Fiat Chrysler reopening Walter P. Chrysler Museum
The Mecca of classic cars and trucks from the former Chrysler Corp. is planning to regularly open its doors to the public for the first time since 2012.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV on Saturday is announcing the Walter P. Chrysler Museum in Auburn Hills will reopen starting June 4-5 for two weekends a month, excluding December, when it will be open for one.
The 55,000-square-foot museum will feature a rotating exhibit of 65 classics from the company’s garage of more than 300 antique, custom and concept vehicles — from World War II Jeeps and the first Chrysler car prototype ever driven by company founder Walter P. Chrysler to Dodge and Plymouth muscle cars from the 1960s and 1970s.
“We’re really proud of the heritage and the cars that are in there,” said Brandt Rosenbusch, manager of historical services for FCA US. “We want to share it. It’s a great opportunity.”
Rosenbusch said interest from employees — as well having enough volunteers to staff the museum — drove the decision to reopen the facility.
“They’re the real backbone of the operation,” he said of the volunteers. “It’s something everybody has been wanting to see again.”
Since being shuttered to the public after Dec. 31, 2012 due to finances, the museum has been maintained and used sporadically for private events. The company’s classic cars also have been used for special events and loaned to other museums in the past three years.
“The vehicles go all over the place and do a lot of different types of things,” said Rosenbusch, adding the sleek 1941 Chrysler Thunderbolt concept is currently on loan to a facility in Houston.
The museum, which originally opened in October 1999, features three floors and a two-story atrium with a rotating tower that includes many of the automaker’s iconic concept vehicles. The floors are split into two exhibition galleries and a garage-like atmosphere on the lower level.
The first floor traces the first 50 years of Chrysler — both the man and the company.
The second floor continues Chrysler’s story, beginning with the introduction of the first Hemi in 1951 and spotlighting the automaker’s design, engineering and marketing successes.
The lower level, called “Boss Chrysler’s Garage,” houses dream machines from the ’60s and ’70s.
The oldest vehicles in the museum’s collections are a 1902 Rambler from the Thomas B. Jeffery Co. and a 1909 Hudson from the Hudson Motor Co. The two companies eventually became American Motors Corp., which was acquired by Chrysler Corp. in the late 1980s.
The newest vehicle on display is the Dodge Dakota Sidewinder, a two-door concept car that debuted in 1997.
Rosenbusch said about 90,000 people would annually visit the museum on average from when it opened in 1999 through 2012.
“I think everybody’s been asking for it to reopen,” said Chrysler Employee Motorsport Association President Lori Emerling, a FCA US engineer who works in Auburn Hills. “We’re really excited.”
The employee and retiree car club has hosted its annual car show at the museum since it opened, with the company allowing car show attendees access to the museum for donations to charity. This year’s 27th annual show is June 11.
Rosenbusch said aside from Alfa Romeo and Maserati, all of Fiat Chrysler’s current brands — Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep, Mopar and Ram —are represented in the museum alongside older brands such as Plymouth, Imperial and others.
This is the second shuttered museum Fiat Chrysler has re-opened to the public in the past year.
Last summer, the company celebrated the 105th anniversary of famed Italian brand Alfa Romeo by unveiling the Giulia sedan and re-opening the Alfa Romeo Museum near Milan in northern Italy.
The Walter P. Chrysler Museum is located on the southeast edge of Fiat Chrysler’s North American headquarters in Auburn Hills at 1 Chrysler Drive. The museum will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each weekend. The weekend of the Woodward Dream Cruise on Aug. 20, it will have extended hours until 6 p.m. and be open on Friday.
“I’m glad to see that it’s opening. I want to see it stay alive,” said Wayne Simonson, treasurer of the WPC Club Inc., a Michigan-based organization honoring Chrysler and its founder. “Chrysler has been very good to my family.”
Admission is $10 for adults; $8 for seniors 62 years of age and older; $6 for children 6-17; and free for 5 and under.
Anyone interested in volunteering at the Walter P. Chrysler Museum can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (248) 944-0439.
June 4 & 5
June 25 & 26
July 9 & 10
July 16 & 17
August 6 & 7
August 19, 20, & 21
September 10 & 11
September 24 & 25
October 1 & 2
October 22 & 23
November 5 & 6
November 19 & 20
December 17 & 18