Monday, December 13, 2010

The Walter P. Chrysler Museum in Auburn Hills is a stunning showcase of Chrysler's storied history

Chrysler Turbine Concept

There is a lot of news about Chrysler Corporation lately, and much of it is bad. When you are bombarded with all the headlines, it is easy to forget just how significant this company really has been in this country.

I was reminded of that fact earlier this year when I took a tour of the Walter P. Chrysler Museum in Auburn Hills, Mich. This 55,000-square-foot facility holds three levels of rare and interesting vehicles from Chrysler’s storied history.

Some of my favorites included concept cars such as the 1941 Chrysler Thunderbolt, the 1941 Chrysler Newport, and the 1953 Chrysler Ghia Special. Seriously, where are you going to be able to see these unbelievably rare cars together in one place?

1947 Chrysler Town & Country
Later concepts, such as the Viper prototype and the swoopy Chrysler Atlantic showcase Chrysler’s more recent design direction.

In between are the production cars. And they have some beauties. Everything from the first Chrysler in 1924, through the wood-bodied Town & Countries of the 1940s, the 300 letter cars of the ‘50s and ‘60s, and the K-Car-based Reliants and minivans of the 1980s are all represented in this meticulous display.
In the basement is a strong contingent of muscle cars and racecars. Whether it be a Kiekhafer NASCAR Chrysler from the ‘50s, or a Color Me Gone Dodge drag car from the ‘60s, the Chrysler museum has something to scratch the itch of every MOPAR fan.

Since Chrysler acquired AMC’s brand heritage when they took on Jeep and Eagle, there are also a few products from that bloodline worth noting. Military Jeeps and Jeepsters, as well as less obvious cars like the Hudson Hornet are sprinkled around the display area. Wall displays that show a Chrysler timeline history also include the history of AMC. Fans of these orphan cars will enjoy the Walter P. Chrysler Museum as well.

1941 Chrysler Newport Concept
In addition to the cars, the museum has several interactive displays. Push a button, and Walter P. himself will tell you his life’s story. How much easier is power steering to use than manual steering? Take a whirl on the wheels to find out. Why did the Airflow ride so nice? Pull the knob, and you’ll learn that in graphic detail.

There is also a movie theatre that continuously plays films about Chrysler’s beginnings, their involvement with racing and car culture, and their current technologies. I took the time to watch all the films, and I believe they were worth the time.

One of my favorite parts about this experience was the group of retired Chrysler execs on staff as tour guides. You could tell these guys were passionate about the displays and history of Chrysler, because they lived it. When they weren’t helping anybody, it was easy to catch them closely studying the cars and displays. They loved it.

If you want to visit the Walter P. Chrysler museum, get your plane ticket from Kansas City to Detroit, then take a taxi to One Chrysler Drive, on the Chrysler Group campus, in Auburn Hills, Mich. For more information, visit:

The following slideshow contains many never before seen pictures from my visit to the Walter P. Chrysler Museum in Auburn Hills, Mich. earlier this year.

Portions of this story originally posted on

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