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The Gilmore Car Museum

The Gilmore Car Museum

Two of the best ways to get started in the car hobby is to attend local car shows (cars and coffees) or to visit an automotive museum.  The beauty of local car shows is that they are close to home and full of passionate car people.  The downside is that many don’t have a full cross section of cars from history.  For that, you should plan a trip to an automotive museum.

Related article:  How To Start In The Car Hobby

Just this week, I had a chance to visit the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan.  Even though The Gilmore is only 120 miles from my home, I never found the time to travel there (the last 40 miles of that drive was on some twisty back roads–loads of fun in the Camaro!).  My wife was kind enough to arrange a visit as part of my birthday, so who was I to turn that down?

I wish I had made this trip sooner.  This was probably the best public car museum I’ve experienced, and one I highly recommend.

About The Gilmore Car Museum

The Gilmore Car Museum started in the early 1960s when Donald S. Gilmore began collecting vintage automobiles.  Gilmore was the president of The Upjohn Company, a pharmaceutical manufacturer near Kalamazoo, MI.  Once his collection grew too large to house at his home, he did what every car collector aspires to do: he bought a barn.

It wasn’t just a barn he acquired, he bought 90 acres of land in southwestern Michigan in Hickory Corners. It was his wife Genevieve who had the idea of turning the collection into a museum, providing future generations access to Donald’s one-of-a-kind collection. They established a non-profit foundation and opened the museum to the public for the first time on Sunday, July 31, 1966.

Aerial view of the museum grounds

Museum Property

Today, the Gilmore Car Museum is North America’s largest auto museum with over 400 vehicles on display and over 190,000 square feet of exhibit space. The Museum’s 90-acre Historic Campus features numerous vintage structures including a restored and fully-functioning 1941 Silk City Diner, a recreated 1930s Shell Station, six onsite Partner Museums, and so much more.

The overall campus is nicely organized and extremely well kept.  They have plenty of room for the various weekend car shows they host, in addition to the museum buildings.

To learn more about the museum, local accommodations and directions, visit the The Gilmore Car Museum website.

Exhibits

In addition to the rotation of vehicles in their inventory, the museum is currently running a display of station wagons.  Everything from early woody wagons to 1960s-1990s station wagons are part of this exhibit.  It even includes one of the promo Family Truckster wagons used in the movie “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”

Check out some of the pictures I took of this display below:

collection of station wagons

station wagon with rooftop tent

green station wagon from Vaction movie

blue and white wagon

The station wagon exhibit runs through March 2025.  The ongoing exhibits have some pretty fabulous cars as well.  Some of my favorite cars in the regular display are shown below:

orange car

group of muscle cars

black corvette

motorcycle display

Final Thoughts & Questions

I spent just over two hours at the museum and will need to plan another visit to see more.  Unlike a local car show or cars & coffee, the guides at the museum were extremely knowledgeable and generous with their time.  Each one of them was enthusiastic about the cars they represented and added details not found on the placards.

If you are in a position to travel to Southwestern Michigan, make it a point to visit the Gilmore Car Museum.  It is a family-friendly experience that should not be missed.

Please let me know if you have any added thoughts or questions. You can reach me via email (wct.billtaylor@gmail.com) or in the comments below.

Want to learn more about me?  Go to this article:   Who’s Your Nanny?

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1 Comment

  1. Ernie Louison

    Nice article, Bill! If I ever get to Michigan, I will certainly visit the museum. I am definitely impressed with them having a Chrysler Turbine.

    Reply

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