Really, look what you've done.. taken a fine site about Autoworld and painted all over it with your political graffiti. You just have to leave your mark, don't you? In case you feel the need to vent that potty-talk again, why not try the Yahoo! message boards where it's more appropriate.
Notice I didn't challenge anyone of your statements - that was intentional. Your comments are so distanced from reality that they're not worthy of discussion.
Btw, Matty, great job, your coverage of Autoworld would be worhty of entry into an 'online museum of Americana', if there was one.
Michael Moore and Ryan Eashoo are two people who are helping Flint. Flints problem is if we don't talk about it, its not a problem. When in fact it only gets worse and worse.
I am currently a student at Kettering University. I visited the campus area and the museum and saw some pictures of the Autoworld attarction. I thought it would be cool to see only to learn that it had been torn down many years ago. During my time at Kettering I must say that I hate the Flint area. It is dirty, downtrodden, and depressing. If it wasn't for the school I would have absolutely no reason to live there.
I remember Autoworld. I went there once. I remember begging my parents to take me there when we were out that way for our annual visit to Frankenmuth. I remember thinking it was both cool and creepy at the same time. I think we still have a few of the phtos we took but they're all at my parents house in Grand Rapids... and I live in Florida now.
Ah, AutoWorld! I was the public relations manager that worked for Six Flags the first 9 months of its interesting life. We were all very enthusiastic about the project, if not a bit concerned about opening a major theme park in Flint.
I vividly remember the people I worked with at AutoWorld as being terrific. We had after hours gatherings in the ball crawl and at the restaurant ... then rode the bumper cars and the other rides. Anything to amuse ourselves in Flint during a cold winter evening.
What a shame the park never caught on. Lots of energy and creativity went into it ... and yes, it should have been billed as a museum more than an amusement park. When the fastest ride if "Fred the Carriageless Horse" at 3 miles an hour, we're not talking thrill seekers.
Thanks for bringing back some great memories!
first of all Auto world was never part of 6 flags 6 flags backed out of the agreement at the last minute. yes I remeber going to auto world when I was living in flint and i still think it was a waist of money.
Auto world, I was 4 and recall it. I thought the fake indoor flint river was real cool considering the real one was 600 ft away from the building. Autoworld was an Idea that on paper seemed better then reality. Just as I would never go to a peach world museum in Georgia, No-one would come to Flint to see an auto museum/park. That said the building is gone now and the parking Lot is still in use for U of M and the William S. White(WSW) building is now on the site as yet another building in the University of Mich-Flint complex. And I am their 5 days a week at class. However that said if anyone goes down South Saginaw St. these days you will see Flints slow rebirth. All of the buildings are having their old 70's fake facades torn off and restored back to the pre 50's/war look. Many of them have new tenants and some are being converted to lofts and are about done. Also, the old arches across South Saginaw were remade and erected a few years back. U of M now takes up a rather large portion of the downtown including the water street pavilion about 70-80% of Flint now is a "safe" place. Sure the north end is still riddled with slums etc. But what city can claim a perfect all around population and area? That said the Flint of the 80's is no more and that's a good thing. Will it ever be as Big as it was before?, probably not. We still have far to go but have come a good long way as well. I think Flint will continue to experience a rebirth as people from Detroit move north to afford a home that's not 400,000 for a cardboard box. Also their is talk recently of U of M making the old Durant Hotel (incidentally directly across the street from the WSW building) into dorms (top floors) and retail on the bottom floors. For those whom still think of Flint as the 80's flint if you show up you may be surprised in what all is going on.
I grew up in Flint until i as 13. I remember going to Auto World ONCE. I sit up for hours on end, wondering what happen to beautiful Flint. Sometimes i cry. I wish it were the way my grandparents remember the city. I search the internet and read the history and hang my head to what has happened. It truly is saddening to me.
Flint 4 Ever.
I am very interested in any pictures of the carousel that was once in Auto World Museum. As I grew up in Crystal, Michigan where the carousel was located in 1936. Please any pictures would be appreciated. When I was 15 a picture was taken of me on this carousel, for the history of Crystal. Please any pictures may be sent to my e-mail address.........Thank-You......Tracey
"I wish it were still open. I miss jackin around with friends at Autoworld. I guess I will go jack around at the Former Hyatt Downtown...that too is another sad story...anyone care to elaborate on what happened to the Hyatt"
Posted by Velvet Touch Books at March 29, 2005 07:29 PM
I went to high school with the owner son, and he told me that due to the low visitors he was making no money and he decided to close the doors, as Hyatt is a franchise he could not afford the outragous fees the franchise was charging him
I grew up in Flint,Mich.live there for over thirty years. I remember what Flint used to be and what it has become now. Autoworld was a joke from day one.And if you do some checking in some past Flint Journals the current Mayor made this statement"Wake up citizens of Flint your city is dying" How true. Autoworld was a waste of money and time for the city of Flint to put their hope that this park was to put money back into the City of Flint. And now since GM has said Adios Flint and Hola Mexico, the citizens of Flint are looking for others to invest in the city by bringing in "some type of business". Like what? Hey I know what have UofM buy the old Durand Hotel, turned it into a dorm and that should help put back Flint on it feet. When GM left the city you have to understand not only did it take jobs with it but also cold hard cash.TAX BASE. When the tax base goes down so does the value of your house and when that happens the crime rate goes up. My dad once told me that the "truth is hard for some people to swallow". The citizens of Flint need to wake up and to understand that Flint will never be the way it used to be. IThe North end is getting worse so is the East side and slowly the South side. Sounds like cancer to me.MMMMMM How do you know this? I have friends on the Police and Fire dept. who see the stuff first hand who have told me the drug problems of the 80's has come back with a vengence.So don't candy coat the City of Flint "Rebirth" and be honest with yourself. I'm surprise with what is going on in City of Flint. I'm content with the choice I made by moving away from that place for a better life for my family. Life is too short for you to say to yourself " I should have moved long time ago when I had the chance but now I can't".
I was born in 1982 and lived in Waterford from 1986-1992. Unfortunately, I never made it out to Autoworld but we did visit Crossroads Village and Pennywhistle Place a few times. I can't believe that Pennywhistle Place is gone...although it sort of makes sense. Those of us that grew up in the late 80s-early 90s (and before) had the distinct honor of playing on play structures that are now deemed "unsafe." You know, complete with metal everything, barely any cushioning under the play equipment and stuff like that. Anyway, that was a tangent, but I do remember a little bit about Pennywhistle Place. I remember the zip cord thing and the metal musical things on the ground. I also remember those little water jets mounted on walkways that you could aim at people. Also, you can't forget those lame water slides that were about three feet tall. Man, I hadn't thought about Pennywhistle Place for years! The Internet really can be a great nostalgia trip.
I rememeber those kids fighting to save autoworld. Mayor Stanley at the time wouldn't allow their Float (or group) in the Fourth of July Parade. So these young high schoolers made a Save The IMA & Autoworld Float and concealed it with "Neighborhood Watches of Genesee County".. They put a sheet over the original float, and then once they got going down the route, they tore it off and revealed the real Float. It was amazing.
At the time people tried to stop the parade and get them out, but the guy kept driving!! They gave out pamplets on their cause, matches and candy... it was very cool and memorable.
