Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Inside the magnificent General Motors Heritage Center

If you want to see one of the absolute greatest car collections in the world, you need to put a visit to the GM Heritage Collection in Sterling Heights, Mich. on your bucket list.

I was lucky enough to attend a three-day meeting at the Heritage Center a few years ago, and the significant vehicles on display there were nothing short of awesome. This was a living history of General Motors. There were first and last cars built for some models. There were popular vehicles like the ’63 Corvette coupe and the ’59 Eldorado, and there were beautifully restored dream and concept cars dating from the1938 Y-Job all the way to the present.

Aside from the overwhelming collection of vehicles, you can also feast your eyes on the great vintage neon signage, engine displays, and other memorabilia throughout the display.

The Heritage Collection has been in the news lately because General Motors has been selling some of the vehicles at auctions like Barrett-Jackson. Some of this is because they’re strapped for cash right now, but some of it certainly has to be a P.R. move to show the public that they’re trying.

I have to say, I hate seeing some of these vehicles go. I think the 1993 Impala SS concept, Corvette test mules, and even the first Saturn Ion should belong to General Motors. They just don’t have the same meanings once they disappear from the collection.

On the other hand, don’t believe that this collection is going away. GM kept the most significant cars, and, boy, are they ever significant. Harley Earl’s babies are here—the Y-Job, the ’53 LeSabre, the three Firebird turbine cars. Even without the cars they sold off, the Heritage Collection is unsurpassed.

Many of these vehicles find their ways out of the Heritage Center and on public display. For example, last year the Kansas City International Auto Show has a 1960s theme, and several of the cars in that display were out of the Heritage Center collection. They turn up and big car shows, Concours events, and other gatherings. You may have seen cars from this collection and not even known it.

The Heritage Center also has a maintenance shop, and many of the new crop of vintage cars that GM takes to races and events are built and maintained there.  You never know what you'll find back there in the garage.

The Heritage Center also contains the General Motors media archive. The collection of rare and significant literature, memos, and paper chronicle the entire history of this great company. I can only imagine what it would be like to spend a day—maybe a week—going through those historic documents.

The Heritage Center is not open to the public. It is mainly used for internal GM meetings and events. They can open it up for private meetings or car club tours, however. To set something like that up, you need to e-mail them at

I am including some pictures of the Heritage Collection below. Most of these are from GM Media, and they aren’t all that up-to-date. There is lots more eye candy now—signs, displays, and the like. Also, you might spot a vehicle or two that is sold. Still, GM has enough cool stuff that they are never all on display at once. Some of them are in storage, and they come up to the main building as a revolving display.

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