Walter P. Chrysler Museum to Reopen to Public

Ronnie Schreiber
by Ronnie Schreiber
walter p chrysler museum to reopen to public

Just two days after Cadillac announced opening up what they hope will be an au courant coffee shop on the ground floor of its trendy lower Manhattan digs, Fiat Chrysler announced it will reopen the Walter P. Chrysler Museum, on the grounds of Chrysler’s campus in slightly less trendy Auburn Hills, on June 4th.

The museum, which first opened in 1999 when Daimler owned Chrysler, has displays that cover the history of the current Chrysler brands along with the company’s former nameplates, starting with a 1902 Rambler from the Jeffrey company (the progenitor to Nash) and American Motors.

About 90,000 people visited the museum every year when it was open to the public, but FCA closed it to the at the end of 2012 due to cost concerns. The company continued to maintain and use it by renting out the facility and using it for in-house events. Vehicles in the collection have also been loaned out to car shows and other museums.

The WPC museum will be open to the public two weekends a month (listed below) going forward, except for December, when it will only be open the weekend before Christmas. Brandt Rosenbusch, manager of historical services for FCA US, said interest from Chrysler employees and being able to find enough volunteers to staff the facility were key factors in opening the facility to the public again.

Chrysler’s corporate collection includes about 300 vehicles. Some are historic production cars and others significant concept cars. The museum also owns an operational Chrysler Turbine car, which was more than a concept car but not quite a production vehicle. In addition to vehicles that are on permanent display, over five dozen other vehicles from Chrysler’s stash will be rotated through the museum displays.

Installations showcasing Walter Chrysler, the company’s role in America’s “Arsenal of Democracy” during World War II, and even an engine test cell with a dynamometer that was used to develop Chrysler’s legendary Hemi engines in the 1950s and 1960s will be on display.

This is the second company museum that FCA has reopened. Last year, the Alfa Romeo Museum near Milan in northern Italy was reopened on the occasion of the introduction of the all new Giulia sedan. Of Fiat Chrysler’s brands, only Alfa and Maserati won’t have displays at the Chrysler museum (Ferrari is technically no longer under the FCA umbrella after it’s public stock offering).

I’ve visited the museum a number of times. If you think that Los Angeles’ Petersen Automotive Museum or the Henry Ford Museum’s Driving America exhibit are worth visits, the Walter P. Chrysler museum certainly is worth your time if you find yourself in the Detroit area when it is open. Actually, it’s worth scheduling a trip to the Motor City just to see the WPC museum on its own. While you’re here, you can check out Driving America, the Piquette Ave. Model T factory and the Automotive Hall of Fame.

There are three stories to the Auburn Hills facility, with a dramatic multi-level rotating tower that displays historic concept cars in the atrium. The two main floors are arranged chronologically, with exhibits devoted to Walter Chrysler and the first half century of his company’s history on the ground floor. Upstairs is where you’ll find the Turbine car (a personal favorite), Virgil Exner’s Chrysler SS concept car, the first Hemi and the 300 “alphabet” cars, along with exhibits on design, marketing, and engineering. That final topic is one of particular pride for Chrysler, which used the tagline Extra Care in Engineering for much of the 20th century.

The basement is named “Boss Chrysler’s Garage” and features historic Jeeps, muscle cars from the ’60s and ’70s, AMC products and a few odds and ends like a Dodge LaFemme and the original prototype for the Chrysler Airflow cars.

The museum is located at 1 Chrysler Drive on the eastern edge of Fiat Chrysler’s North American headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan. Hours will be Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., except for the weekend of August 20, the date of the Woodward Dream Cruise, when the museum will be also be open on Friday the 19th and have extended hours till 6 p.m to accommodate the many MOPAR fans who come in for the Cruise.

Admission will be $10 for adults; $8 for seniors 62 years of age and older; $6 for children 6-17; free for those five years old and under.

While the museum was closed to the public, you did have one chance to get in if you weren’t a Chrysler employee or an attendee of one of its special events. That was when the Chrysler Employee Motorsports Association, a car club for current and former employees, held its annual car show in the museum’s parking lot, and you could tour the museum for a charitable donation. That tradition will continue when the CEMA will hold the 27th edition of its car show at the museum on June 11.

As mentioned, the facility would not be opened to the public were it not for volunteers, who provide staffing and docent services. If you’d like to volunteer at the Walter P. Chrysler Museum, you can email or call (248) 944-0439.

PUBLIC DATESJune 4 & 5June 25 & 26July 9 & 10July 16 & 17August 6 & 7August 19, 20, & 21September 10 & 11September 24 & 25October 1 & 2October 22 & 23November 5 & 6November 19 & 20December 17 & 18

[Images: Ronnie Schreiber, Fiat Chrysler]

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. Thanks for reading – RJS

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2 of 40 comments
  • George B George B on May 16, 2016

    Thanks Ronnie. Great news! The Walter P. Chrysler Museum is my favorite car museum due to its great layout and excellent natural lighting. Definitely worth visiting if you visit Detroit.

  • Cruzinshootr Cruzinshootr on May 18, 2016

    The museum also owns a Dodge Airflow tanker truck but somebody didn't plan ahead enough for the possibility of trucks when designing the museum's vehicle access doors so the large truck is in the HQ building. (As of when I retired 12-31-01) Love the museum, but it's been a few years since I've been there. :-( I ran that dyno, or ones similar. We ran one of the turbine cars on our vehicle emission chassis dynomometers. I lost the 'coin toss' to drive it, but I did 'drive' the one the Detroit Historical Museum owns. Family had a couple of those drop floor Hudsons. One or two of us little kids could ride on the back window 'shelf.' "Will the last person(s) out of Chrysler Highland Park please turn out the lights!" I was one of the group after it was kept open to the last second because of me, but that's another story. lol Yes, I'm new here, just joined tonight, my first comment, so I may have drifted a bit. Cheers

  • Norman Stansfield This is what you get when you run races to keep the cars bunched together for more excitement. F1 doesn't seem to have this problem after the first few laps.
  • SCE to AUX Too many cars = more wrecks. With today's speeds on essentially the same old track, starting with half the cars could reduce the congestion at the end. Or maybe it would increase the problem because the herd wouldn't thin early on.I say no overtime - finish at 500 miles and no more.
  • Garagezone There was an Indy 500 yesterday? Hmmmm...
  • Mark Morrison Sad it just reminded me how good TTAC once was … required daily reading.