After the Walter P. Chrysler Museum opened in October 1999 on the Auburn Hills campus of the company’s world headquarters it quickly became one of my favorite places during my Detroit area visits.
How sad it was when Fiat Chrysler Automobiles LLC announced the museum would close in 2012. It stayed closed to the public, with exception for a brief period in 2016 when it would be re-opened with limited hours for event and meeting rentals, and for Chrysler special events. Finally, on Dec. 18, 2016, the museum authorities decided to pull the plug.
The building was designed by Giffels Accociatees and occupied about 10 acres next to Chrysler’s Headquarters and Technology Center. The three-level building provided over 55,000 square feet of exhibition space. Reflecting the building material on the nearby headquarters, the museum was emblazoned with a polished red granite and black glass exterior.
About 65 Chrysler-related vehicles were on display, ranging from vintage automobiles to concept cars. Viewers were entertained by interactive displays and by exhibits depicting Chrysler’s design, technology and innovation history, including an educational timeline wall. Initially attendance was 90,000 visitors annually and the enterprise was profitable. But from 2010 to 2011 the facility lost nearly $1.3 million.
I found several reasons to visit the museum. Beyond the cars and exhibits, I enjoyed the terrific gift shop, which sold all kinds of interesting automotive memorabilia like die-cast cars and many selections of books and magazines.
Since its closure, the building has found a new use. Converted to office space, it is now the U.S. headquarters for FCA’s Maserati and Alfa Romeo brands.
So what happened to all the vehicles?
I’m happy to say this story has a happy ending for the corporate car collection. Chrysler announced in March 2018 it will convert its Conner Avenue Assembly Plant in Detroit into the Conner Center. This new FCA U.S. museum will house nearly 400 of the company’s historic vehicles. One hundred of the production cars, concepts and customs will be on display at any one time.
What FCA is creating with its orphaned historical collection reminds me of the impressive General Motors Heritage Center in the northern suburb of Sterling Heights. Like the Chrysler Conner Center, the GM facility is the depository of hundreds of historic vehicles from GM’s long history. Perhaps some readers may recall taking a bus trip to the GM collection several years ago. It was an event I organized during my Concours career.
The Connor Center is being created in the now-departed Dodge Viper sports car factory. Reports I read say part of the new museum will be available for “internal use” and not open to the public. According to company officials, the facility could “open its doors to the public in the future.”
The facility has 400,000 square-feet with 77,000 square-feet set aside for vehicle displays, including such significant models as the1902 Rambler – the oldest in the FCA collection – and the 1924 Chrysler Tourer, an example of the first automobile offered for sale by Walter P. Chrysler.
Brandt Rosenbusch, FCA manager of historical services, told Automobile News in March that “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. … 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.”
Readers will be notified when/if a decision is made to open the Connor Center for public viewing. I can’t wait to step inside and enjoy seeing many favorite Chrysler vehicles, like the 1953 Ghia Special and the 1940 Newport.
New Gilmore exhibit
For readers feeling housebound because of the cold, blustery days I have a great excuse to get out of the house, hop in the car and trek eastward on I-94 to Hickory Corners northeast of Kalamazoo. The popular Gilmore Car Museum just announced its newest exhibition feature: Duesenberg – Celebrating an American Classic.
Jay Follis, Gilmore director of marketing, said in a news release the exhibit will showcase up to 20 of these rare cars in rotation and is perhaps the largest, most prestigious public museum exhibition of Duesenberg Motor Cars held in decades. The exhibition will run until fall 2019.
The museum staff has managed to corral a bevy of remarkable automobiles designed by brothers Fred and Augie Duesenberg. Following are just a few of the magnificent beasts presently on display.
• 1929 Duesenberg J-111: Built with custom coachwork by LeBaron for the New York and Los Angeles auto shows.
• 1933 Duesenberg SJ-528: One of just 36 chassis factory-fitted with a supercharged engine. Electric razor inventor Lt. Col. Jacob Schick was first owner.
• 1929 Duesenberg J-187: Originally purchased in Grand Rapids for $18,500 (when a Model T could be bought for under $500.) It was used as a courtesy vehicle for important clients in a law firm.
• 1930 Duesenberg J-143 Roadster Convertible Coupe: Its first owner was Al Capone’s partner in crime, Jake “The Barber” Factor.
• 1931 Duesenberg Supercharged J-345: Known as a Disappearing Top Convertible Coupe and has a long history of owners with mobster connections.
The museum staff has written and prepared educational panels noting historical information about each of the Duesenbergs on display, including, I presume, a reference to the expression, “It’s a Duesy!” Go to www.gilmorecarmuseum.org or call 269 671-5089 for additional information.
