American Motors Corporation Headquarters is an abandoned factory building in Detroit, Michigan. The AMC building didn’t always stand desolate, ravaged, and silent. It was designed by Amedeo Leoni, who designed the new facilities, which included offices, a three-story factory and power plant.
You might be surprised to learn that American Motors old headquarters is still standing, given that the company itself ceased to exist years ago. The American Motors Corporation building in Detroit actually remained in operation until 2009, when Chrysler (which bought AMC in 1987) moved the final 900 employees to offices in Auburn Hills, a Detroit suburb.
History of AMC Headquarters in Detroit
The American Motor Corporation (AMC) began as an appliance producer known as the Kelvinator Corporation. Founded in 1916 by Nathanial Wales, the company manufactured refrigerators and other household appliances. They released the first refrigerator in 1925. As the company’s operations grew, a new factory and headquarters complex was constructed on Plymouth Road in 1927.
Designed by Amedeo Leoni, the plant included an office complex in the front, a three-story factory, and a power plant in the rear. Above the main entrance was inscribed a After 10 more years of growth, the company further expanded and merged with automaker Nash Motors, becoming Nash-Kelvinator. quote from Lord Kelvin, namesake of the company – “I’ve thought of a better way.”
Kelvinator merged with auto manufacturer Nash Motors in 1937 to become Nash-Kelvinator Corporation. After the merger, in 1940, the building complex was enlarged to 1.46 million square feet on a 57-acre plot of land. This addition brought the total square footage of the plant to 1.46 million on 57 acres, and also made it possible to increase production during World War II.
During the Second World War, the Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation was making helicopters for the Army. When they couldn’t satisfy demand, Nash-Kelvinator was brought on as a contractor, and did final assembly work at the Plymouth Road plant. Due to design changes, production was delayed until 1944, but 262 helicopters were finished at the AMC building in Detroit.
In 1954, Nash-Kelvinator would merge again, this time with Hudson Motors, forming the American Motors Corporation. After the merger, appliance production was moved to other facilities as the Plymouth Road plant focused on research and design for AMC’s auto manufacturing.
Though AMC struggled initially with many product lines from the companies it had acquired, by 1960 the company was selling 486,000 cars a year, including the Rambler, Ambassador, and Metropolitan models. Later models included the AMX, Javelin, Hornet, and Gremlin. The Kelvinator appliance unit was sold of by AMC in 1968, but the company kept their headquarters on Plymouth until 1973, when they announced that they would be moving to a new building in Southfield, a suburb of Detroit.
As AMC moved from Detroit, other automakers were also beginning to leave the city. Detroit Mayor Coleman Young was so frustrated that he had urged residents of the city to no longer buy AMC vehicles.
The move was completed in 1975, and the Plymouth Road complex became AMC’s engineering headquarters until Chrysler bought out the company in 1987, mainly for it’s popular Jeep line of trucks and utility vehicles.
The buy-out came as a result of AMC’s massively popular Jeep line.The Plymouth Road complex became the Jeep and Truck Engineering Center and employed over 3,000 people throughout its offices and plant. It saw designs like the Dodge Ram pickup and the Jeep Grand Cherokee become a reality.
A large section of the American Motors Headquarters building that was no longer used was leased to Borman Food Stores during the 1990s. The offices were renovated several times over the years, and new facilities including a fitness center and cafeteria were built.
In 1996, as the complex neared 70 years old, Chrysler was planning to move many of their employees out to a new research and design center in Auburn Hills. Chrysler went bankrupt in 2007 as the global economy slipped into recession. As part of the reorganization of its operations, many of its older facilities were liquidated.
On June 5th 2009, following Chrysler’s bankruptcy, the last remaining employees were transferred out of the AMC building in Detroit. After leaving, the former American Motors Headquarters building was put up for sale. It sold in 2010 for 2.3 million dollars.
AMC building in Detroit eventually ended up in the hands of Terry Williams, a businessman who announced he wanted to convert the former factory into a treatment center for kids with autism. However, in 2012 Williams violated the Clean Air Act when he hauled tons of scrap metal from the American Motors Headquarters building after tearing apart the entire 1940s addition.
After Williams returned to prison in July 2013, the complex was seized by the courts for unpaid property taxes and has remained abandoned. Since 2013, the AMC building in Detroit has sat vacant, becoming a site for illegal activity and developing into an eyesore. It was announced on December 9, 2021 that the vacant American Motors Building along Plymouth Road will be demolished.