The Dodge Viper was one of the silliest, most extreme and most misunderstood sports cars to ever come out of Detroit. We are all poorer for its having ceased production and the place where Chrysler chose to build it deserves to be memorialized.
Luckily, the people in charge over at FCA aren't dummies, and they agree, which is why the Conner Avenue Assembly Plant is going to be converted into a museum and meeting space called the Conner Center. The 51-year-old, 400,000 square-foot facility will now house Chrysler's collection of historically significant and concept vehicles which will come together for the first time under one roof, though unfortunately, there are no plans as yet to make the facility open to the public.
"With a storied history of its own, the Conner Avenue facility is an ideal location to showcase the vehicles that have sustained the Company for more than 92 years," said Brandt Rosenbusch, manager for FCA Historical Services. "We are proud of our history and have been working diligently in the daily care and restoration of these important vehicles. This move will allow us to house all of our collection under one roof and have the space to share that history with our employees."
Current plans for the facility have earmarked 77,000 square feet for vehicle display and another 22,000 square feet to be used for corporate meeting space. It's unclear what will be done with the other 301,000 square feet of available real estate. The building is scheduled to be ready for use in the second quarter of this year.
Also of note is that during the decommissioning of the plant last year, several pieces of Viper and Plymouth Prowler memorabilia were dug up and saved. These curios which include hoods, sketches, posters, photos and more will be auctioned off to benefit the United Way for Southeast Michigan.
"We found things like signed sketches, photos and posters, not to mention all of the items that were part of the operations of the plant," said Mike Tonietto, former Conner Avenue Assembly Plant Manager, and auction coordinator. "As more and more items were discovered, the question became what do we do with them. Rather than store them somewhere where they would never be seen or, worse yet, disposed of, we decided to auction them off.
"We know there are lots of Viper – and a few Prowler – owners, fans and even employees around the world who will want to own a piece of automotive history," said Tonietto. "This is a great way to share some one-of-a-kind pieces involving these iconic vehicles while at the same time supporting an organization that does so much good in the community."
The auction goes live Wednesday, March 21, and will run through April 13. A full list of items with descriptions and bidding instructions are available on the United Way for Southeast Michigan site.