I've lived in Flint since '79. It's not nearly as bad as folks like to make it.. I got to Autoworld 7 or 8 times, just the IMAX theater after the park itself was closed. I always thought that the whole Autoworld failure was a result of people thinking their agendas would trump the marketplace... people weren't going to go downtown (revitalizing downtown was an agenda item) to a place that couldn't make it go. But they didn't try to damn hard either. I hear AutoWorld was mean't to fall, in fact I hear a lot of people made a TON of money of it. Also the city of flint and mott foundation just kept it around long enough to deplete the tax write offs. Val Rose, Louise Rose, Matt Taylor, Ryan Eashoo & Cynthia Desgrange worked hard to save it, and expose the FRAUD. but nobody listened... :( now its nothing, gone forever!
AutoWorld is missed, loved and remembered.
I was born in Flint over 37 years ago when my Dad worked for GM but we moved away from Michigan when I was 5. I had never heard of AutoWorld until I saw "Roger and Me". It's an interesting movie from a historical aspect but I disagree with Michael Moore's whole premise. Private corporations, like GM, do not solely exist to provide people jobs and stimulate local economies. The exist to provide the maximum amount of return to their shareholders. And if they can achieve this by laying off a few thousand people, they will. It's cruel, but it's reality. So Moore, the self-professed socialist, doesn't understand it when GM or other companies layoff employees when profits are in the billions. How are GMs profits now? Where's Michael Moore lamenting GM's plight? After all... It's not the CEO and upper management that's suffering, it's still the factory worker and local economies. The Department of Defense recently decided to close the air force base in the town of 35,000 where I grew up. This will result in a loss of over 4,000 jobs and will decimate the local economy beyond Flint-like conditions. Where's Michael Moore coming to our defense? C'mon Michael... Doesn't fit your agenda, does it.
I went to Autoworld shortly after it opened with my family. We drove all the way from Owosso. We were so bummed. Most of the rides didnt work, and it cost a fortune to eat in the cafe. Dad and Mom were not happy about that, but i wanted my burger and fries. It must have been a after they reopened it that i went with a friend of mine and his father for another visit. I dont rememeber anything being different, and it was a qucik trip. Funny how parents realized they wasted their money and wanted to get out asap. To bad they turned the place into a parking lot. It could have been used as something. So sad. My memories are faint, but i remember having a good time and so did my sister even though the rides didnt work. Thanks for the pictures and the memories.
Flint is a joke. The people who are running the city is a joke. And for those people who think that Flint will bounce back, think again. Does any one out there think that downtown Flint is going to bring a dead horse back to life? I know : Come on give it a chance right ? Wrong .Leave while you can because the ship is sinking and you got a crazy captain at the wheel. I know that alot of people out there are saying : Oh, the memories of what it use to be .Well the last time I checked you can't pay the bills on "MEMORIES".
I never went to Auto world and really never heard of it...What rides did they have?
I'm looking to purchase some Flint memorabilia like tshirts, bumper stickers, pins, any ideas on how to get a hold of that stuff?
I was cleaning out the basement recently and ran across a scrapbook with an AutoWorld brochure and a map of the complex. I live in Minnesota and was visiting my grandpa in Ann Arbor. Being 13, I didn't notice any negatives to the experience, except that it seemed that the designers weren't sure if they wanted a theme park, an amusement park, or a museum, so it wasn't any of the above. I enjoyed it, as far as I can recall, though I'm not surprised it didn't survive.
To the person who said that it wasn't a Six Flags production, the official logo on the brochure says Six Flags, and their web site lists it.
Autoworld opened when I was a month away from 3-years-old. I do have fuzzy memories of it from the Christmas openings in its last years. Not yet 10, I was convinced Autoworld was the most interesting place in the world, intensely frustrated that it wasn’t open more frequently. I remember the animatronics, as they were fascinating and terrifying all in one, especially the talking horse. Nobody has mentioned the remote control car racetrack or the bumper cars. There was also a frog puppet that lived in a wagon or a downsized replica of an antique car. I especially enjoyed the derby ride and remember my cousin's name "Katie" being (coincidentally) spray painted on one of the cars teetering above the track we rode on. I also remember the downward spiral walkway with the life-sized dioramas of early driving and the way the mud looked wet and lifelike in a scene depicting a man stuck on a dirt road. Autoworld had a smell too, like cotton candy and popcorn. I want to see more photos of it. Kudos to Matty. I’ve since escaped to St. Louis, MO and am happily relocated in the 1900-era brick suburbs. http://www.msu.edu/~atchiso5 is my site.
I grew up in Flint from 1961 to 1987 when I left for greener pastures. I was one of the THOUSANDS who applied for a job at Autoworld in the old Sears building downtown. Although I never got a job there, I did go on to work for the Flint Convention & Visitors Bureau at Water Street Pavilion. We were heavily involved in year one and two of the marketing of the facility. Although the entire staff tried very hard to market the concept, outside of Autoworld, there wasn't much for folks to do in Flint. If Autoworld had been built later, after other things had opened, it might have had a better chance. Also, if the entire auto industry had supported the facility, it might have lasted a bit longer. GM only gave $400,000 of the $80 million in construction costs. Ford & Chrysler gave NOTHING. Also, the city of Flint wanted a museum, Six Flags wanted a theme park. It was marketed as a theme park and it just wasn't. People wanted huge roller coasters and they got history, so the Six Flags marketing promise failed miserably.
In the end you have to give it to the politicians. At least they tried SOMETHING. When the city continuously had an unemployment rate of 24% in the '80s, putting together Autoworld, Waterstreet Pavilion, Windmill Place, and Riverbank Park were incredible achievements for a city that size.
I was born in '86 and I actually remember AutoWorld...I don't know if it's possible or not but I think my grandparents took me there once when I was about 4 or 5...I remember a carousel and the big motor thing. I've lived in Flint all my life and it's so depressing how the city seems to be dying. If only there was something to make it more vibrant...
I also worked at Autoworld for the 2 seasons they were opened. I worked in the replica of the old Bryant House Restaurant. (fine dining $25.00 to $50.00 per person) and we had to turn people away. The restaurant alone could have helped with the upkeep. Also holding weddings on the balcony, receptions and proms could have been held there. But as usual in my city of Flint the city council never has been able to see past there own bank accounts.
For you Mike Moore fans, Mr. Moore NEVER lived in Flint and wouldnt have lasted 4 hours in a plant. He grew up in a upper middle class city about 10 miles east of Flint. And where does he live now?
Again great site.
P.S. Anyone remember Safetyville in Kearsley Park?
My dad took me to Autoworld a few times, but I'm sure only because he got free media passes. At the time he was a producer at WNEM TV 5 in nearby Saginaw.
For some reason, what sticks out the most in my mind was the "spiral staircase." It must have been in the "museum" portion of the park and wasn't so much a staircase as a spiral ramp. All along the ramp on the wall were neon signs and pictures and flashy displays. As you walked upwards, you could "experience" the history of the automobile. I still have an Autoworld Christmas ornament with the Six Flags logo on it. It was given to us for free, I'm sure.
We also went to Waterstreet Pavilion. I remember a nightclub-like atmosphere and seemed to be a pretty happening place. It's kinda cool to see U of M left it structurally intact for the most part.
As for Pennywhistle Park, I went there a few times and actually have pictures of me there with my family. I attempted to take my own children back there a few years ago and was disappointed to find it closed. It may have been torn down completely since then, but at the time, it was still entact, just fenced in and overgrown with weeds and brush. Even the flags were still flapping in the breeze.
