Tag Archives: Chrysler

Chrysler: Stylin’

3 Nov

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If you love cars images in this post may cause excitement, drooling, rapid heartbeat and verbal outbursts. All other readers, please take into consideration what an amazing experience it is to be able to wander around the Design Studio of a major automaker, step foot in the Design Dome, sit inside concept cars, be in the space where designs are born, put on paper and carved into clay, as I said, AMAZING! Chrysler pulled out all the stops for this open house; future and current models are on display, they dug deep into the archives pulling out and dusting off concept vehicles of different eras for our viewing pleasure.

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We have crossed the building from one end to the other finally arriving at the Design Studio, the door is open, let’s go in. From the instant we enter the studio I know I’m going to have my hands full keeping up with the boys; at the very first sight of vintage muscle car art hanging on the walls their eyes begin to glaze over, they don’t know where to look first. I see other visitors with the same affliction bumping into folks, their eyes focused only on what’s in front of them, nothing breaking their concentration. I have to admit, this is way cool… We are in the Product Design area, we come face to face with a gleaming silver luxury sportscar called “Firepower”, very sleek-looking, I love the two-tone interior. In this area walls are a deep putty color, bold, abstract-ish paintings of muscle cars pop on the neutral background. In a large open area trucks, Jeeps and cars intermix with employee work space. On the far side, glass enclosed offices belong to brand executives, we get an insiders peek at the personality of each; one has a great Pop Art poster of Virgil Exner.

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There’s stuff everywhere; photo-art of a 1960 Imperial Dash, a vintage Challenger interior. An actual clay 1970 Challenger dashboard stands on a cabinet, (Hey, I used to have a ’70 Challenger!) this is the original model from which they were made. Underneath we find shifters, switches, panels and gadgets. Renderings fill large bulletin boards, big chunks of clay and modeling tools allow kids and grown-up to try their hand at car design. A Jeep Treo is getting a lot of attention as is the also-never-produced Demon convertible. Through a doorway we enter a room with a Turbine Car, a video tells the story of this exceptional car on a screen nearby.

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There it is, the styling dome… It’s much larger than I expected, lights in the ceiling remind me of stars in the sky, droves of people mill about; Kris, our friend and I each head off in different directions. It’s like some sort of dance the way people shift from one remarkable car to the next, all the while smart phone in hand. There’s a white Challenger T/A, a blue Viper Indy Pace Car, I’m sorta fascinated by the Mopar Drag Pak Challenger, I notice Kris can’t take his eyes off the red Charger concept from back in 1999. People pose for pictures in front of one-off cars and trucks as if they are celebrities. 

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Making my way through the crowd I meet back up with the boys outside on the Design Court; a handful of unique vehicles await us. I like the Africa Jeep concept, there’s a snazzy Chrysler 300 Super S with a blue matte finish paint job, the Mopar Edition Charger looks good, the Challenger GT AWD concept looks tough with the black hood, roof, trunk, wheels and tires.

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Back inside we move on to the next area, the black 1968 Charger R/T stops us in our tracks, muscle car photo art hangs on the wall. Vehicles are scattered about; an orange Wrangler with plaid seats looks ready to hit the trails, folks climb into the grey “Stitch” Jeep, I heard the seats are actually Viper seats. A WWII military Willy’s Jeep reminds us how long they’ve been around, a half-Jeep is mounted on the wall.

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A small section is dedicated to Viper, love the far-out renderings; how about that snake-skin green? Check out the new 340 Daytona, this one has a clay front end, I like the pic Kris took of the Daytona Hemi hood decal. The futuristic drawings of the Challenger are awesome, a large board shows us examples of the Hellcat logo. Trucks are next, this is the first time I’ve seen the 2012 Lil’ Red Express Truck concept, stacks and all. The bright yellow Dodge Ram Rumble Bee truck is extremely popular, I’m glad to see the Bee is still around. A father and daughter work together on the truck clay model, this is truly a family affair.

