Much more than a vintage car collection, Gilmore Car Museum celebrates America’s love affair with the automobile and car innovations that changed how people live, work and play.
A unique, year-round attraction for car connoisseurs and the entire family, the historic campus brings America’s motoring past to life through scene-setting vignettes, special exhibits, classic car displays and memorabilia, and recreated auto dealerships.
“We try to tell America’s story through the automobile,” said Jay Follis, director of marketing. Gilmore Car Museum (gilmorecarmuseum.org) encompasses 90 landscaped acres in southwest Michigan, showcasing 400 rare and restored cars from all eras.
What started as the private collection of Kalamazoo businessman Donald Gilmore opened to the public as a nonprofit museum in 1966. It has since grown into the largest automobile museum in North America. Visitors can admire the shiny chrome and custom paint jobs, learn about the cars’ specs and engines, and stand close for pictures.
“We don’t have any ropes keeping you back, you can get up close and look into the interiors,” Follis said.
The museum draws 125,000 visitors annually and offers car buffs of all ages the chance to share stories of bygone eras and learn how the automobile changed the landscape of America.
“The story isn’t just about how fast a car would go or how it was made; it was why someone would have bought this car or what was going on in America at the time,” Follis said.
The cars are displayed in a recreated factory building from the turn of the century, which includes eight restored 19th-century barns and four car dealerships recreated from original blueprints. Come spring, visitors can explore the grounds and 3 miles of paved roadways on which antique cars and taxis often travel, eat in the authentic 1941 Blue Moon Diner, and tour a recreated 1930s Shell gas station and an 1890s train depot.
“Every exhibit takes on its own personality,” Follis said. “It’s not just rows and rows of cars.”
During the winter, visitors still have the chance to see 300 cars and unique exhibits, including the ongoing “Women Who Motor.” The exhibit tells the story of women’s contributions to the automobile industry, highlighting female race car drivers, the first woman to drive cross country, and designers of interiors and windshield wipers. ≈
IF YOU GO
Gilmore Car Museum
6865 W. Hickory Road, Hickory Corners, off M-43 midway between Detroit and Chicago
(269) 671-5089; gilmorecarmuseum.org
Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday; until 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday
Admission: $14 adults/seniors; $10 youth (7-17); free for ages 6 and under and active military
*Winter speaker series at 3 p.m. Sundays starting in January.
“Car Candy” — Marla R. Miller, Michigan BLUE Magazine.
*Photography courtesy Gilmore Car Museum
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