I'm now 27, and about a year ago I worked for WEYI TV 25 in Flint and found demolition footage of Autworld. What an amazing building that could have been put to good use instead of yet another parking lot.
I went to High school in Flint, Twp and I remeber Auto World and how that was about the only entertainmnent in the downtown area that stood out. I loved Imax Theater. After Auto world closed they did keep Imax theater Open for a few months after wards then they closed Imax theater. The automatrinic was ok, I think they should of talked to Disney that created the automatronic. auto world was built on the old IMA lot. one had to go via the bad area of Flint just to reach Auto world. I final moved out of Flint when I got a job offer in Anahiem,California. the one thing I always noticed that Auto world was never big enough for the crowds they was expecting. The advertisment was for a In door theme park not a museum. and I to was there on opening day and took me hours just to walk a few feet. what I do not understand is why did the city refinance autoworld at the tone of 8 million dollars more when experts said this would need to be revamped. 6 flags backed out knowing that would of hurt there reputation. I have a few neighrbors here that now works for Disneyland that use to work for Auto World and I work for Disney as well. I just found this site and to see the images of was a blast from the past. compared to the amusement parks that exixted when auto world opened they needed lot better then a big boring car engine and puppets that sang me and my buddies. auto world should of been in a better area of Flint and lot bigger. if it was advertised right it could of made it, the reports that was going around before it openeded that it was going to have a indoor roller coaster. but that never happened. when poeple hears about amusment park they think of cedar point knotts berry farm, Disneyland. Not Auto World. to the site owner if you have more images of Auto world I would love to talk to you about compensiation. as when I moved I lost all images I had of Auto world.
I MISS YOU AUTOWORLD!!!!...
If funny cause I never thought that I would find a web-page about Flint's "original" fun park. I rememer a few things about it...I was born and raised on Flint's eastside. SOBEY!!
Growing up I never really gave thought about how low graded our city was(and still is). I remember the big spiral (flat floor) staircase that had interactive information about Flint and it's automotive scenario(does anyone remember the spot where, when you pressed a button, the "old-version" movie of "The Blob"
started to play on a small t.v.)... anyway, when you reached the top, you were at the
I-MAX theater. I also remember every time I went to the I-MAX, I had to get a packet of the space dry'd ice cream(yum yum)...
oh yes! Autoworld...I am proud (even though you folded) to have been a part of your "short lived" life...
O'yea one more memory...
Being from Flint, We had (and still do!!!) the CANUSA games...For those visiting this site from Iowa or from wherever you my be...CANUSA is a sports competition where kids(from the Flint area) of all ages up to adults, compete in all kinds of sports against the Canadian pubilc of Hamilton. Every year the location would switch. This year Flint loads up the busses with people(meeting at Southwestern high school) and head to Canada to compete. Next year Canadians come here to Flint...and it would change back and forth every year...Well, one year( the last year I played in the CANUSA tournaments...We held the "BIG" after party at Autoworld...I can't remember to much about that ...all I remember is the had the dance in the area where the singing robot and the walkthrough of the cars where at...and the funny thing about that time was after the dance was done...when all the kids were walking out of the dance someone started singing and everybody started singing the same song in unision....funny, there we were both Canadians and Americans together singing "The roof, The roof, The roof is on fire...We don't need no water let the mu*#afu%@r burn..." ahh the memories...
Thank you for reading this. I hope I struck a cord in someones mind..
I too grew up in Flint (1980-1992) and remember autoworld quite vividly. It's been years since I've actually thought about Autoworld but this website has stirred up a lot of memories. The Jake Smith projected face, ferris wheel, don't forget the bumper cars and the ride w/ the collapsing junk heap. Remember?? I too remember some outside rides at one point.
A couple years ago I found an old Autoworld wallet that I had in an old box. It's made of red vinyl w/ a cartoon car on the front and the Autoworld logo on the back. It's pretty cool. I would have never known I bought it as a child......
I was in High School when Autoworld was imploded. I remember wanting to go see it for some strange reason. I didn't go however and settled for watching it on ABC12 news. What a shame. I just wish that the city could have done something w/ that awesome looking dome. I mean, there were things to do in Flint (few and far between) like the planetarium laser shows (which I heard are coming back), the sloan dinosaurs and the art museum. Flint could always use more.
Fortunately for all of us, we witnessed a part of history few have had the privelidge of viewing. Just the way I feel fortunate for having grown up in Flint. To see a place decay over the years and hear all the bad press, I take pride in being able to shed light on a dim image many people carry. From Autoworld to Pennywhistle Place, Mott Farm to Bluebell Beach and Huckleberry Railroad to ForMar.........I hope when I have kids, they'll be able to enjoy such a diverse and wonderful expirience.
Me too, have watched "Roger & Me". Flint has had it rough, boy! They tried everything to get it going again but...
Nice site . Loved the pictures and info . Well done !
My mom used to be in charge of marketing on the west side of the state for Autoworld, so I went several times. Does anyone remember the giant talking lemon? That's the only thing that sticks in my head about the crazy place.
I grew up in Flint Mi for a part of My life When I Remember Auto World it was a Joke. First thing Flint doesn't have history to have a
Museum. No one go downtown Flint Because of the Crime.
I am so happy I found your web site - I was talking to my boyfriend about Autoworld last night and remembering all the great creepy stuff they had there. I WISH it was still open - I WORSHIPED it!!! I grew up in Flint and lived there for 18 years before heading off to college. I'll never live there again but Flint was certainly good to me and my family. I wish you had MORE photos of Autoworld!!!
I also love this website and all the memories it provoked! I also remember I had my FIRST WAFFLE CONE at Autoworld and getting on on the main drag (the cobblestone path) and thinking it was all so cool! My family and I attended the grand opening day. My sister and I had matching dresses and new shoes for the big event. The governor was there and everything! Also - I worked at Pennywhistle Place from 1992-1994 and met my NOW HUSBAND working there! He was a maintenence worker at Bluebell beach at the same time. We tried to go back there for a funny wedding picture in front of it but it had just been torn down. So sad. Needless to say, I have great memories of all of it!!
I do remember going to Autoworld quite a bit, usually when going up to Frankenmuth.. The last memories I have of Autoworld was probably in the winter of 90-91.. There was a sports card shop in there, I remember spending quite a few dollars there the couple times we went there that winter.
I enjoyed the ferris wheel, and always thought the rides were cheesy. The Imax was great, I still remember the river..
Thanks for Sharing this
I was in 4th grade (10 years old) when Autoworld opened. I remember my little brother and I begging our parents to go. We must have went on opening day or close to it because I remember waiting in LONG lines. (It always seemed longer when you're a little kid.)
I remember the big ferris wheel, the singing factory worker talking about robots (and how silly it seemed even back then), the "river", the giant engine, and the IMAX theater. I remember that Speed movie too! We were just in awe by it all.
I also remember my brother and I getting out picture taken and getting some kind of dot matrix image on a felt poster. It was so high tech then (remember it was 1984 and Commadore 64 computers were hot)! I think Mom and Dad paid a small fortune for use to have it done. What's funny is a few months ago I came across that poster in my parent's basement.
Oh yeah, and it was the first time I had a waffle cone, too!
When they put it on the news that Autoworld wasn't turning a profit and would likely close, I thought in my 10 year-old mind that they were crazy - it was the most amazing place so close to home. (I have lived in Clio my entire life so excitement was hard to come by and that was the greatest thing since the Sloane Museum, Crossroads Village, and sliced bread.)
