by Jennifer Harrington with thanks to Doreen Wright
The Walter P. Chrysler Museum opened on October 5, 1999, in Auburn Hills, Michigan, on the Chrysler corporate campus. Since that time, Museum volunteers have helped out at the museum by assisting with vehicle cleaning, gift shop and admissions, education programs, guided tours, and other museum functions, programs, and events.
Despite the enthusiasm of the staff and volunteers, and donations from numerous benefactors (including car clubs, past and present Chrysler executives, and Allpar itself), the museum has lost money — more than $2 million over the past three years. The museum’s final day of operation was December 31, 2012; it will remain open for special events for some months, and after that, plans are unclear. A renovation is planned for mid-2013.
The last gift shop purchase was made by Bob Grigly at 5 pm; the last official visitor was John Russo, Chrysler Fleet Operations employee, who paid admission at 4:40 pm.
Thirty-two of the vehicles displayed in the Museum belonged to the Museum; the rest were on loan from Chrysler and private owners. Chrysler Group purchased the cars museum’s cars; proceeds from the sale of these assets, along with Walter P. Chrysler Museum Foundation, have merged with the Chrysler Foundation and will support charitable causes.
The museum has three floors featuring over 70 vehicles. Chrysler’s “orphan” vehicles, such as DeSoto, were well represented inside. The first Hemi, a 16-cylinder aircraft engine, and one of Chrysler’s tank engines were on display.
The vehicles on display rotated to go through exhibit themes. There were interactive displays and a movie theatre, too, along with an archive containing marketing, engineering, and product information.
Also within the museum is “The Tower,” which holds three concept cars and rotates every 40 minutes. The museum’s first and second floors were laid out in chronological order; the basement (“Boss Chrysler’s Garage”) contained special exhibits including racing cars, equipment from test cell 13, and numerous classic cars and trucks.
From April to December 2011, the museum celebrated 70 years of Jeep; from June to December 2012, it celebrated the Viper and 75 Years of Mopar. Other events at the museum have included the celebration of the Dodge Charger’s birthday in 2006, the “Hot Rods and Cool Mods” exhibit, and the Allpar meet in 2005.
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