Last look at the Chrysler Museum

Chrysler will be shutting down its corporate gallery by the end of the year.  The Walter P. Chrysler Museum is the only public display of The Big Three’s cars that is located directly on the campus of the company’s world headquarters (GM’s Heritage Center is off-campus and private, and Ford has most of its pieces mixed in at The Henry Ford.)  Those of us who have visited know it is a shame to miss such a key public collection.  For those who have not been able to make it, we offer a virtual tour in our photo gallery.

The first thing that greets visitors is a two-story rotating centerpiece of concept cars.  Although it appears nearly impossible to change out these three floating vehicles, this main display has been swapped annually since the facility opened in 1999.

Like any good museum, there is a basic chronological order that follows the main halls.  This means starting with the first Chrysler sedan, the 1924 B-70 Phaeton Sedan.  What is particularly unique about the rest of the pre-WWII cars on display here is that all have a display comparing them to the 1924 Phaeton.  The exhibits then focus on the military might of Chrysler’s companies — everything from the now-owned Jeep in the battlefield to a 30-cylinder tank engine.  During the post-war years comparing cars to the first Chrysler would be comically unequal (especially with the HEMI’s muscle cars,) so instead this collection keeps its era in perspective by listing the car’s model year with the average price of necessities such as milk and gas.

While the permanent fixtures show off quite a bit of significant vehicles, it is hard to tell the company’s whole story in two floors.  After all, Chrysler may only currently represent three American-based brands, but their trophy case runs from DeSoto to AMC.  So the basement acts as sort of like a hidden treasures vault of rotating exhibitions.  The lowest floor has played host to everything from a display for Jeep’s 70th anniversary (2011) to a celebration of Chrysler’s racing history, and the current and final piece is paying tribute to 75 Years of Mopar.

Once the doors close at the end of the year (i.e. end of this month,) the cars will be transferred from The Chrysler Foundation to the the Chrysler Group LLC, which will still protect these treasures under the company’s corporate umbrella.  “Chrysler will continue to share its automobile heritage housed at the Museum with the public during special exhibitions,” said Brian Glowiak, President – Walter P. Chrysler Museum Foundation.

This means the company will occasionally open the museum’s doors again but likely only for the big anniversaries.  So before it is too late try to make it down to the Chrysler Museum.  Detroit may be chilly now, but this January its automotive landscape is about to get a whole lot colder.

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