Well, needless to say, I now park in the parking lot where Autoworld once stood so I can walk to class at UM-Flint.
(Oh, and by the way, the Sloane Museum now has those creepy projected faces that turn on when you push a red button. Now my 6 year old daughter runs past them!)
I was born and raised in Rochester Hills, MI (about 40 min south of Flint) and never even knew AutoWorld existed. I lived there from 1972 - 2000 and would have been 12 when AutoWorld had its 'Grand Opening.'
I had dozens of friends and classmates in Rochester whose parents worked in the auto industry (predominantly for GM, EDS, and Truck & Bus), but never knew ANYONE who went to AutoWorld!! This strikes me as odd, because I would think if anyone went there, it would be families of those in the industry(?).
The way in which I learned of AutoWorld was by recently viewing 'Roger & Me.' I shockingly explained to my husband (from Tennessee) how I knew nothing of the concept and vowed to learn more about it. I now live in North Carolina, but remain completely nostalgic for (and relatively in tune with) dear old 'D' and its' sprawling suburbs. I never realized that once I moved from Michigan I would lose coney dogs and blue moon ice cream! But alas...
Anyway, thanks, Matty for the cool site and photos. Now I see what I missed!
I remember AutoWorld. My family took me there a few times. I vaguely remember the exhibits but it seems as if I remember the little car rides. Being the scary person that I am, I remember the terror I faced riding through the corridors. In 1985 I was about eight years old.
I remember AutoWorld. My family took me there a few times. I vaguely remember the exhibits but it seems as if I remember the little car rides. Being the scary person that I am, I remember the terror I faced riding through the corridors. In 1985 I was about eight years old.
Today my fiance and I went to the Sloan Museum in Flint. There were a few pics from AutoWorld hanging on a wall and also some giant mechanical yellow machine with an AutoWorld sticker on it. Could this have been the machine that the animatronic worker was singing to? My fiance had mentioned he went to auto world 2 times with his Dad when he was a kid. He just said it should have been marketed as a museum instead of a themepark. He said he liked it. I think maybe if they were going to market it as a amusement park they needed to stick more rides in it as well, sort of like the adventure dome in Las Vega's Circus Circus casino. I blame it on marketing. Afterall Henry Fords museum in Dearborn does rather well as a large building with cars, trains and planes in it and an IMAX theater. I personally think it would have made a great "museum" and I wish I would have been able to go. My dad is a Chrysler man himself, So I feel for failed auto industries. I met Mr. Moore when I worked at a Sam's Club in Port Huron Mi a few summers ago. He was a nice man and after I rang him up I said " your going to think I am a big dork, but will you sign this recept paper for me?" he smiled and told me "you arnt a big dork" I told him I saw "Roger and Me" in a college film class and he asked me about what I went to school for and such before he went on his way. This was shortly after he gave the "shame on you pres bush" speech at the academy awards one year. I couldnt believe no one I worked with knew who he was. Good Lord! (sorry for the poor spelling) Support American Made Cars!!!!
I do miss autoworld. What ever happened to Louise Rose, Cynthia Desgrage and Ryan Eashoo? I remember how hard they fought to save it. Its sad that it is now tore down!
I do miss autoworld. What ever happened to Louise Rose, Cynthia Desgrage and Ryan Eashoo? I remember how hard they fought to save it. Its sad that it is now tore down!
My uncle lived in Flint briefly when I was a kid and the one time we visited, we went to Autoworld. Today, I was trying to think if I'd ever been to an IMAX theater and I remembered seeing a show at Autoworld that I thought might have been one. It could have been the one mentioned about about perception of speed---all I remember is the huge screen and a part that felt like I was on a roller coaster--I almost got motion sick. Don't really remember anything else about the place. It was one of those things I'd forgotten all about.
I lived in Flint until I was 13 (Dad got tranferred to New York after Fisher Body closed), and I remember going to Autoworld in what i think would have been the summer of '84. As the 6-year old son of a car nut, I thought all the car displays and stuff were awesome. I'll have to see if i have anymore pics from inside Autoworld, the only one I know that I have is of me standing next to the stuffed bear outside the cabin.
I can't say I miss Flint, but it's been so long since I was there I find myself increasingly curious about what it is like today and its history since I left. I miss the food the most, Latina's pizza subs, Big John, Halo Burger....
Thanks for the memories...
AutoWorld rocks. Went there alot when I was kid
I haven't been to this site in quite a while. I read Kathy Ziprick's post (Feb '06) about working there - that's pretty funny, it was cold and kind of depressing during the deep winter months and we did crazy things to keep our spirits up. I remember a tropical themed employee party in January, complete with Hawian shirts and music.
To the guy who said Six Flag's didn't own it, you are correct-Six Flags was a contracted operator, who was brought in VERY late in the planning phase to help redesign and operate, we had no ownership position. However, the relationship was 'seamless' in terms of naming rights, intellectual property rights and Six Flags themepark alliances (that's why you saw Bugs Bunny). We (the SF management) made well over 250 change orders late in the building process to try to make some sense of the earlier plans and increasse the 'fun' aspect (late additions included the Ferris Wheel [which by the way was an Eli Bridge 17, only 54 feet tall-it makes me laugh when people say it was giant] and the kid's area, the entertainment package and the on-grounds shows [a SAK theatre -as seen in Disney- Madcap Mike-currently a working actor/comedian in LA, a gunfight show for the opening month of operations, a live show on the Flint River in the dome, a Dixieland band in the food court area and others]). Yes, the animatronics were weak by today's standards, but at the time, they weren't that bad. The Smith guy WAS creepy, especially if you ever in there at night with all the other lights off.
After the first 'rough' season, we tried to make it work by adding an outdoor section-a couple of smaller rides, some games, themepark food and a pretty good show called Evolution. That really didn't work either. Marketing a downtown project in a city with the second highest murder rate in the country is tough, especially when the state and city wouldn't even allow us directional signage off the interstate that didn't force out-of-towners through the roughest parts of Flint. Not a great first impression.....
Autoworld, the SS Admiral in St. Louis and the Power Plant in downtown Baltimore were all failed attempts to make indoor urban entertainment centers work. The idea WAS ahead of its time, and others learned from the mistakes-including marketing, staffing and content issues.
Autoworld was never designed to have an in-park cpacity of over 5,000 or so, but "could have" been successful in a different economic scenario- based on tax incentives, the Mott Foundation money and some good luck.
The museum/themepark combination was mandated by funding sources and local politics-that was unfortunate.
I have fond memories of Autoworld, but maybe not so many of Flint. I lived on Mason street, about 4 blocks away, in a house I tired to renovate,as a few others had done (the Nash house was at the south end of the street) to no avail. My next door neighbors sold drugs to the other neighbors and the prostitutes hung out at the corner all night in the summer and most of the night in the winter. They had a tougher job than I did.
I did, however, make some great friends there that, after 25 years, I still talk to regularly.
You know- I grew up in the Flint area (Grand Blanc) and never once got to Autoworld. It's strange, but even as a KID (we're talking a 10-year old), I knew this was concept was a bad idea. What kid is going to pick AutoWorld over, say, Cedar Point? I guess growing up around the auto industry all around Flint was just enough "auto" for me.
