We tour the reopened Walter P. Chrysler Museum; here’s when you can visit

Chrysler reopens the Walter P. Chrysler Museum Photo 1

After a three-year hiatus, Chrysler’s museum is back in action with limited hours

Last weekend, after a three-year lull in action, Fiat-Chrysler reopened the Walter P. Chrysler Museum. Tucked away in the automaker’s Auburn Hills, Michigan, corporate campus, the museum shut its doors December, 2012, without a definite return plan. However, the company managed to find funding and kicked off the museum’s reopening with a special employee appreciation day.

The 55,000-square-foot building stores around 65 cars and various interactive exhibits on its three floors. With cars ranging from mundane-but-important Dodge Caravan and Chrysler LeBarons to more obscure pieces of history like a Ghia Special Coupe, the museum manages to sample every era of Chrysler history.

Like many automotive museums, the lower level houses a wall marking the technological advancements, design breakthroughs and any other historically significant achievement (plus the long and complex chain of corporate acquisitions) that have taken place since the first Hudson and Dodge Brother cars rolled off the line. Fittingly, the ground level is also home to some of the earliest Mopars –- namely, a 1909 Hudson Roadster.

The ground level shows the automobile’s evolution naturally in a counter clockwise format, going from roadsters and runabouts to a Chrysler Airflow and Dodge Power Wagon. Also included in the lower exhibit are vehicles and machinery showcasing Chrysler’s contributions to the Arsenal of Democracy during World War II.

Chrysler reopens the Walter P. Chrysler Museum Photo 30

A spiral staircase just behind Chrysler’s Ghia-bodied Special Coupe wafts you up to the automaker’s modern era; the top floor follows a similar pattern to the lower, taking you from the sleek 1953 Hudson Hornet to the forward-look era of the mid 1950s to the muscle Mopars of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Also nestled in the later 1960s section is a Chrysler Turbine car, displayed with a spare engine.

The first two floors show more than just the automobiles; displays outline the important pieces of technology that helped Chrysler grow throughout the years. Interactive displays show the importance of hydraulic brakes, helical-cut gears, power steering and alternators. The displays not only outline the principles at hand, but allow the viewer to experience and compare differences between new and old tech hands-on.

After running through the top floor, you’ll run into a car elevator, which whisks you down to the “Boss’s Garage” in the basement. The basement is where the more obscure pieces, like a Hemi ‘Cuda coupe and the Dodge-PPG M4S, reside. The basement also shows off a pair of GTS-R Vipers amid the more antiquated racing technology.

While this museum isn’t as sprawling as its crosstown rival (though we’ll note that The Henry Ford features more than just Blue Oval cars, and indeed, much more than just cars of any marque), or as thorough as one you’d find in Stuttgart, Germany, it is a good way to spend an afternoon. The interactive displays should make even non-car enthusiast who tag along with their car-loving friends out of sympathy have fun tooling around the grounds.

While it is open again, it isn’t open to the public all the time. The next public days are June 4 and 5, with the hours of operation running from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for anyone older than 62, $6 for anyone under 18 and free for anyone under 5 years old. If you miss the first public dates, you can view a list of all the future openings on the museum’s website or consult the schedule in the PDF below.

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