A couple of weeks ago, SEMA, the automotive aftermarket trade association, held one of its “town hall” meetings in a facility known internally as Roush Building No. 12. That’s Roush as in Roush Enterprises, Roush Performance, Roush Engineering, Roush Industries, Roush Racing and who knows what else is included in the business empire headed by Jack Roush that’s now celebrating its 40th anniversary.
And that’s No. 12 as in the 12th building bearing the Roush corporate ID, signage that was just added to Building No. 91 in this still-growing empire.
For the past 18 years, Building No. 12 has been home to what now is known as the Roush Automotive Collection, where Jack Roush and his children store some of the vehicles they own.
“My dad has never been a car collector of cars he hasn’t had a connection to,” Jack Roush Jr. said as the SEMA session was getting underway.
Revisiting the museum, Jack Jr., continued, “For me, it’s like walking around and seeing our personal family story.”
Fortunately, the Roush family shares that story with visitors — and at no cost, well, not unless you shop in the museum’s well-stocked gift shop.
The museum, located in Livonia just west of Detroit, usually is open weekdays from 9:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. As many as 15,000 people a year visit, many of them when the collection stages open houses on the Thursdays before the NASCAR racing weekends at nearby Michigan International Speedway. Those open-house events include autograph sessions featuring the Roush Fenway team’s NASCAR drivers.
Cars in the collection range from Roush race cars to those that Roush family members have entered in The Great Race, the annual cross-country rally for vintage vehicles, and from prototypes to the vintage Mercury Comet that Roush’s youngest daughter, Patricia, selected as a college graduation present.
The cars on display change frequently. For example, the re-creation of a 1941 Ford U.S. Army Air Corps staff car on display when we visited on SEMA night already was on its way a few days later to the annual Experimental Aircraft Association show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, when we checked back with collection archivist and curatorial assistant Tyler Wolfe for some additional details while writing captions on some of the vehicles.
And Jack Roush’s father’s vintage Ford tractor often is pressed into snowplowing duties during winter months.
If you visit the collection (see the website for details, and call or email ahead to make sure the museum isn’t closed for a private function), be sure to look up as well as at the cars. Mounted high on a wall between the two big showroom spaces is what remains of the fuselage and other parts of the experimental aircraft in which Jack Roush nearly died when he plummeted into a lake in Alabama in 2002.
After all, flying — especially in WWII-era P-51 Mustangs — is a big part of Roush’s life, and the collection is here to help tell the family story.
Photos by Larry Edsall