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Work areas are dark in the next department, more great automotive art hangs about. This must be the Silver section the silver Chrysler 300 concept is stylish as is the Chrysler Nassau concept from 2007, the ME 12 Chrysler is more charcoal than silver, it’s streamlined, elegant, graceful, slick, wouldn’t it be fun to get a ride in this one? The Brilliant Blue custom Jeep plays homage to the old 1976 Cherokee’s, love the color. As I walk I notice shelves stacked with modern wheels, huge automotive photos on the walls, posters with pictures of cars and trucks and their progression through the years.  The boys and I meet up by the Renegade on the scanning machine, even thought I don’t know how it works it’s captivating to look at. We’re so impressed, enthralled and excited by everything we’ve seen, I especially like the way the vehicles are all connected through time; the past, present and future all in the same space. A big thank you to our friend for taking us on this exquisite journey and another thank you to Chrysler for the privilege of seeing the inner-workings of the company. A great time was had by all. 

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Chrysler: Testing…Testing…

30 Oct

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Recently, a friend asked if we’d like to be his guest for the 25th Anniversary open house at the Chrysler Technical Center in Auburn Hills…Uhhh, Yeah! We assumed it would be a cursory tour, surely Chrysler wouldn’t allow people to poke around their engineering and design epicenter… man, were we in for a surprise!!??  The best news was reading “photos  allowed” in the invitation, seriously? We are so there….

Chrysler Corporation was founded June 6, 1925 by Walter P Chrysler who re-organized the Maxwell Motor Company into his namesake. Always engineering innovators they were first to mass-produced cars with four-wheel hydraulic brakes, rubber engine mounts, air conditioning, electric windows and anti-lock brakes, to name a few. They also developed a road wheel with a rigid rim designed to keep a deflated tire from flying off the wheel; this safety wheel was eventually adopted by the auto industry worldwide. Back in 1955 they built the first production car to reach the 300 horsepower mark with their aptly named Chrysler 300, yep, that’s where it came from.

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We meet our friend in the parking lot and make our way to the entrance of the mammoth building–get this: at 5.3 million sq. ft. the complex is the second-largest building in the United States in floor space, only the Pentagon is larger; as of April 2016, approximately 15,000 people work at the complex–wow! We join the crowd of visitors and take the escalator to the second floor. Carpeted corridors throughout the elongated atrium are lit by natural sunlight, hallways appear endless. I can’t even begin to describe the massiveness of this place, I’m sure you could hide the Fisher building in here; we seem to walk forever to get from one section to another. We pick up the pace passing pretzel stations (in case you get lost at least you have food!), face painting and photo booths on our way back to the first floor, bands are between sets at Tech Plaza, we pause to check out the octagonal skylight, the center point of the building I presume; the place is buzzing with activity. I’m careful not to lose our friend, Kris keeps wandering off in a daze, I’m worried his head will explode!!

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We are now in the guts of the building, rows of fluorescent lights hang overhead, our friend is familiar with the building and explains things as we go; we’ve arrived at Science Court. We trek down hallways, there’s no shortage of dynamometers. We pop in and out of labs, most have funky-shaped foam mounted to the wall for sound deadening. An engine is set up for testing, here they can detect and isolate engine noise; I’m amazed we’re able to get such an up-close look. Down a ways a clay model Ram is attached to an elevated test unit, further on a B-5 blue Scat Pack Challenger with a shaker hood is parked in the hall, with a 392 c.i. engine this beauty makes 485 horsepower. If that’s not enough get-up-and-go for you check out the Redline Red Charger Hellcat, with a horsepower rating of 707 it can go over 200 mph; perfect when we’re running behind for a show at the Fox! The Aero Acoustic Wind Tunnel is next, the vehicle they’re testing? A super-cool white, black stripe, Viper ACR. The low, sporty lines of the vehicle make for an impressive demonstration of aerodynamic testing. Again I am astounded by the enormous space; sized to accommodate cars and trucks of the American market, the turntable is 18 ft in diameter,  it took 3 years to build the tunnel, it has a maximum airflow speed of over 140 mph. In a large open area a mini van frame is constructed with different color structures, so that’s what it looks like without skin…