It makes me sad, though, that Flint has faded so terribly. I remember so many things as a kid- Windmill Place, Huckleberry Railroad, etc. and nothing seems to be around anymore. That's too bad.
in reply to Lisa post Feb 2, 2007: Yes that was the Imax movie playing at the Imax theater, after the close of Auto word the theater was still open for a few extra months after the closing of auto world, the entrance was outside of auto world so was a small box office the build just for the Imax theater. What gets me is all the Millions spent on Auto world and then the refinancing of auto world, me and a group sat down and drafted a complete idea that would work for auto world, we tried to submit it to the city council that refused to look at it. I still think that if they did a complete entertainment complex, i.e. Skating rink, shopping, eating, movies, arcade, a few rides, but not marketing as an amusement park or museum instead market it like Mall of America, and rent space out to merchants, that would of worked. but then city council only wanted to out a Millions dollar lose behind them and agreed to give the property to UM flint at no cost. with the UM flint condition that the city tears down Auto world before the property is transferred. The city did that to Water street pavilion as well.
I didn't care for Autoworld at all, I thought it was a ridiculous idea from the beginning. What I miss the most is the IMA Auditorium, it was a great place for concerts and events in downtown Flint. It was more of a loss when the IMA Auditorium became part of Autoworld than when Autoworld was imploded.
I miss the old AutoWorld, kudo's to Cynthia Desgrange,Louise Rose and Ryan Eashoo. They fought hard to save that old building, but the wrecking ball had its day....
I worked at AutoWorld the first season it opened. I remember the hype and the excitement of being chosen to work there. Yes, I believe it was marketed wrong, the theme park idea was not even close. I remember it as a museum on steroids with bright lights. If it was billed as a futuristic museum, it may have been better recieved. I am personally thankful for AutoWorld, it started my career in food service. It was my first real job, and I started at the bottom. As a busser, then host, server, dishwasher, and finally a cook in the Byrant House Resturant. It planted a seed and now I serve as an Excutive Chef for an upscale retirement village. So it was not a complete failure to help the unemployed. I also remember the after hours employee parties, the halloween party attended by every child in Flint, and other special events. It was a great place for your first job. Young people wanting to succeed. Hopefully, I was not the only one.
I never went to Auto World, but spent several happy summer days with my kids at Penny Whistle Place. We did a Google search for it to see if it still existed. Sorry that it's gone! My daughter was telling her kids about how much fun we used to have there. . . and I still have free admission tickets that were given to us when my husband found a man's wallet and someone else's car keys in the ball pit.
Oh man! I found your site while I was looking for info on Pennywhistle Place. I live in Flint, and have all my life. I barely remember autoworld. And after reading other peoples sotries I am not sure if I ever even saw it in it's glory or if maybe I only ever walked past it once it was already closed. I had a tshirt though, I remember that! So maybe I went to that 'grand closing' event that you mentioned. I was born in eighty one so I was a little young to remember.Anyway I had no idea what ever became of Pennywhistle and read in one comment that it closed a few years ago. I am so sad! I have kids of my own now that I wanted to take there. Some of the most fun I had as a kid was had there! Oh well, I'll have to find a new place to make their memories. Flint still has a few fun places...right??
I remember Autoworld quite well. I was in High School at the time (Grand Blanc). I remember the animatronics and the large colorful engine displays with cut-aways to reveal the inner workings. I also remember it as quite boring (I was a teanager); it had no really good rides (Cedar Point was only a few hours ride away - they had rides!), mostly displays. I remember thinking how lousy it would have been for a family to travel from a long distance to see it and be so disappointed. I'm glad to see from the postings that not everyone was disappointed!
I also remember them trying live entertainment - seems like it was college students performing songs outdoors - this was close to it closing. Anyone else remember that?
I was born and raised in Flint and have the joy??? to say I still work downtown. I remember all of the places named in the comments. Autoworld, Safetyville, Sloan Musem, Halo Burger and Penny Whistle. Windmill Place was downtown along with WaterStreet Pavillion. Water Street had some great clubs and also had an outdoor skating rink which was only opened for a year or two. I remember when Autoworld opened because I was working at Advance Electric across the street from the Park. We were told to come in on Saturdays and Sundays to make sure those people who parked in our lot Paid for parking. We were quite busy for the first 3 weeks and then after that....nothing. I also had a sister that worked at AutoWorld and let us in for free. She remembers meeting Donny and Marie Osmond who were brought in for the big opening day ceremony. My biggest memory of the place was how every time I was on a ride, it seemed to be malfunctioning somehow. No sound or stopping in the middle of the ride. Not much left downtown. Windmill place has closed up, Old Hyatt is for sale again and Water Street is trying to stay open as the U of M pavillion. They are trying hard to make it a College town. Hope they succeed!!
I worked at Six Flags Auto World (yes, it was still called that) during the Summer of 1985. Worked three different places during my time there: Outside at one of the kiddie rides, inside cleaning up towards the evening, then running another ride later in the summer. I still remember some of my impressions of the place:
1:That display about the future of automobile assembly creeped me out. I could see this "country hick" singing about his buddy while the buddy (a robotic arm) had only thoughts about tearing him into pieces and giving his job to another robot/friend.
2: The ride about the old cars and the troubles they were was fun, especially with the dignified "talking horse" having his fun at the expense of the people and their ramshackle automobiles. Later on, the ride was ruined when they replaced the voice-over with another that had a country-hick accent and went for the cheap jokes.
3: The "wonderwall" was interesting, though a pain in the ass to clean up. My favorite place on that was the 1950's Drive-In Movie section, where you pressed a button and watched the last 10 minutes of "The Blog."
It was also there that a behind-the-scenes worker introduced me to local music. Guilty Bystanders, Political Silence, 11:55 and many other groups from Flint, Lansing and other places would come out of my tape decks for years afterwards.
Miss it? Hardly. Everyone there understood that Autoworld was living more on hope and inertia than actual popularity and profitability. And sadly, things have gotten worse. Name another city whose tallest building is vacant. I can't.
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I was about 10, or 11 when autoworld opened, I lived in Flint all of my life. The only time I went there was during one of the seasonal openings after it was closed. The best thing about autoworld was the exterior.
I worked at Autoworld in 1984 and have very fond memories of my time there it was truly a great time ! I don't know if anyone remembers Dr.Droid the robot but I was he for that wonderful year ! It was a great time and I was heart broken when it ended ,as I loved being that crazy robot ! I wonder if anyone has any pictures of him ? I left Mi shortly after and worked for Universal and Disney , alas nothing was ever as fun ! Tim Macy was a great boss and I saw him years ago @ Universal , to bad it had to end and we all had to move on I loved Autoworld and Flint was home , I left as it was so hard to watch the city decay. And even though I hate Michael Moore I catch myself watching Roger And Me just to see Autoworld . Thanks guys for the memories .
I remember going to Autoworld when I was about 5 years old. I remember the V-6 engine spinning around and the ferris wheel. It must not have been too exciting there. I remember more vividly my dad racing my uncle down the express way (dad's 1977 RS Nova with a 400 ci small block vs. my uncle's 1980's Sunbird with the turbo).
