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A Visit to the Walter P. Chrysler Museum, the 'Smithsonian' of Automotive Museums

Published Oct 22nd 2007, 11:27pm by Jody DeVere in Featured Articles

Chrysler_museum_11 People may wonder why on earth a Mustang owner would be so interested in Chrysler and their products. The answer can be found simply byt taking a look at the vehicles they offer. Here we have a company who is leaps and bounds ahead of other automakers in terms of design, capability, and value for the money. It also doesn't hurt that they treat journalists very, very well.

In September, I experienced the opportunity of a lifetime. I ventured to Auburn Hills, Michigan, for a long-awaited interview with the SRT (Street and Racing Technology) team. I was armed with a notebook full of questions and concerns, my trusty camera, and a fully-loaded Avenger R/T AWD, which was provided to me for a week-long test.

Chrysler_museum_14 Prior to the interview, my husband and I were directed to the Walter P. Chrysler Museum. This was arranged through the same individual who coordinated our meeting with SRT. From the moment we walked through the door, we were treated with the kind of respect usually only displayed towards the rich, famous, or important. Our Docent Doreen gave us an overview of the museum, and explained that if we would spiral through the lower level, and continue to the upper level, we would see history unfold in chronological order.

Chrysler_museum_15 For those who have never visited the museum, I would *highly* recommend it. Just think of the Walter P. Chrysler Museum as the Smithsonian of automotives. If you have a spouse that might prefer pottery over automobilia, never fear. Regardless of whether or not you have an interest in cars, the museum offers a taste of nostalgia that anyone can appreciate.

Chrysler_museum_19 While the display of vehicles is certainly the highlight of the exhibits, the hands-on displays are amazing. These displays are oriented in stations; each with a sign describing the purpose of the display. For example, one display featured two steering wheels; one with power assist, one manual. Another featured three miniature cars from various time periods with a liquified sand that flowed over the bodies, creating a nice visual on how aerodynamics work. Small video screens also play corresponding footage near the displays. The one that deals with innovative ideas was quite interesting. Prior to watching the film, I had no idea that at one time, vehicles could be ordered with cigarette dispensers built into the steering wheel, or "female editions" featuring rain slickers and umbrellas!

Chrysler_museum_43 Chrysler_museum_40 The basement of the museum features a wide array of racecars, including the legendary "Color Me Gone" 1972 Dodge Charger. Engine stands hold some of the first production Hemi engines, the later 426 Hemi, and even a modern 5.7L Hemi, sectioned so that visitors can view the internals. Also on display was a very early engine dynamometer, which looked very complicated compared to the versions we are all accustomed to. The elevator leading from the ground floor to the basement is striking, simply because I've never seen an elevator of that size in my lifetime! Obviously, it is used to move cars from one floor to another, which made the idea even more appealing to a gearhead like me.

Chrysler_museum_25 The museum is something that everyone should experience. It may not be an amusement park, a ski lodge, or another stereotypical family vacation locale. However, it's important that each and every one of us has the opportunity to visualize the evolution of the automobile, courtesy of some excellent work from Chrysler corporation.

For information on a museum tour, visit

Mwingard By Michelle Wingard Automotive Expert Advisor


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