Friday, November 30, 2012

Walter P. Chrysler Museum to close at the end of 2012

In a sad bit of news, it has been announced that the Walter P. Chrysler Museum in Auburn Hills, Mich., will be closing at the end of the year. The Chrysler Foundation, which is the not-for-profit group that owns the content of the museum, was unable to raise enough money each year to maintain their status.

The content will be purchased by Chrysler Group LLC, and the museum will become a private display, used only for special events and Chrysler employee functions. That means the days of walking in off the street and appreciating this significant display of Chrysler vehicles, will come to an end.

I took a tour this great collection a couple of years ago. 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?

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.

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.

Like any bit of history, I hate to see this one go away. But I guess if there aren’t enough people willing to support it, what can you do? Personally, I’m glad I had the opportunity to visit the museum. The slideshow below contains pictures from that visit, along with a few nice photos from Chrysler. They aren’t the best pictures, but you can see them in all their big, blurriness at this link.


  1. Man, that blows. How much more bad news and indignation must we face this year? [a rhetorical question - I know we aint seen nothin yet]
    Was that the real Silver Bullet?
    Thanx for the slide show.

  2. How ironic... a spam comment asking how you reduce spam comments!

  3. To bad Dodge can't jump in here and help out. Oh well guess nobody cares about history anymore.