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In the Noise, Vibration & Harshness Lab we see a burgundy Challenger Hellcat, sweet, next to that a gorgeous Viper in red with black stripes, this is so cool! All eyes are on the Yellow Jacket T/A Challenger that was recently introduced to the public, look at that flat black hood and front spoiler, now that’s a muscle car! A silver Grand Cherokee sits with its rear wheels on rollers, this can simulate various driving conditions, I just noticed this model is right-hand drive. Adults and kids alike are attracted to the Power Wagon with the grey and red lettering and graphics, I think this is the off-road package. Over in the Electro Magnetic Compatibility Lab testing focuses on the vehicle’s electronic systems and how they operate when exposed to radio frequencies. Potential interference can come from radio and television towers, ham radios, cell phones and burglar alarms, guess I never thought about that before.  A Ram pick-up is in one of the chambers, I kind of dig those pointy cone-shaped things; a black Cherokee waits its turn in the Vehicle Shielded Test Room.

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Moving on to the Environmental Test Cells we follow a pathway through the cold test chamber, ‘cold’ is an understatement, it was freezing, which made the hot test chamber feel really good. Standing in a small room we look through a glass panel into a driving cell, the snow-maker is on kill creating blizzard-like conditions, high winds blow snow directly into the front of a Cherokee; a not-so-subtle reminder of  what we have to look forward to. Exiting the drive cell we come face to face with the refrigeration unit for all that white stuff. In another area we watch a road test simulator at work, a Cherokee is going for a test run; looks like a rough ride. A Limelight Challenger R/T and Jeep Wrangler Unlimited hang nearby waiting for their opportunity. 

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Walking to the Pilot Plant we talk about all the things we’ve seen so far, most of us have no idea how much work goes into each model vehicle; from the very first idea put on paper, to the clay model, systems testing, to the build itself— all of which happens right here in this complex; it truly boggles the mind. The Pilot Plant is basically an assembly line, new models are kept top-secret and are covered for our visit. By building the initial vehicle here any problems that come up can be ironed out before the vehicle is put into assembly at the plant. It’s fascinating to look at, bodies rest on wheeled platforms, tools and electrical cords dangle from the ceiling, parts are kept in sealed crates, in the paint booth a Wrangler wears a fresh coat of black. I think we’ve seen everything we can on the first floor, next up, Design.  

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The Burbs: Hidden Treasures

13 Apr

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It’s the first Saturday of the month, we’re driving down 26 mile in New Baltimore we turn onto N Bay Dr, cars flood one parking lot in particular, we don’t need to see the address to know it’s the Stahls Automotive Foundation building. The contents of the building belong to one man, Ted Stahl, executive chairman of GroupeStahl which specializes in heat printing on fabrics. About 25 years ago Stahl began collecting vintage automobiles, outgrowing his previous space, his current ‘garage’ is a 45,000 sq. ft. building in Macomb County. The idea behind opening the doors to the public is to “build an appreciation for history.” “Each car was chosen based on engineering achievements that made it an important part of the evolution of the automobile.” There are over 80 vehicles on display, some are more than 100 years old. Let’s take a look.

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The lobby is home to an unexpected collection of music-playing devices. Juke boxes and a gorgeous, inlaid wood, Victorian Porter music box share the room with an amazing Hupfield Phonoliszt-Violina which plays 3 real violins along with a beautiful Mortier 87 key cafe organ in an Art Deco style cabinet dating from 1930. I’ve never seen anything like the Mills Violino-Virtuoso or the Wurlitzer PianOrchestra, they are all restored, operational, and works of art to look at, not to mention the beautiful melodies they produce. All of a sudden a loud, happy tune explodes into the air, it’s coming from the other room.

