I've always had a soft spot for Detroit as a place. I'm not talking about the hoopla and cheese of the curtain-twitching that goes on at the motor show every January, rather the very strong sense that - as the ground zero of mass motor manufacture - the city is still pretty much the car's spiritual home.

But you don't need to venture far in Detroit to find evidence that times are tough for America's indigenous automakers - deserted factories, empty warehouses and the sort of dilapidated semi-slum housing made familiar by watching Marshal Mather's cheery tale of life in the D, 8 Mile.

Anyway, a photo shoot hung around this year's trip to the show gave a chance to have a poke around the abandoned Packard Plant on East Grand Boulevard. It's a truly amazing place - although now completely derelict. When the plant first opened it was one of the most advanced factories in the world, and its architect Albert Kahn went on to design Ford's Highland Park and River Rouge plants.

The last car was made here in 1956, after which Packard was absorbed into Studebaker. Other businesses moved in and the site was subdivided into numerous different units, but Detroit's economic woes have caught up and the place stands derelict, forlorn and smashed to pieces.

Casual visits aren't advised - we found a warehouse full of stripped, stolen boats - but we also had a retired cop to look after us while we were there. It was still a fascinating chance to see a vanishing world.