DETROIT -- The way dealer Jim Seavitt sees it, he won't have a whole lot to worry about if Ford Motor Co. demands that dealers improve their facilities to cookie-cutter design blueprints, as other automakers have required.
That's because the design of Seavitt's Village Ford dealership in the suburb of Dearborn was inspired by Henry Ford himself. Indeed, the legendary founder's countenance surveys the floor from a black-and-white portrait photo on the showroom's wall.
"He died the year I was born," says Seavitt, a trim, sandy-haired man with a penchant for boating, golf, tennis and skiing. The year of Henry Ford's death, 1947, was also the year a dealer named Stuart Wilson built the showroom at its current location, just three miles west of Ford World Headquarters. "I'm pretty set," Seavitt says. "I've never had any problem because of the historic significance of this place."
Village Ford traces its history to 1910, when Henry Ford's second cousin, Addison Ford, opened the store. The original franchise agreement hangs on the wall.
"Timeless" is the word Seavitt, 64, uses to describe the brick, wood and glass colonial-style design, which includes a distinctive hemisphere-shaped showroom.
The design harkens to the colonial-style architecture found just two miles away at the Henry Ford museum and Greenfield Village, Henry Ford's collection of artifacts of American life and industry and the model village that embodied Ford's idealized view of American life.
The showroom is the centerpiece of a modern dealership complex that now consists of about eight buildings spread over an entire city block. The so-called Rotunda design was inspired by the gear-shaped Ford Rotunda, a massive limestone structure built to showcase the auto industry at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair. It was later disassembled and moved to Dearborn, where it became a major tourist attraction before it was destroyed by a fire in 1962.
Bob Kreipke, Ford Motor Co.'s official historian, says of the dealership: "The thing that makes that unique is that it did have a family connection. I have seen that dealership used many times in old commercials and training films Ford had."