By on December 27, 2016

Boss Chrysler's Garage Walter P Chrysler Museum, Source: Ronnie Schreiber/The Truth About Cars

Museums are among my favorite places in the world, but it was difficult to genuinely enjoy my last visit to the Walter P. Chrysler Museum on the Chrysler campus in Auburn Hills. That’s because it was indeed my last visit.

About 15 minutes after I left the museum on December 18th, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles closed it forever and began moving the vehicles to the Highland Park warehouse where Chrysler keeps its corporate car collection. The automaker has said the museum will be turned into office space.

It’s a shame FCA closed it; it’s a fine museum, particularly because of the many car companies, brands and nameplates in Chrysler’s history — including American Motors, going back to the original Rambler (which was produced by the Jeffery company at the turn of the last century).

A few months ago, the automaker announced the museum would be open to the public for a few more weekends before being turned into office space. That resulted in a surge in attendance, with 1,000 or more visitors arriving each day it was open. Normally, however, the museum — as good as it was — failed to attract large crowds.

My personal view is that as well curated and run as the WPC Museum was, it was never promoted properly. Across town, about two million people a year visit The Henry Ford complex, with many of them coming from out-of-town specifically to see the Driving America and Racing in America exhibits in the Henry Ford Museum. Offering discounted admission with a ticket stub from The Henry Ford could have drawn many of those car enthusiasts to the Auburn Hills museum.

There were some tourists on the last day, but the visitors seemed heavy with company employees and retirees. There was a bit of a funereal mood to the crowd. One employee who works at FCA headquarters was skeptical about the company’s stated plans for office space. He mentioned the address of a building FCA owns nearby that’s currently filled with unused office space (and is closer to the main headquarters building than the museum, which is literally on the back edge of the company’s property).

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25 Comments on “Walter P. Chrysler Museum Closes, But Did it Have To?...”

  • avatar

    Another step in the agonizingly slow decline and death of a once proud American auto manufacturer!

    • 0 avatar

      Indeed…really hate to see this. Lots of history located here…not to mention I owned a Plymouth Super Stock version of the car pictured above…426 Max Wedge, way back in 64, except mine was a 63 model…

  • avatar

    Gotta save a few nickels to pay for a badge on the next bit of Alfa nonsense nobody will buy.

  • avatar

    “skeptical about the company’s stated plans for office space”

    Yah…Sergio jus hate white people, dass wut.

  • avatar

    That sucks. I’m glad I sacrificed half of the second day of The Old Car Festival last September to visit. It was very well done in my opinion. Between a very long conversation with one of the docents about the future of automotive power trains and having to get to DTW in time to catch my ride home I didn’t get to spend as much time as I wanted visiting.

    Oh well, such is life.

  • avatar

    This museum was opened during the dawn of the Daimler 1999. Before that, there was no Chrysler Museum. So during its tenure as an independent manufacturer this museum didn’t exist! I am a Mopar fan, but I never was able to make it. The museum is kind of off the beaten path. I heard they had trouble getting volunteers. The Henry Ford museum covers a much larger scope of Americana. The Chrysler museum was very small in comparison.

  • avatar

    If I were to ever visit the Detroit area, this would have been on my agenda for sure, if nothing else just to see some fins, a Turbine car, and some great show cars of the past.

  • avatar

    Seeing painted steelies like those on the back of CMG2 just does something deeply good to me. Like this:

  • avatar

    To me, this just further proves that Sergio is an idiot, and only wants to preserve his beloved Alfa and Fiat.

    I was talking to some friends the other day about it, and I said it seems as if Sergio just throws ideas at the wall to see what sticks. And even after it “sticks”, it still usually ends up sliding down the wall.

    Farewell Chrysler, we knew you well…

  • avatar
    George B

    I visited the Walter P. Chrysler museum twice. It was my favorite car museum. I loved the natural lighting and took numerous pictures of the cars. Sad to read that it closed.

  • avatar

    Glad I got to visit it when I was in town for a Saab Convention, of all things.

    Still amazes me that GM does not have a public museum. At the same Saab Convention we did get to see their private collection, it was pretty amazing.

    • 0 avatar
      Adam Tonge

      The closest thing is the historic cars that are on display throughout the RenCen. I don’t know what they have on display, or if they still have a display. It’s been a year since I’ve been inside the RenCen.

      • 0 avatar

        The GM Heritage Center can be rented for private events so it’s not completely closed off to people. They’re reluctant to make it a public museum. That would require displays and roping the cars off. I was told by a curator there that every time they have an event with outside people cars get damaged.

  • avatar

    I thought that it had closed except for special occasions? So it had reopened and is now closed for good?

    I too have been there twice and they had a wonderful collection of a lot of concepts and great cars. What a shame, and I would think it would be important for such a large brand name to have their own museum?

    • 0 avatar

      I have also been to the Chrysler museum twice. The second time was a few years ago when they announced they were closing to the public and only opening for special occasions. To me, the “writing was on the wall” at that time.

  • avatar

    Meanwhile, feel free to stop by your local FIAT Studio y Trattoria and see the historic First 500L POP taken delivery of by that dealer is 2013, a car that…oh…its not a display? Its really just that aged?

  • avatar

    So, when the federal government owned the whole outfit, why wasn’t this museum absorbed into the national parks system?

    When the feds owned the whole outfit, why weren’t the archives preserved in a protected institution, like the NAHC or the Benson Ford?

    Why didn’t anyone (except me, in a TTAC story) complain when the entire engineering library, from 1924 on, was destroyed?

    The museum is gone, and the engineering library is gone. There’s still hope for the archives, but now the feds, or anyone else, don’t have any leverage to save the archives.

    Why doesn’t Ronnie write about this before it’s too late?


  • avatar

    I liked this museum too. But the location is indeed terrible. Frankly, the only people in Auburn Hills are those living in the area and people in town for work.

    I honestly believe if this museum was located in Detroit near downtown or perhaps near the DIA and Detroit History Museum or even Highland Park, or perhaps Dearborn, that it would have been much more visited.

    Too bad.

  • avatar

    Chrysler won’t exist for forever anyway, with Sergio replacing Chrysler products with Fiat-powered crapwagons.

    When the whole thing collapses, someone else will come in and scoop up the Jeep brand. Even Ram won’t have a reason to exist by then.

  • avatar

    I think about the now gone Briggs Cunningham Museum in Costa Mesa, or the down-sized remnants of Harrah’s Automotive Museum in Reno, or even gone Towe Ford collection in Deer Lodge, Montana and get depressed.

    It’s like we can’t have nice things in America anymore.

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