Chrysler Museum: Gone, but not forgotten

Until it was abruptly closed in 2012, the Walter P. Chrysler Museum was one of the great automotive museums of the world.

The Museum’s mission was to preserve, educate and inspire, which it did in a world class manner.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), now Stellantis, made the closure announcement during the week of the 2012 US Presidential election.

They claimed the Museum did not attract enough visitors and was not profitable.

It was converted into office space.

Mark that down as a win for the bean counters over automotive enthusiasts.

Before its closure the Museum was located inside the sprawling FCA American headquarters in Auburn Hills, north of Detroit.

Almost all of the significant vehicles in Chryslers’ history were housed somewhere in the vast three-storey building. 

The priceless collection went into storage and is now shown only at special events.

When I visited in 2011 this is what I saw.

On display in the foyer was the 1941 Thunderbolt. 

Chrysler built five of these stunning show cars.

Its styling and technology was very advanced for 1941.

It has an aluminium envelope-style coupe body with a fully retractable, electrically controlled metal hardtop, concealed headlights and power windows. 

The doors were power-operated and opened by push buttons.

Another car taking pride of place was the 1963 Chrysler Turbine. 

A total of 55 were built and given to lucky users to trial. 

All but nine were scrapped at the end of a trial.  

Other Chrysler concept cars, including the prototype of the streamlined 1934 Chrysler Airflow, the 1953 Chrysler Special, plus the original Crossfire and Prowler, were scattered throughout the Museum.

Ordinary cars were also celebrated. 

There were Plymouths, Dodges, DeSotos and Chryslers — from the 1910s  to the 1970s.

On the second floor was a 1984 mini-van and a couple of four cylinder K-cars. 

These cars saved Chrysler financially in the 1980s.

Trucks were not forgotten, with examples showcased under spotlights.

Down in the basement there were many significant Mopar race cars including drag racing legend Roger Lindamood’s Color Me Gone II race car.

The Museum was a mecca for motoring fans from all over the world. 

David Burrell is the editor of retroautos


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