It's so great to read these comments about Flint. I worked at Buick Motor Division long before it was called the "city" and watched Flint try the revitalization. It included not only Autoworld, but Windmill Place (an apartment complex right across the st from AW) that boasted farm windmills. (We all wondered who would live there). There was restaurants on the corner west of AW that we used to frequent at lunch, everything made of brick. There was a skating rink at the Waterstreet Pavilion, so beautiful when I saw skaters there. But budget woes killed Flint from the loss of GM jobs, soon the rink sat dry and empty, AW-well we went there once, but we lived the auto daily and we didn't need to go to a museum to see it. Early 80's I recall a mini-recession time in Flint although I was never placed on layoff. I saw Bob Seger at the IMA Auditorium and my graduation ceremony was in that building in 1976. It seems like it took a bit to take it down. Tough beautiful building with character. Not to change the subject, but Farmer's Market in Flint was so awesome even til I moved to Lansing in 1999 (after Buick closed). I remember going there when I couldn't even see over the produce tables, best market I've been in to this day-and if Andy still sells those yummy turkey sandwiches-well I miss Flint so much. There were the old theaters, so beautiful, I saw Love Story in 74 I think, such a soppy film, the theater was packed and women were sobbing, statuettes near the curtains and stars in the heavens-don't even know if it was Capitol or Palace but those were theaters. Flint was culture by itself- from the Mott's, from GM and from blue collar people who wanted to improve their lives, not like Lansing where culture stems strictly from the college. There was the DeWaters Art Institute, the Flint Public Library with excellent archives, the ball on the bank that told the weather by its colors : ) and Peerless furniture with the beautiful elves wall next to Halo Burgers-used to be Qewpees (spelling may be wrong). Oh yeah Flint up to the 1980's was a great town to be from. I'm not ashamed to be from Flint, even when people disparage it now. I wish people could see how good it used to be. It is sad to see a grand old city decline.
It wasn't really a matter of sneaking into Autoworld on that day as it was walking through the door. The displays that were left at Autoworld by the time I visited it were about as exciting as those at the Sloan Museum which is probably where Autoworld sent their stuff. I'm just glad they left Jacob Smith behind. When Matt told me they had animatronics at Autoworld, I was thinking something like Disney or at least Showbiz Pizza. The projection of a sepia face onto a flat mannequin head is truly a unique experience. Visiting Autoworld in its last days was truly sad.
Sounds like Jack is a little bitter and misses his old city. I love Flint. I have lived downtown for two years now. I love it. ZERO crime problems for me. I think a grocery store will be a nice addition to a wonderful place to live.
I went to see the Imax movies a few times after AutoWorld itself had closed. One thing I thought was odd - Flint being a GM town- When you walked up that spiral ramp with the auto history murals, the peak of the muscle car era was the 69 Charger Datona.... a Dodge!
I also remember Water Street Pavilion. I was working for a downtown computer shop in the early 90's. We moved into the second floor for the last few months the place was open before being closed and transfered to UM-Flint. The Flint Journal described WaterStreet as "a chrome and glass starship dropped into downtown Flint". I took that to heart and made a computer animation of the place - complete with warp drive - flying in space. Pretty crappy by todays standards, but it amused a few passers-by back then, ;-)
I went to Autoworld once during it's run and afterwords walked to Waterstreet Pavilion for a snack.For that brief period of time,the city of Flint was actually on the verge of a comeback.Even at night, all the downtown areas were packed with people. A co worker and myself used to drive 20 minutes just to have lunch at Windmill Place.Based on that brief 2 year period, I can't help wondering if the concept of a theme park had been more thoroughly thought out,would Flint still be as bustling as it was during the Autoworld run?
I remember going to Autoworld with my father for a father's day outing with the Salvation Army Monroe, MI corps. It was one of many memories that I have of my father that I cherish today. I remember riding the cars in the museum and seeing an IMAX for the first time. Wow, what a great time. The most vivid memory I have was a strawberry pie eating contest they were having. And yes, I entered and won, a most appropriate red teeshirt that said I won this teeshirt at AUTOWORLD. While I agree its life was much too short, it sure provided me some of the best memories of me and my father. I may have been much older than most were when they went, "I was 24", but it was a great piece of history to see and experience.
If anyone would like photos of Auto World Let Me Know!
I was the chief photographer for Flint Area Newspapers and did a photo story of the Building of Auto World. I quit the Paper to move to Florida and before I left was a Security Office for Six Flags Autoworld. Any past employees or just fans wanting photos let me know. Had a lot of friends, Love to hear from them.
What a waste it was a nice building .They did so much to preserve the old IMA building Then they distroyed it.
That kind of thinking is what killed Flint and GM.
AUTOWORLD!!! FLINT!! I STILL LOVE YA....even if I do live in the great state of Florida now!Autoworld just brings back`memories of my childhood in the city of Flint in the 80's...Flint will be back...you can never keep a good thing down!!
I remmber going when i was young .iwas born when it open and i went there when i was in first grad, and i liked it and what i been saying for the past year why did they rip it down. if it was bad you could of add better things it for the years when new things got better and it could of been good for flint. there is not one fun place in flint town ship,that why it losing money .and i thank that why auto would should of stayed or moved to a better location, we could of mad it better and funner.
I was one of the first staff hired when the offices were in the old Genesee Towers building in Flint. I was the Retail Operations secretary to Ronnie Sheckels and Mike Southern. Tim Macy - I've seen your posts on here and often wondered what happened to you!! Yes it was sad that Autoworld did not make it - it needed the support of the local people but really didn't give people much incentive to return once they had seen it. I do have to say though that it was the best job I ever had, I met the best people from the Six Flags parks across the USA, and we worked hard to keep that place open. My kids knew the place inside and out...they loved it!! I have tons of pictures from our parties, the filming of the ads wherein staff members and their kids participated, I met Marie Osmond and her kids, a few soap stars along the way, and just have very fond memories of working for Six Flags. To this day, I can call ahead to any Six Flags park and have comp tickets waiting for me...if one of our staff still happens to work there...so that is one of the perks. My husband works as a pipefitter and was also instrumental in the construction of the project. It was sad that all that money was poured into it only to be demolished 10 yrs later..what a waste! I remember our retail staff along with Jewel, our personnel director, Tom Major, Cheryl, Brenda Miller, and many others. I was literally the last administrative person out the door...I was asked to stay on (other than a maintenance man and security)by Bridget Ryan of the Flint Renaissance Corp. to manage and close the park after Six Flags left. I tell you, the day Tom Majors called us altogether to tell us our fate was the saddest day...there were a lot of tears shed as we had all made such an effort to keep that place going. If anyone of you former employees out there should see this, write me!! I'd love to hear from you.
I hated auto world and I was pretty stoked when they tore it down. That ride that they had with the creepy robots in it still gives me nightmares.
What a horrible idea for a theme park. I still wish they would have turned it into a casino.
Interesting posts. I too enjoyed all Autoworld had to offer- bumper cars, Hilarious History of Automobility, etc. but NONE of you can best my top 3 Autoworld experiences, each of which occurred AFTER it closed.
3) Rape and pillage. In 1994 we ransacked the outside grounds of Autoworld repeatedly crashing the enormous "steam car" model into a retired DDA cruiser. We left with tons of “memorabilia” and photos too.
2) Sex in Autoworld. A lady friend and I waltzed right in one of the big garage doors during an auto show held there around 1995. The coitus took place amid some moon rocks where the lunar buggy exhibit stood.
1) Autoworld’s final tour. I was perhaps the last civilian inside of Autoworld. The morning of the implosion 3 pals and I tore down the fence on the riverside and walked right through one of the holes created by the demolition crew. We sent a few of Jacob Smith’s canoes over Hamilton Dam, dodged the cops, and went home only to be awaken, hung-over as all hell, by the waves created by the demo.
