FLINT — At what is considered the birthplace of the automobile industry in Flint, Back to the Bricks launched its 17th annual event, Aug. 18.
The ribbon cutting which started last week’s Back to the Bricks events was held at Factory One, 303 W. Water St., the location of the first automotive factory in the Flint area. Constructed in 1881 as a cotton pressing mill for the Flint Woolen Mills, it was later used by Billy Durant and Dallas Dort when they founded the Flint Road Cart Company in 1886.
Amber Taylor, executive director of Back to the Bricks, said Durant and Dort rented and then later bought the building to manufacture their vehicles. As business grew, she said they changed their name to Durant Dort Carriage Company and constructed the current building in 1896.
Durant Dort built light duty trucks at the Water Street location for a while. When they ceased production, Dort started his own motor company and began production out of the carriage factory before building Dort Factory Two.
Later, Mason Motor Company and Chevrolet were also founded here, said Taylor.
“So, as you can see, Flint has more history than most cities in the united states could ever dream of having and let’s not forget that Genesee County has produced more legends who went off to produce history,” she said. “It is an honor to be here with you all celebrating this history, but also making it here today.”
Taylor, the Back to the Bricks Board of Directors, Flint officials and area law enforcement officers were on hand for the event, as well as several dozen classic car owners who lined their vehicles up in the parking lot and in front of Factory One for a rolling cruise from the factory to downtown Grand Blanc to begin the week’s festivities.
Taylor thanked presenting sponsor General Motors and all B2B sponsors and partners who helped make things happen this year and in prior years.
She also referenced last year, when the event was cancelled due to the pandemic and thanked the community for their support through the tribulation of the past year.
“Over a year ago we made the difficult decision to cancel the normal Back to the Bricks festivities to help do our part to ensure that you can be here today, tomorrow and in the future,” said Taylor. “We did what all Americans were asked to do, we masked up, practiced social distancing and we waited for the heroes to come in and help.”
She discussed heroes of the pandemic, mainly the medical community, first responders and those behind the scenes at hospitals and clinics who have had it hard during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Taylor then announced that Dr. Bobby Mukkamala of Flint, an ears, nose and throat specialist and car enthusiast, would be this year’s official Grand Marshal of Back to the Bricks.
“He absolutely played a role in making our event happen today,” she said. “Over the course of the past year, through one of the worst times I have personally seen in my entire life, the pandemic, Dr. Bobby stepped up and stepped out of his everyday life to truly help others.”
She cited his passion for making masks with his son, and his wisdom throughout the pandemic to the governor’s office, lawmakers and physicians.
Taylor added Mukkamala put the needs of everyone else before his own, not wanting any recognition. She said he also encouraged all to get vaccination, which helped change the pandemic and helped get things opened back up.
Mukkamala then addressed the crowd, indicating he was accepting the title of grand marshal on behalf of the medical and health community.
“Just a little bit about me…I’m a car guy,” he said. “I happen to clean out ear wax during the day, but when that’s over, I wrench. But I’m better at cleaning out ear wax so I wrench on the side. But I grew up in Flint and when you live here it’s in your system. So, wrenching and surgery is just how I evolved.”
He said it is an honor to own some of the history of this town in his car collection as much as it is an honor to be a part of Flint’s revitalization.
Mukkamala went on to mention all of Flint’s struggles, such as the economy, water and health issues it has faced in recent years, before adding, “but this is a town with tenacity and resilience.”
NASCAR race driver Erik Jones, driver of the Richard Petty motorsports No. 43 Chevy Camaro, was also on hand for the ribbon cutting and said he would be at many of the Back to the Bricks events throughout the weekend.