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We are now in the main section of the building, the music and all of the activity puts me in the mind of a circus. The music draws me to the largest instrument in the Stahl collection, a 1924 Wurlitzer theatre organ built for the Wurlitzer family mansion in Cincinnati. There are 1524 pipes ranging in size from 16′ high to the size of a pencil, an organist sits in front of the keyboard, his fingers dancing across the keys, people sit in folding chairs tapping their toes and smiling. Vehicles are arranged in chronological order, the oldest being a 1899 De Dion-Bouton Tricycle. There’s something to look at in every direction, signs, banners and flags hang from the ceiling and on the walls, vintage neon and porcelain steel signs from the 1920’s to the 50’s delight visitors. Gas pumps with fancy glass globes wear names like Polly, Gilmore and Sinclair. Memorabilia covers walls, sits in shelves and fills display cabinets, a Route 66 theme is carried out throughout the space.

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The cars, yes, those stunning mechanical works of art are the main attraction, get this, there are no ropes surrounding these incredibly valuable vehicles, you can walk right up to them, they even have towels draped across the top of the door so you can peek right inside. Hoods are up, tops are down, placards tell us about the vehicle, paint colors span the rainbow. Spoke wheels, huge headlights, wide white walls come on Hudson’s, Packards, Chryslers, to name a few. Special emphasis is placed on the cars of the 1930’s and 40’s, the Depression and Art Deco eras. The oldest is a 1886 Daimler prototype, the newest a 1967 Pontiac GTO Convertible, and of course there’s everything in between. Brands found here : Oldsmobile, Locomobile, Oakland, Ford, Chevrolet, Auburn, Cord, Duesenberg, Cadillac, Willy’s.

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Row after row of polished chrome, fancy hood ornaments, spectacular grills and leather interiors leave us in awe. Cars from movies such as The Great Race, The Reivers, the Whoville family sedan from How The Grinch Stole Christmas and Tucker look perfectly at home. Kris’s favorite is the magnificent deep blue 1932 Chrysler CL Imperial but I think he’d take any one of the American luxury cars from the 30’s, the details are incredible inside and out.

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We amble up and down aisles, all of a sudden the 1924 Mortier 97 key dance organ comes to life. Completely restored, this organ traveled through Belgium providing music and entertainment at 17 different fairs every year. It’s absolutely beautiful, the cream-colored cabinet is elaborately painted with landscape scenes, ornamental details are colored in pearly pastel colors, I just love it. In the corner is a life-size diorama of a Bob’s Big Boy complete with a soda fountain, like being back in the 50’s. Stahls Repair Garage pays tribute to the old-fashioned service station; you couldn’t get nachos or a slurpee, but there was a guy who actually pumped your gas, checked your oil and could even repair your car–ahhh, the good old days!

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 The whole time we’re here I have to keep reminding myself, this is some guy’s garage–and what a garage it is. It’s quite generous of the Stahl family to allow all of us a glimpse of his collection. There is no admission fee. The building is open every Tuesday from 1-4 pm and the 1st Saturday of the month from 11-4 pm. We encourage you to visit.

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From here we take 26 Mile into Marine City. We’re having lunch at Blue Pike Cantina on Water St. It’s a winery and smokehouse, you can do a wine tasting, buy bottles of wine and have a snack or a meal. After running out of wine at the end of the year, this is the first weekend they are open again. Inside, we are the only customers. The cozy space is fitted with wine racks, dining tables and counter space. Appetizing looking small plates are being placed in the glass cooler for display. We start with a glass of wine, Super Tuscan for me and Black Raspberry for Kris. The Italian Nachos come out first, homemade pasta chips drizzled with alfredo sauce and topped with Italian sausage, olives, pepper rings, green onions and tomato, it’s really good. Our smoked meatloaf sandwich is huge. Smoked meatloaf made in-house is sliced and placed on a kaiser roll, cole slaw and bbq sauce complete the sandwich, it arrives in a basket surrounded by housemade potato chips, delicious.