I know readers might have a beef with this, but tough nuts. The truth can sometimes be uglier than a 3 story tall car engine.
Okay, I performed at AUTOWORLD. I was working with Gene Patrick Productions and after working at Marriott's Great America in Gurnee, Illinois, we rehearsed several shows in San Jose, CA and then took them to AUTOWORLD in 1985. I was in a country music review that was performed outside under a tent while people ate hot dogs and pretzels. This was a quartet show and the "highlight" was when we brought little kids up on the stage to sing GRANDMA'S FEATHERBED. Then I was in the Looney Toons show inside on a stage in the main building. I got to wear the head of Foghorn Leghorn and have kids grab onto my 20 pound tail, which was harnessed to me under my Foghorn body--which caused endless back pain. But when I got up enough strength, I would whip the tail back and forth and the little ones would go sailing. Then I was in a really cool show which took place in a tented theatre built specifically for the Evolution of Rock show. We drove a Mustang on stage, and I got to play Elvis, one of the Beach Boys, Boy George, etc. The fun thing was that I was 18/19 years old and traveling the country doing these shows. I got paid, I got laid, I made some friends and I frankly wonder whatever became of some of the Michigan folks that I crossed paths with. Lisa Giles, Dale Crandell, Christian Wilhelm, and more. I felt like a young star coming to Flint and rehearsing in a suite at the Hyatt--I think that's the hotel right downtown. I stayed there for several nights until our merry band, most from California, found housing. Are there any more folks who visit this site who remember live entertainment at AUTOWORLD? The place was never crowded so we had a lot of time to ride the ferris wheel and eat and just tool around the place.
I went to Autoworld once during it's run and afterwords walked to Waterstreet Pavilion for a snack.For that brief period of time,the city of Flint was actually on the verge of a comeback.Even at night, all the downtown areas were packed with people. A co worker and myself used to drive 20 minutes just to have lunch at Windmill Place. that was very nice.
I still have photos my parents took of me when I was 5 standing next to the water wheel and riding the ferris wheel at Auto World. As a current student at UofM-Flint (in the White building) I am reminded daily of what once stood where our parking lot is now. It's a shame, it could of been a great place for a museum, the building itself was unlike anything I had ever seen.
where is jack slater? Loved his comments on Flint.
I lived in Flint during my childhood. I consider it my hometown though I have moved many times since then. When I lived in Rochester Hills, I visited Auto World - mostly to view the car museum. I was in my thirties. I was not disappointed. Regarding the "cheesy" rides - as people grow up, I would hope that they consider some of the entertainment of their childhood that they once enjoyed a little "cheesy". Though it didn't work out, it should be recognized that many of the folks behind Auto World had good intentions. Clearly, the bulk of this was funded by the taxpayer. But many unsolicited private donations were also made by individuals, educational institutions, businesses and other organizations that clearly believed in Flint. I would like to add my respect and appreciation for their efforts - though they didn't pan out. At least somebody tried something. The (failed) effort was noble but hopefully some people will benefit by learning something about what doesn't quite work - objectively. My summary: nice try, so sorry it didn't work.
I grew up some miles outside of Flint, and I remember AutoWorld and Pennywhistle Place opening up while I was in Middle School. Of course, I was too cool to act like I wanted to go (even though I did), so my parents never took me to either one. Instead, I was subjected to yearly visits to Huckleberry Railroad and Crossroads Village for some odd reason.
When I went to U of M-Flint, AutoWorld was closed most of the time. I think they were only open seasonally around that time ('89-'90), and they would let us use the AutoWorld parking lot as overflow parking. In the winter, it was a cold, scary walk to take at 7:00 in the morning. It got to the point where I would get to campus around 6 just so I made sure I had a parking spot in the actual U of M lots. Between classes, my friends and I would sometimes go for lunch at Water Street Pavillion or WIndmill Place, and for some reason we all kind of had this odd aversion to AutoWorld. Like the place was haunted or something. We would drive past it and shudder, like there was just some communal bad memory that was attached to the place.
But then again, things were just falling apart in Flint at that time. I remember hanging around at the Capitol Theater a few days before they knocked the building across the street from it down. There was some guy taking pictures of the building, and we got into a discussion with him about Urban Decay and all that kind of thing. I remember he kind of jokingly said that it was "the way of the future" for the city. But none of us really laughed.
I moved away that next Christmas, and I went back a few times to visit friends and family in the area, and I pointed it out to my then-girlfriend once, "That's AutoWorld. Behold the Great Dinosaur of Flint." She asked what it was, and the only thing I could say was, "a good intention gone horribly wrong."
A few years back, just after they demolished it, I was having dinner with my parents. My mom told us that she heard they knocked it down, and my father said, "It's about time. If you ask me, they knocked it down ten years too late." He's a displaced GM worker from the area now working for GM Powertrain out here in New York, and he's always been a bit bitter about AutoWorld for some reason.
I guess I just don't have the nostalgia that others have towards the place being turned into a parking lot for U of M, since that's all it really was when I was there.
I met Michael Moore once in a local restaurant back when "Roger & Me" was just about to be released. My friends and I talked to him for a few minutes. He seemed an okay kind of guy. He didn't try plugging his movie or anything to us, even though it was only a couple of weeks until the big release.
I think the only time I ever saw the AutoWorld parking lot full was during the Jazz Festival back in 1990.
I never got to go to the initial opening of AutoWorld being that I was born in 1987. Although I was born in flint at st. Joseph's ( which was coincidentally demolished and a college building was built where it once stood) and I do remember going there at least once in the early nineties. To be perfectly honest I don't even remember what it looked like and the pictures of it don't seem familiar at all. But what I do remember is my grandmother taking me on a huge Ferris wheel, the thing looked like the biggest thing I'd ever seen. For some reason the Ferris wheel stopped, as they sometimes do, and we were at the very top when It so happened to stop. From up there I could see out one of the skylights on the roof and we could see our car in the parking lot. That's really all I can remember about it.
Thank you for sharing all the pictures from autoworld!
I remember going to AutoWorld as a kid and having a blast. I miss this old Flint Treasure! I also reemeber working with Cynthia Desgrange and Ryan Eashoo to Save that building without luck....
I worked there in 1984 as the bass singer in the barbershop quartet called Harmony Gritz. Those were the days ~
I remember the Ferris Wheel because it's when I figure out I was terrified of heights :) I graduated from UofM in 2003, and I always thought it would be cool if the University would have kept the building - how neat would it have been to have classes in such a relic! I always thought the building was neat. I worked at the university and at the cultural center until earlier this year, and a lot my friends were quite a bit younger than me, and they don't remember Autoworld - heard of it, but never went to it, nor did they realize that the building where everyone took their Business classes sat in the very spot where Autoworld once stood. It was fun to sit on the first floor by the south doors discussing the Ferris Wheel, which most likely stood where the Alma Magna room is now (did I spell that right? not sure)....I will never forget the near panic attack I had on the ferris wheel as a 6 year old... :)
Thanks for posting. I'm watching Roger and Me and am interested in the deindustrialization of Michigan in general. It must be a weird feeling having the cities/state working in reverse-Shrinking.
Thanks again for posting.
My high school boyfriend dressed up in a character outfit. I remember Autoworld pretty well. Too bad is had to go south.
