On Sept. 16, 1908, Billy Durant founded General Motors. Two weeks later, Henry Ford sold his first Model T. So it’s easy to see why the state where it all started has declared “2008: Year of the Car” and plans a summer-long auto-tourism festival in southeastern Michigan to celebrate these momentous centennials and offer an unprecedented palette of auto-themed attractions.

Maybe now’s the time to plan a holiday trip to take in some of the summer highlights. Year of the Car launches in conjunction with U.S. National Transportation Week on May 10 and concludes five months later with the Automotive Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in early October. In between, Year of the Car links more than 100 activities at nearly 60 different locations, giving never-before-offered automotive experiences.

Some of the terrific events include a rare behind-the-scenes look at GM’s stunning Heritage Centre private car collection, a narrated tour through Greenfield Village in a real Ford Model T, car shows, cruises, home and building tours. An example of the latter is the Durant Dort Carriage Company in Flint, Mich., where William C. “Billy” Durant applied his highly successful carriage company experience to the fledgling auto industry. There you’ll see Durant’s beautifully restored “birthplace of GM” and learn about the early days of what ultimately became one of America’s most iconic companies.

“Detroit has always been mecca for auto enthusiasts worldwide,” said Gary Familian, executive director, MotorCities National Heritage Area.

“With the ‘2008: Year of the Car’ program, we have hit a high-water mark with an incredible itinerary of new, once-in-a-lifetime visitor experiences. We are thrilled to be a part of this fabulous summer-long experience.”