By Jerry Windle
If there is such a thing as a true “one-of-a-kind” piece of Ford memorabilia, then the Foundation now has it inside the Phase I building in Auburn.
What is it? It’s THE original sign that stood outside the famous Ford Rotunda in Dearborn!
How the Foundation was able to acquire the sign is quite a story in itself.
(Click here to see some 75 Rotunda images on Fordimages.com.)
But first, some historical background.
The sign stood outside the rotunda displaying announcements of ongoing exhibits and presentations. When the fire destroyed the Rotunda in 1962, the sign went untouched, but was useless since the decision was made not to rebuild.
Enter Larry Jerome of Jerome-(Dick) Duncan Ford in Sterling Heights, Michigan. Larry bought the sign from Ford to use at his dealership in Rochester, Michigan. However, he sold the dealership before he had a chance to install it. He then decided to use it at his dealership in Utica, Michigan but by then the sign didn’t conform to the then new Ford corporate identity sign program.
So, he donated it to the Utica Community School system, removed the Ford symbols and inserted Utica community symbols like the Lions Club, Kiwanis, Jaycees, etc., and it stood for years along Van Dyke Rd. telling passers-by of school and community events. The sign served Utica well for over six years. Eventually it went into storage.
Enter another group that wanted to restore the sign, update it with electronic sign equipment so it could return to public service. However, for a variety of reasons, that didn’t happen.
In 2010, Dick Duncan called Foundation Trustee Emeritus Jerry Windle with an idea. He felt the sign should go to the Early Ford V-8 Foundation and wanted permission to pursue that possibility with the group that owned the sign. Dick had worked with the Foundation several years back picking up and delivering various memorabilia items.
Jerry called then Foundation President Jerry Vincentini who moved the project to the highest priority, not wanting to lose this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. In the following weeks, the deal was made and a gang of volunteers including Jerry Vincentini, with Trustees Ron Stauffer and Lynn Ewing made the trip to Dearborn to retrieve this beast.
Since then we have finished the restoration, thanks to the hard work of several members and the donations of many generous people and organizations.
Since the Phase II building will contain a reproduction of the Rotunda, Trustees felt what better way to top it off than with THE original Rotunda sign. Initial plans are to place the sign at the entrance to the Foundation Museum to promote activities in and around the museum.Home
Thanks to all that made this possible. It truly is that “one-of-a-kind” Piece of Ford memorabilia.