Walter P. Chrysler Museum Closes, But Did It Have To?

Ronnie Schreiber
by Ronnie Schreiber

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).

Ronnie Schreiber
Ronnie Schreiber

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, the original 3D car site.

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  • Dukeisduke Dukeisduke on Dec 28, 2016

    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.

  • Johnster Johnster on Dec 29, 2016

    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.

  • Lou_BC Ironic, the Honda Ridgeline, a truck that every truck guy loves to hate is in 6th place.
  • 28-Cars-Later I keep forgetting I own it, but the space look on the ext cab reminds me of my 'Yota pickup of the same model year. I'm pretty sure there is some vintage of Hilux which features the same looking ext cab window (maybe '88?) its a shame these things are mostly gone and when available are $1,000,000,000 [INSERT CURRENT CURRENCY].
  • Sayahh Imagine if Ford had Toyota design and build a Mustang engine. It will last over 300k miles! (Skip turbo and make it naturally aspirated.) Maybe Yamaha will help tune it...
  • Sobhuza Trooper Isuzu's crime was to build some damn good trucks.Shame on them.
  • El scotto Listen, unless you were Lord Headly-Stempmoor or such when you got off the off the boat, boot in Canada, you got the short end of the stick. People got on the boat, these days a plane, to escape famine, becoming cannon fodder in yet another stupid war, or the government thought it was A-OK to let soldiers kill you. Juneteenth is just a way to right one of the more bad ideas in the American experiment. Instead we have commenters who were buying tater chips and diet soda at Wal-Mart and got all butt-hurt because they heard someone who wasn't speaking English. I'm going to go fix a couple of frankfurters with salsa and guacamole and wash them down with a lager or three
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