I remember going to auto-world shortly after it opened. It was truly a monument to Detroit's engineering prowess at the time. Any of you who remember the Chevy Citation or Ford Pinto will appreciate what I mean. The rides were perennially broken, the lines were long and the attractions were second rate.
Sure, it had robots and animatronics. Which were powered by the same technology which was putting people out of work at the time.
The seeds of the domestic auto industry's current problems were sown at the same time.
I remember Autoworld as if it was yesterday. My Grand-dad worked for Buick and I was so excited when he offered to take me there. I was about seven years old when my sister Lesley and I saw that awesome Ferris wheel for the first time. I still dream about it sometimes. It may sound corny, but it's totally true. Thanks for taking me back! Things like this and Pennywhistle Place really remind me of the Michigan I want for my own children. Thanks again:)
Thanks for posting this. I remember going to Autoworld's ribbon-cutting ceremony. They passed out green Autoworld flags, and we all waved them -- it was quite an exciting & hopeful day.
I loved going to AutoWorld! It was the best place in Flint to go and have fun.
I remember Autoworld and visited it several times when it first opened. I was a teenager and had just got my drivers license and my buddys and I drove up a few times from Detroit. We thought it was pretty cool.. Personally, I really don't see why it didn't succeed, but then again I'm a life-long 'gearhead' and a theme park dedicated to the automobile is a dream come true to me... LOL!
I now live and work in the Flint area and it would really be nice to see a new industries come into Flint and give this town the jumpstart (no pun intended) that it needs so badly. I was just downtown today and thought what a pretty city this really could be if people would get over the past and embrace the future. Only time will tell....
I grew up in Grand Blanc, and I remember going to Autoworld with the GB Middle School choir several times during holiday seasons to sing in the room with the giant motor. As it turned around and around, there was a super shiny bit that always caught the light in a brilliant, mesmerizing flash.
Except for SPEED! in the IMAX, I'm afraid it was all horribly boring to a "tweenage" girl. But thank you very much for having this information out on the web!
I worked at AutoWorld from 1984 to 1990. I started out in food service at the Paris Ice Cream shop making the waffle cones in 84. We had a good group of folks and had a lot of fun there. Man, was it a hot job though, for an Ice Cream shop, the air conditioning was virtually non-existent. On our breaks, we would go sit in the walk in cooler next door at the Riverside Cafe. After that first summer, I moved down to the Saw Mill and made funnel cakes that first Christmas.
During the 85 season, I worked as a cashier and then as an assistant lead (manager). When the park closed, I was able to come back the summer of 86 and spent the summer cleaning things up, it took us a couple of weeks to clean the carpet in the Rotunda (where the big engine was)... I was fortunate to get involved wtih the IMAX theater run and ended up working into a Security position after that until I left in 1990 for Grand Rapids and a full time (real, make a living) job. I grew up in a suburb west of Flint. This job afforded me the opportunity to interact with people from all different walks of life and backgrounds. It was a great learning experience that set a foundation for me. While looking at the previous posts, I recognize some of the former employees like Becky, Jeff, Tim, and Steve.
I have many fond memories from my time there. While I was working the Security job, since there were no activites and a new buyer was being sought, we worked alone. We basically were there to turn on the heat in the winter and monitor the building alarms and such. While the park was not huge by most standards, 300,000 square feet, at night, except for very few lights, it was DARK. With any building, there are creaks and groans as it heats up, cools off, etc and making rounds at night could be a bit creepy. Rounds included all areas; dome, basement, behind the scenes of the rides, etc. I did enjoy the winter nights when the city was quiet and the snow would fall, just a great time to sit and think about things.
I was fortunate to meet some great people, unfortunatley, except for a few, I have lost contact with most. I wonder from time to time whatever happened to those that I worked with. Recently, I was going through some boxes and found some of my AutoWorld stuff like name tags, a "care card", some key chains, and such.
The concept and timing just wasn't right, still it was bittersweet the day of implosion. I made it back to town to see it, spent time remembering the good times and glad to see that something useful (new building for U-M) was going to happen on the site. I would not have traded my AutoWorld experiences for anything.
I remember riding the ferris wheel with my brothers. There was a fight with some other boys on the car in back of us. Then when we got off the ferris wheel one of them punched my brother in the eye and ran off. I remember that creepy ride upstairs, it was like one of those carnival rides that goes through a tunnel and it didn't work very well, the car got stuck halfway through. I remember when it closed then opened again. I also remember later when it was some offices in there in the early 90s. I was working as a courier and made some deliveries there and remember that indoor stream was still there. I also remember all the exhibits and the IMAX theatre was really cool. Flint really is an interesting place in its own way, but I'm glad I don't live there anymore.
I grew up in Grand Rapids and I remember visiting AutoWorld back in 1984. My memories are a little fuzzy as I was around 10 at the time, but I remember the dark ride with the animatronic horse and another dark ride that was about race cars or something. I remember the bigh hinkin' engine and I think I have a photo of me on the carousel somewhere. I also remember the animatronic band that was in one area. One of the characters would actually talk to various guests. I remember getting to talk to him and I think I have a picture of that animatronic as well.
I thought AutoWorld was kind of neat in a kitschy way. Wish there was more information available online. I've mentioned the park to people over the years and they looked at me like I was crazy because they had never heard of it. Now I can at least prove I'm not crazy because it did exist.
Sadly, I was only 9 in 1984 and when my family went I was too young to really remember much of it these days. I never even would have remembered it if someone hadn't mentioned it in a post I read recently on the forum I belong to. I know we had some old photos, but here in Midland, MI, we had a big flood in the 80's and all our stuff was destroyed in a storage warehouse while we lived in Germany for a few years, so I have nothing to contribute :(
I wish I could remember it though, the pictures didn't help bring back any memories either, so I guess I must not have been too impressed by it :/
What happened to Cynthia DesGrange? She was involved in saving this building and Students For A Better Community.
Hey. Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so.
I am from Congo and too poorly know English, give true I wrote the following sentence: "In dirt cheap airline tickets to inquiries addressed portugal claim to."
8) Thanks in advance. Salvatore.
I thought AutoWorld was kind of neat in a kitschy way. Wish there was more information available online. I've mentioned the park to people over the years and they looked at me like I was crazy because they had never heard of it. Now I can at least prove I'm not crazy because it did exist.
I think about AutoWorld every now and then and ask people if they remember it. I actually stated to think I dreamed it up. Then I realized that there would probably be some information on the great internet....and TADA!!!! I always tell people, it was about cars and there were anamatronics, and they don't have a clue. Thank you for preserving this great memory. If Autoworld was open in 1984, then I was 7 years old!!!
This was a great post. My mom was the public relations officer for the mayor of Flint at the time Autoworld opened. I too was seven years old and I spent a lot of time in that building when it opened because of my mother's position in the city government.
I was thinking about AutoWorld and Water Street Pavillion and all of these failed projects of my childhood. They were such big deals back then. I think Roger and Me came out the same year AutoWorld opened. I remember going to a theater with my mom to watch it before it was released. I can laugh at it now, but I can remember my mom not being to happy about it.
Anyhow, thanks for the memories Autoworld. Flint will never be the same.
I am a reporter for The Flint Journal, working on a story about the 25th anniversary of AutoWorld. If you have memories of the park, please call me direct at (810) 766-6317. I may use your comments in a story and won't keep you long.
You can also e-mail me at email@example.com