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FCA to repurpose former Viper assembly plant as home to its historic vehicles

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Photo courtesy FCA.

Five years after closing the Walter P. Chrysler Museum, Chrysler’s parent company has decided to repurpose the former home of Dodge Viper production into an exhibit space for the company’s historic vehicle collection. The space will, however, remain off-limits to the general public for the time being.

As announced in a press release on Wednesday, March 21, FCA has started cleaning out the Conner Avenue Assembly Plant just south of Detroit’s 8 Mile Road in preparation for turning it into “an internal meeting and display space that will showcase the Company’s concept and historic vehicle collection.” According to the press release, the plant’s former administrative offices – about 22,000 of the plant’s 392,000 square feet of floor space – will become meeting spaces, while another 77,000 square feet of the plant will become exhibit space.

That exhibit space will be able to accommodate about 85 of the company’s 400-vehicle collection. The remainder of the floor space, presumably, will be dedicated to storing the remainder of the collection, currently warehoused in multiple locations.

Champion Spark Plugs originally built the plant in 1966 and operated out of it until 1995, when it sold the plant to Chrysler. In October of that year, Chrysler transferred Dodge Viper production from the New Mack Assembly Plant to Conner Avenue, where it also installed Plymouth Prowler production lines. Viper and Prowler assembly continued at Conner until each model’s definitive discontinuation, the latter in 2002, the former in August 2017.

The re-christened Conner Center will initially not be open to the public, though FCA noted that it may in the future change that policy. Thus, the Conner Center will resemble GM’s Heritage Center, which is used largely for internal functions and only allows the public to visit as part of group tours.

Photo courtesy Chrysler Media.

Founded in 1999, the 55,000-square-foot Walter P. Chrysler Museum operated in Auburn Hills, Michigan, as an independent 501(c)3 non-profit following its spin-off from Chrysler itself during the company’s 2008 bankruptcy. Chrysler bought the museum back and shuttered it at the end of 2012, but kept it open for private functions and facility rentals until December 2016, when it cleared out the museum’s former home to make way for Maserati’s North American headquarters.

In cleaning out the Conner Avenue Assembly Plant, FCA gathered a number of Viper items and memorabilia it will auction off with proceeds going to the United Way of Southeast Michigan.