Get Ready! A ‘New York Undercover’ Reboot Could Be Coming To ABC
Good news 90s TV fans! Dick Wolf’s groundbreaking drama, New York Undercover could actually be returning to TV in the near future.
According to Deadline, ABC, which is currently in the process of reviving Steven Bochco’s critically acclaimed series NYPD Blue, may be looking to add the hip police procedural to its lineup as well.
Recently, Rick Rosen, Wolf’s agent, hinted that his client “is reviving one of his shows from years ago,” which many assume is New York Undercover. Rosen said several networks are bidding on the project, and Deadline writer Nellie Andreeva predicts ABC will be the winner.
New York Undercover premiered on FOX in 1994 and ran for four seasons before airing its final episode in 1999.
The show debuted to praise from both critics and fans alike, thanks to its super diverse cast, which featured two people of color — Malik Yoba and Michael DeLorenzo — as leads.
While both men have has gone on to have a long career full of interesting roles, Yoba said New York Undercover holds a special place in his heart.
“I’ve been a serious lead in thirteen series, and New York Undercover is the most enduring of all of it,” he told ESSENCE back in August. “So that just — you know — speaks to the importance of what type of programming it was.”
Yoba also believes the trailblazing series has even more stories to tell.
“You gotta have the things that people are dealing with and resonating with right now that inspire,” he said, suggesting the reboot could tackle today’s fraught political climate and the tense relationship between communities of color and the police.
While the future of a New York Undercover revival isn’t certain just yet, this is definitely one show we’d like to see on TV again.
WATCH THE NEW CAPTAIN MARVEL TRAILER NOW
“Would you like to know what you really are?” That’s a query posed to Carol Danvers (played by Brie Larson) in the just-released second trailer for next year’s Captain Marvel. And it’s a variation on a question Marvel fans have been asking themselves for the last year or so: Just who is this big-screen Captain Marvel—and what role will she play in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as it readies to enter Phase 4?
Judging by the the new trailer, we at least know that Larson’s character will stay true to her comic-book roots. Her Danvers is an ace military pilot who gets caught up in an intergalactic battle between two species, the Krees and the Skrulls, resulting in her being gifted with extraordinary super-powers. (She also has an extraordinarily cool mohawk-like ‘do, which makes a few quick cameos in the trailer). Captain Marvel takes place in the nineties, as Danvers is back on Earth, trying to make sense of how she got there. “I keep having these memories,” she tells Nick Fury (played by a digitally de-aged, two-eyed Samuel L. Jackson). “Something in my past is the key to all of this.”
We see quite a few glimpses of that past, including her rescue by the Krees—”a race of noble warrior-heroes,” she explains—who find her near-dead and devoid of memory. One of their leaders, played by Annette Bening, explains that Danvers was rebirthed as a Kree, so that she could live “longer, stronger, superior.” That explains why Captain Marvel can shoot bright blue bolts of energy from her hands: It’s Krees’ lightning!
Just how great those powers are, however, is a key question: Captain Marvel finds our hero facing down a new threat led by Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), a pointy-eared Skrull—a guy that can’t get no love from Brie, so a showdown is inevitable. We also see her taking to the subways to beat up an old woman suspected of a Skrull-in-disguise, and taking guidance from Kree mentor, played by Jude Law. But will Captain Marvel posses the kind of near-atomic powers she maintains in the comics—the kind of abilities that could, say, propel her forward in time and take on Thanos? For the Marvel fans who watched many of their favorite heroes vanquished last years by the Snap in Avengers: Infinity War, that’s one of the big head-scratchers of Captain Marvel: Once she finds out who she really is, but will be it enough to save the day?
We’ll know soon enough. Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, the filmmakers behind such revered indie dramas as Half Nelson and Sugar, the supercharged Captain Marvel arrives March 8. That’s less than two months before the long-awaited Avengers: Infinity War follow-up—hopefully titled Avengers: Snap 2 It!—that will also feature Larson flying in for what promises to be more than just a cameo. Hopefully, the big screen ready for two meme-friendly superheroes named Carol.
Sprucing up NYC: Rockefeller Center lights Christmas tree
A massive Norway spruce has been lit up in a tradition that ushers in Christmastime in New York City.
Mayor Bill de Blasio flipped the switch Wednesday night to light the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree following a televised extravaganza that featured performances by Diana Ross and Tony Bennett.
The 72-foot-tall tree is decorated with 5 miles (8 kilometers) of multicolored LED lights and a 900-pound Swarovski crystal star. Rockefeller Center has hosted the ceremony since 1931.
Police officers were plentiful, and spectators were funneled through security.
The 75-year-old tree was donated by a couple in Wallkill, 60 miles (100 kilometers) north of the city.
It will remain on display until Jan. 7. Then it will be given to Habitat for Humanity to help build homes.
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