I know that I have said this before but it is certainly well worth repeating – If you are into cars and their history, as well as, their impact on our culture there is certainly no better place to live than in Detroit. Not only is this the automotive capital of the world but to see the impact cars have on our culture all you have to do is travel across the Detroit Metropolitan area on any given evening in the summer and you can see literally dozens of classic and vintage car shows or cruises and you will never see the exact same car twice. Nowhere else in the world can make that claim. Also, nowhere else can claim the largest single day automotive event in the world, The Woodward Dream Cruise. Detroit sure can. For those reasons and so many more this is the greatest area for car buffs and aficionados to live but we also have some of the finest automotive museums in the country right here in our own backyard.
Sure there are wonderful model of car specific museums around the country but none that trace the history and rise of each automaker and the history of the automobile industry as a whole like we have in the Greater Detroit Area. In Flint we have the Sloan Museum and Buick Gallery. The Sloan Museum chronicles General Motor’s lineage and their rise to being the world’s largest automaker and also focuses on examples of the Buick nameplate and certainly no list could ever omit the Henry Ford in Dearborn that traces the pioneering spirit and ingenuity of Henry Ford and how he was the first to really put the auto industry on the map. But, there is another museum jewel in our area that is just as deserving of a visit and it is located on the beautiful grounds of the DaimlerChrysler Headquarters in Auburn Hills – The Walter P. Chrysler Museum.
The Walter P. Chrysler Museum has 3 wonderful floors of Chrysler automotive history on display. The classic vehicles are intermingled with interactive displays that help explain the story of how Walter P. Chrysler built his namesake company and the contributions it has made to automotive design, history and culture. Currently the museum is hosting a wonderful exhibit called “Hot Rods and Cool Mods” that runs through August 20th. The exhibit encompasses more than two dozen exquisitely crafted, exotic vehicles – spanning 70 years – that showcase the past, present and future of the customization hobby. This collection of hot rods, rat rods, resto-rods, tuners and blinged vehicles salutes the Chrysler designs that have inspired enthusiast personalization, as well as the creativity of MOPAR enthusiasts and the many ways they’ve enhanced their vehicles over the years. This is also a rotating exhibition so if you have seen it before I guarantee that there are different vehicles there now.
For example there is a 1948 Chrysler Hemi New Yorker Convertible owned and built by Ed Micol of Waterford. This beautiful Hot Rod features frenched head and taillights, shaved rear fenders, power steering, power brakes, power windows and air conditioning. It is also powered by a mid-60’s 426 Hemi motor that, because of the craftsmanship, appears slid into place. The exhibit also has a 1936 Plymouth Sedan owned by Vicki Ford that is the embodiment of a hot rod. Everything from the filed roof line to the custom bumpers and ghost flamed paint to the 340 cubic inch V8 motor. Both of these Hot Rods are incredible customized street rods that have to be seen to really be appreciated. The time, passion and craftsmanship that went into creating these vehicles really is truly remarkable.
For all you muscle car lovers you won’t be disappointed either. The exhibit hosts a 1965 Coronet Factory Super Stock car; a 1970 Charger R/T that was completely rebuilt with modification parts that were only available when the car was new and a 1972 Dodge Challenger X that is a modern day interpretation of the classic that still retains the lines that made the car so desirable and famous just to name a few. Oh and by the way, there is also a 1967 Dodge Dart GT Custom that is owned by Frank Burek and his son Todd on display. Hmmm, that Todd guy sure sounds familiar. Anyway, Mike Signorello built the Dart back in 1991 and it was bought by Frank and Todd 3 years ago. The car features a 30 over 440 with custom bent fender well headers, fiberglass hood and bumpers, 727 automatic with cheetah shifter and a strengthened 411 rear end. These cars are just the tip of the iceberg though. Moving into the exhibit the end of May will be the 1970 Sox and Martin Super Stock Cuda driven by Mr. Four Speed himself the late Ronnie Sox. This beautiful tri-colored Cuda will be on display for everyone to enjoy and help celebrate the memory of one of the great names in Super Stock racing history. The museum will also add in late May the original Rapid Transit System Duster. A collector in California owns all of the original Rapid Transit System cars and rarely if ever lets them out. Fortunately for all of us he is lending the Duster to the museum for this exhibit.
The “Hot Rods and Cool Mods” display is only one part of the Walter P. Chrysler Museum. As I mentioned before there is three floors to the museum and they each feature cars that span the decades of Chrysler History. They also have on exhibit some examples of World War II fighting machines that Chrysler Corporation built to aid in the war effort. The museum also boasts a 125-seat theatre that features three continuously running features including “Speed and Power”. A film which illustrates the Chrysler Corporation’s contributions to the Muscle Car Era.
If you get a chance to stop by and visit the Walter P. Chrysler Museum you won’t be sorry. It a world class historical venue with rare and exquisite pieces of automotive history that you simply will not find anywhere else. A great chance to stop by is June 10th. The Chrysler Employee Motorsports Association (CEMA) Club will host its annual car show on the grounds of the museum. It is open to all makes and models of cars and motorcycles. Bring your own Hot Rod or Cool Mod and come check out the museum and its pieces. If you have and questions or inquiries or need directions feel free to visit the Chrysler Museum online at www.chryslerheritage.com or call (248) 944-0001. To learn more about the CEMA show visit them online atwww.cemaclub.org.
Todd Burek is Vice President of Signorello Distribution, Authorized Distributors of Jax Wax Products, 35740 Hawthorne Dr., Clinton Twp. MI 40835 Voice - 586.604.2078 Fax – 586.790.8422. He is also a columnist for The Cruis’ News, The Publication for All Car Buff’s.