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Local News / Automotive

Monday, 8 November, 2010 1:22 AM

The GM Heritage Center is available for corporate parties and group tours

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

An overview of the GM Heritage Center in Sterling Heights, Mich.

by Jason Rzucidlo
americajr@americajr.com

 

STERLING HEIGHTS, Mich. -- The GM Heritage Center is a 81,000 square foot museum in Sterling Heights, Mich. It has about 200 vehicles on display and an archive with 15,000 linear feet of shelving with significant documents, manuals, brochures and artifacts from GM's history. The Heritage Center is not open to the public for individual tours. However, members of the public can obtain access to the museum by hosting a corporate party or a group tour with 30 people or more. It is the perfect location to hold conferences, meetings and other special events.

Group tours are available at a cost of $10 per person for tours Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. For after hours or Saturday tours, the cost is $20 per person. Tours on Sunday and holidays can be quoted by the GM Heritage Center's event coordinator, Peggy Vezina. There is a 30-person minimum and tours last about an hour and a half.

Greg Wallace, general manager of the GM Heritage Center, says about 20,000 people tour the museum each year even though it is not open to the public.

"The Heritage Center is a compilation of all the brands within General Motors," Wallace explained. "At one time, each of the brands were independent of each other. Each of the brands were doing their own thing in terms of archive and automobiles and artifacts go. Throughout the years as GM has been consolidating, a lot of this stuff was being put into warehouses and essentially being scattered amongst GM. In 2003, we went everywhere within GM trying to locate all these artifacts and automobiles and archive. By 2006, we've found that cars were in 35 different places not only Michigan, but other parts of the United States."

He added: "The whole premise of this place is to bring everything into one spot. We can really keep an eye on it and take care of it. In this facility, we have about 180 of our 400 collector cars. We also have 15,000 linear feet or archival storage. We use that to serve not only internal departments within General Motors, trademark, licensing, legal, engineering staffs, design staffs, but also to the media. When the media is looking for an image of an assembly plant or car, they come to us for that."

How is the GM Heritage Center different from other museums such as The Henry Ford or the Walter P. Chrysler Museum?

"The biggest difference between us and other museums are it's a corporate museum that's dedicated to just to General Motors and its products," the general manager answered. "We do cater to enthusiast groups. Today, we have the SAE group in here. It's not uncommon for us to have Corvette groups, Camaro groups, antique car groups."

Are there any plans to open the Heritage Center to the public?

"At this point in time, there are no real plans to open it to the public," Wallace said. "We get very high numbers for a Heritage Center that's not open to the public."

What is the most famous vehicle within the collection at the GM Heritage Center?

"The 1938 Buick Y-Job, this is the first concept car of all time," the general manager explained. "This is the first concept car by any manufacturer. It was done by Harley Earl. Harley Earl was the famous automobile designer. General Motors hired Harley Earl from Hollywood. He was doing cars for movie stars out there. They liked what he was doing so they commissioned him to come in and do the new LaSalle for Cadillac. It was so successful that they made him head of art and color, which is now design center today or design staff."

The museum showcases GM's past, present and even the future with electric vehicles.

"In fact, we have the very first Chevy Volt in here now," Wallace said. "We have all of the electric vehicles going back into the '60s. A lot of people don't realize that the automobile manufacturers, GM in particular, has been dabbling in electric vehicles for almost 45-50 years. We have examples of all those alternative fuel vehicles."

Are any of the vehicles owned or ever driven by celebrities?

"The Y-Job has been very well represented as far as celebrities go," the general manager answered. "From the late '30s, '40s, most of the people you wouldn't recognize, but kings and queens and movie stars have all been involved with the Buick Y-Job."

Some new movies and television shows have been filmed inside the Heritage Center because of Michigan's 42 percent tax incentive for the film industry.

"We've done some pieces for the films," Wallace confirmed. "I'm not at liberty to talk about what's coming up, but stay tuned. You're going to see some of the more popular films among young people. You're going to recognize this place in the background."

Are these vehicles permanently in the collection or do they travel to other museums around the country?

"Our collection is very fluid, we have a little over 400 cars," the general manager said. "They do, they travel everywhere. It's not uncommon for this place to have a totally different look in six months because they are moving around everywhere."

Corporate parties can be scheduled at the Heritage Center starting at $1,400 and going up to $11,800. The cost includes exclusive use of the venue, barrier-free viewing of vehicles, parking for up to 250 cars, programmable lighting system, podium with wireless microphones and a high output projector. A conference room is also available for up to 14 people. Cameras are welcome. Guests are asked not to touch the vehicles, enter vehicles or open doors or hoods.

For more information on the GM Heritage Center, call (586) 276-1498 or visit www.gmheritagecenter.com.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

A 1963 Chevrolet Nova SS and other vehicles inside the GM Heritage Center.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Chevrolet Corvettes from the past and the present.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

The Buick Y-Job was the auto industry's first concept car, produced by Buick (a division of General Motors), in 1938. Designed by Harley J. Earl, the car had power-operated hidden headlamps, a "gunsight" hood ornament, wraparound bumpers, flush door handles, and prefigured styling cues used by Buick until the 1950s.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

The car itself was actually driven for a number of years by Harley Earl, until he replaced it with a 1951 model car. Sometime after that, the car was restored at the Henry Ford Museum, until 1993 when it was returned to the GM Design Center and finally the Heritage Center.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Neon signs from GM's past

 

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