 

Walter P Chrysler Museum, Red Knapps Dairy Bar, Paint Creek Cider Mill

20 Aug

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What do you like to do on a rainy Summer day? We got off to a late start on Sunday so we began our outing with lunch. Red Knapps Dairy Bar has been a staple of Main Street Rochester since 1950. I have been coming to this place all my life and enjoy it just as much now as I did when I was a kid. The decor is authentic kitschy diner, I like to sit at the dairy bar on the vintage red barstools. The food is exactly what you’d expect;  burgers, fries, onion rings and of course shakes and malts. The burgers are large here; they’re not fancy but you can dress them up with a variety of toppings, onions and relish are delivered to you in tupperware containers. You must try the onion rings, they are massive in size; cut fresh to order, battered and deep fried, they are the best we’ve ever had, one order can easily feed two. I much prefer a malt over a shake, but you can’t go wrong with either here, flavor choices go way beyond vanilla, chocolate and strawberry; how about mocha, peanut butter or butterscotch? I order mine double chocolate (made with chocolate ice cream) and extra malt, you don’t get malts like this just anywhere. It arrives at your table in a tall old fashioned glass with both a spoon and a straw along with the remainder left in the shiny metal mixing container, you can easily get another full glass out of it. Knapps is still owned by the family, Red’s son Gerald and his son Miles are in charge now and they still do things the old fashioned way, and we’re all glad for it.

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With the anticipation of the Woodward Dream Cruise in the air, we paid a visit to the Walter P Chrysler Museum in Auburn Hills. The 55,000 sq. ft. museum is spread out over three floors and has something for everyone. Cars have always been more than just transportation, they tell the history of America and what was going on in the world, they reflect the fashion of the times and the way people lived. Historical exhibits explain the significance of the more than 65 vehicles, and take you through the timeline of the Chrysler Corporation. The cars themselves are gorgeous; huge chrome bumpers, mouldings, and grills. Two-tone paint jobs in pink and cream, high impact colors like Sublime, Plum Crazy, and Vitamin C, and don’t forget wood-grain. Every decade is represented here; From Chrysler’s inception in the mid 20’s to the Art Deco styling of the Air Flow, right through WWII to the fabulous fins, chrome and colors of the 1950’s. Next up Muscle Cars with their stripes, scoops and spoilers; names like RoadRunner, Challenger and Super Bee. I love the clever marketing terms used in this era, a language all it’s own; Mod Top, Air Grabber,Tuff Wheel and Shaker! Would you like your ‘Cuda with a Pistol Grip or Slap-Stik shifter ?  Hood pins or rear window louvers your style? Paint it Sassy Grass Green or Moulin Rouge, it was all up to you. Then continuing into and out of the gas crunch with the Cordoba and Volare, K car, Shelby’s and Mini Vans. Then we arrive at the present with the gorgeous 2011 Dodge Challenger and Charger, I wish I could take them all home.

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Downstairs in addition to race cars and Jeeps you will find one of my favorites the Dodge La Femme,  specifically designed for women, this vehicle came with a matching umbrella and handbag, how cool is that! Kris has a great passion for cars and while he was initially attracted to the Muscle Cars, and he’s had his share, we have both grown to like and appreciate cars of all eras. When we travel we always like to go to the ‘local’ museum, it allows you to get a real sense of the people and the significance of a place when you know more about them.  The same can be said of the Chrysler Museum and Detroit, this city put the world on wheels, we have a truly amazing manufacturing history, one that we can all be proud of. They did a great job with this place, you can easily spend an hour or more just looking around. 

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VIEW  MORE COOL CARS HERE

When we left the museum we made our way over to scenic Orion Rd to get an ice cream at the Historic Paint Creek Cider Mill.  Located just off the Paint Creek Trail they are now open 7 days a week. Inside you can choose from a wide variety of flavors of Hershey’s Ice Cream, try the Cappuccino Crunch; coffee flavored ice cream with bits of crunchy toffee with deep chocolate fudge running through it. Yes, they have donuts even in Summer , how about a Maple Bacon? The massive covered porch allows you to sit outdoors even if the weather is less than ideal. We enjoyed our ice cream and the peaceful setting, before you know it the leaves will be turning and lines will be out the door!

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