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Cars, Trees & Traditions returns to Walter P. Chrysler Museum

by Bill Cawthon on

The Walter P. Chrysler Museum, in Auburn Hills, Mich., will be aglow for the holidays with the seventh annual Cars, Trees & Traditions (CTT), which opens Saturday, November 19 and runs through Friday, December 30.

Cars, Trees & Traditions spotlights eight decades of holiday season celebrations through 23 decorated trees paired with Chrysler vehicles throughout the Museum. Evergreens on the Museum’s two top floors feature authentic ornamentation from the early 1900s through the 1980s, while those in Boss Chrysler’s Garage are embellished by theme. CTT illustrates styles, events and products of holidays past through advertisements, graphics and images accompanying each tree, including a variety of historic photos of Detroit from the archives of Wayne State University’s Walter P. Reuther Library. Following the exhibition’s narrative from one vignette to the next, guests see how vehicle progression – from horseless carriages to enclosed, more comfortable and better engineered models – helped change the ways in which Americans celebrated the season’s festivities.

An array of Lionel O and O27 gauge model trains from the private collection of Wayne and Sue Simonson of Ray, Michigan will be featured among the displays. Several of the box cars, produced by Weaver Ultra Line Cars, highlight current and past Chrysler brands including Dodge, Mopar, DeSoto and Plymouth. Others spotlight such iconic Detroit institutions as Vernor’s and Stroh’s. The displays will also showcase an assortment of Plasticville buildings and structures dating back to the 1950s.

The Stoney Creek Model Railroad Club will be running a trio of trains on a 14’ x 28’ track in Boss Chrysler’s Garage from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Saturdays and 2 – 4 p.m. Sundays. Visitors can enjoy an up-close view of an array of miniature locomotives and box cars chugging through a variety of intricate urban and rural landscapes. Among the 11 different settings will be a Chrysler-inspired vintage auto show. A camera mounted to the front of one engine will provide a view from within the tiny towns and countryside, as well as glimpses of the audience, on a monitor adjacent to the track.

Visitors can enjoy weekend crafts and train demonstrations from November 19 through December 18. Scavenger hunts of the CTT exhibition and the model train landscapes will also be available for guests to complete and submit to win a Museum gift basket or an H.O. train set, courtesy of Great Lakes Hobby and Toy in Sterling Heights, Michigan.

On Saturday, December 3, the Stoney Creek Model Railroad Club will also host a model train clinic from 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM. Club members will work with young train lovers in creating lifelike scenery from everyday materials and provide tips to moms and dads about easy, inexpensive ways to start a model train tradition at home.

Clinic admission is $2 per person ages 5 and up with regular Museum admission. Advance registration is available online at

Weekend visits to the Museum will be especially festive with crafts and running model trains available with regular Museum admission. Children can create two to three holiday masterpieces each Saturday from 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM.

The exhibition, presented by Ally and the Metro Detroit Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram and Fiat Superstores, opens with an adult preview and reception on Friday evening, November 18. Guests can get into the holiday spirit with: hearty hors d’oeuvre stations by 2Unique of Royal Oak, spotlighting foods rich in holiday symbolism and tradition; a wine tasting by Fieldstone Winery of Rochester; self-guided exhibition tours, complete with running trains; a silent auction with proceeds funding Museum field trips for local school children and discounts on collectibles and souvenirs in the gift shop with complimentary gift wrapping.

Dress for the opening reception is business casual/holiday attire and tickets – $30 per guest/$27 per member with a cash bar – are available for advance purchase by Tuesday, November 16 online at; e-mail at [email protected] or phone at 248-944-0450

The holiday exhibit will be open for self-guided tours from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM Tuesday – Saturday and noon – 5:00 PM Sunday. The Museum is closed every Monday, as well as Thanksgiving Day and December 24 and 25.

General Museum admission, which includes Cars, Trees & Traditions, is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors (62 and older) and $4 for juniors (6 – 12). Children 5 years old and younger are free. Admission is $4 per person for groups of 15 or more with advance registration.

For more about the Walter P. Chrysler Museum and Cars, Trees & Traditions — including two-for-one admission coupons — visit

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.

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