Viper assembly plant to become museum

Viper assembly plant to become museum

Historic Chrysler facility to house company’s nearly 400 concept and historic vehicles

You may have wondered what was going to happen to the car collection when Fiat Chrysler Automobile closed its museum adjacent to its U.S. headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan, a couple of years ago.

The company has announced it will turn its Conner Avenue Assembly Plant in Detroit into the Conner Center, a new FCA US museum housing nearly 400 concept and historic vehicles, with nearly 100 of them moved from storage to display at any given time.

Most recently, the assembly plant was home to the Dodge Viper, which has been discontinued. As part of the remodeling of the 92-year-old facility, FCA will stage an online auction through April 13 of more than 1,800 Viper items — a few related to the Plymouth Prowler — to benefit the United Way for Southeastern Michigan.

The lobby display in the former Chrysler museum | Larry Edsall photo

Preliminary plans call for a portion of the new museum to be available for “internal use” in the second quarter of 2018. There was no word about when the displays might be open for public viewing, though the company’s news release suggested that the facility could “open its doors to the public in the future.”

“With a storied history of its own, the Conner Avenue facility is an ideal location to showcase the vehicles that have sustained the Company for more than 92 years,” Brandt Rosenbusch, FCA manager of historical services, was quoted in a news release. “We are proud of our history and have been working diligently in the daily care and restoration of these important vehicles. This move will allow us to house all of our collection under one roof and have the space to share that history with our employees.”

Around 77,000 of the building’s 400,000 square-feet of floor space will be used to display vehicles such as the 1902 Rambler, the oldest in the FCA collection, and the 1924 Chrysler Touring, which the company considered to be among the most significant in his history.

The former administrative offices in the plant will be turned into 22,000 square-feet of meeting space, the company noted.

Former museum was on headquarters campus in Auburn Hills | Larry Edsall photo

Regarding the Viper memorabilia auction, former plant manager Mike Tonietto noted that after production ended, “We found things like signed sketches, photos and posters, not to mention all of the items that were part of the operations of the plant. As more and more items were discovered, the question became, what do we do with them. Rather than store them somewhere where they would never be seen or, worse yet, disposed of, we decided to auction them off.

“We know there are lots of Viper – and a few Prowler – owners, fans and even employees around the world who will want to own a piece of automotive history. This is a great way to share some one-of-a-kind pieces involving these iconic vehicles while at the same time supporting an organization that does so much good in the community.”  

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