Must See Special Exhibits

From Special Exhibits to Special Collections, Don’t Miss A Thing!

Walk right up to automotive history at the Gilmore Car Museum as you browse through our collections and exhibit after exhibit of incredible vehicles, in a most memorable setting. If you take them all in, you’ll see nearly 400 vehicles, and the range of brands and models is breathtaking—everything from Model As to Cadillacs, Pierce-Arrows to Duesenbergs, Studebaker to Chevrolet, and more. We also have exhibits that capture the best of each automotive era—cars from the Nickel and Brass Eras to the Classics and Post-War, plus favorites from the ’50s and ’60s.

Special Exhibits

Women Who Motor

July 2019 – July 2020:  From the exhibit itself – “Historically, the automobile has been considered to be of more interest and import to men with the notion that women were unsuited for or uninterested in automobiles. Women, however, have been interested in motoring for decades – as consumers, inventors, engineers, designers, and racers. From its beginning, the automobile has impacted the lives of women, and women have shaped the automotive world.

This exhibition offers a glimpse into the world of women and the automobile. It is designed as a jumping off point for your own exploration into how the automobile has influenced women – and how women have influenced the automobile.”

Location: Carriage House

Click HERE to get an inside look at the vehicles in the WWM exhibit!

Originally displayed at the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House


Duesenberg: Celebrating An American Classic

November 10, 2018 – September 30, 2019: Commemorating the 90th anniversary of one of Gilmore’s most famous cars, our 1929 Duesenberg J-111 will be joined by other fabulous examples from around the country for an impressive display of power and beauty. We will explore the designers, mechanics, coach builders, and engineers, all of which made this American marque so unique.

Location: Heritage Center Main Gallery

Guest Curator: Matt Short, Group Delphi – Museum Account Executive


Cole Motor Car Company: From High Wheeler to the Classic Era

June 1st – October 31st, 2019:  The Cole Motor Car Company from Indianapolis made quality built and technically advanced luxury autos from 1909 – 1925.  With the company slogan of  There’s a touch of tomorrow in all that Cole does today,” they had many firsts in the auto industry.  This period was a time of rapid advancement and change and the Cole exhibit is a rare opportunity to explore the change through the lens of one automotive company.  Come see the only known 1909 Cole High Wheeler, the 1923 Experimental Cole Coupe that tested the first balloon tires with Firestone, the last surviving 1925 Cole that was Mrs. Cole’s personal chauffeur driven car, and several other cars, artifacts, pictures, and documents in between that tell the full story of the Cole company and era of early automotive innovation.

Location: “C” Barn

Guest Curator: Kevin Fleck, Cole Motor Car Registry


The Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild

April 6, 2019 – October 2019: Conducted from 1930-1968 the GM sponsored Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild competition invited boys ages 11-20 to design and build scale model cars with thousands of dollars in scholarships awarded to winners. It is estimated that 10 million teenagers took part in these competition, and 32,000 earned their designer maker awards. This exhibit will feature approximately 100 of these models including many awards winners.

Location: Heritage Center Annex


Permanent Exhibits

Born to Perform: The Era of the Muscle Car

From Super Bees to Chevelles and everything in between, step into an era where the engines were big and their performance was bigger! Special thanks to our guest curators for this display – Dan Jensen, Gary Plowman, and Scott Tiemann!

Location: Larry and Earlene Baum Gallery


Dust Bowl: The Great Migration

The images of long lines at soup kitchens, farms buried by dirt, and gaunt faces peering from dilapidated vehicles illustrate only part of the story. This special display takes visitors beyond the dust bowl, with a revealing display of automobiles of the era including an extraordinary Duesenberg, custom-built for Hollywood’s elite, and other makes of the 1930s.

Location: Heritage Center Annex


The Negro Motorist Green Book

Decades after the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment ended slavery, African Americans continued to suffer unequal treatment, especially in the South. Jim Crow Laws discriminated against blacks in nearly every aspect of public life, including travel. Although the roads and highways were free for all to use, doing so was not easy for people of color. The Green Book, written by Victor Green, provided guidance for African American travelers to find safe locations to sleep, eat, shop and purchase gas. Locally, the guide was used by the Idelwild Chamber of Commerce in Michigan to assist black American travelers in the 1950s and 1960s.

Location: Heritage Center Annex

2016 National Association of Automobile Museums Interpretive Exhibits Award-Winner / Sponsored by PNC Bank Foundation


Realistic to Whimsical: Tin Toy Cars of Yesteryear

Donated to the Gilmore Car Museum in 2017 from the collection of Jack & Joanne Nottingham. This exhibit of over 150 post-WWII tin toys features some of the rarest and most sought-after toys produced in occupied Germany and Japan. From the stunning lithography to motorized examples from Mar, Bandai, and Kosuge, to the intriguing clockwork mechanisms by Schuco and Techno Fix, it is sure to stir many childhood memories.

Location: Steam Barn / Lincoln Museum Annex


Seasonal Exhibits – (Open April – November)

A Century of Motorcycles

While we are the Gilmore Car Museum, the collection boasts more than cars! The museum’s Motorcycle Gallery features rare examples of bikes from the past, including a 1947 Indian Chief, a rare 1910 Cleveland, and the 1952 Triumph Trophy TR5 ridden by the famous Fonz on the 1970s sitcom, Happy Days.

Location: Motorcycle Gallery


Disney Magic and More

From Disney Magic to a beautiful collection of pedal cars, there’s something in this exhibit for every kid and all the kids at heart! Over 100 pedal cars adorn this exhibit including cars, tractors, airplanes, anniversary models, police cars, fire trucks, and so many more. And, enjoy a “picture perfect” opportunity to climb into our 1919 Whippet Assistant Chief’s Fire Truck for a quick snapshot with your family and friends!

Only at the Gilmore Car Museum can you see the only movie set to ever leave Walt Disney Studios – the one-of-a-kind studio set and car from the 1967 Walt Disney film, The Gnome-Mobile.

Walt Disney visited the Gilmore Family and Donald’s car collection on September 18, 1964, just two years before Donald would open his collection to the public. He signed into Donald’s guest book and listed his address as “Disneyland U.S.A.” and later donated this over-sized movie set and accompanying 1930 Rolls Royce to the Gilmore Collection.

Location: “G” Barn


Automotive Mascots

From iconic trademarks to custom-designs for drivers from a bygone era, you’ll find one of North America’s largest collections of hood ornaments and automotive mascots at the Gilmore Car Museum. Included in this vast collection are rare, exciting, and original hood ornaments donated to the Classic Car Club of America Museum by Marvin Tamaroff, displayed in the Barrett Barn for visitors to enjoy.

Location: Depot Building and CCCA Museum


 1930s Shell Station

An authentic re-creation complete with a vast display of memorabilia from the days when gas was only 18 cents a gallon! Inside, you will find a vast display of Shell and gas station memorabilia. Also featured in the Shell Station are 12 photographs titled 20th Century Artifacts: Running On Empty from Stevensville, Michigan photographer Susan Johnston.


Past Exhibits

Hidden Treasures: Barn Finds and Their Stories (Closed July 2019)

League of Retired Automotive Designers “Spirit of Innovation” (Closed March 2019)

A.J. Foyt: A Legendary Exhibition (Closed September 2018)

Kalamazoo: The Other Motor City (Closed July 2018)

Designed for Delivery: The Early American Truck (Closed March 2018)

J.B Rhodes: Kalamazoo’s Patent King (Closed November 2017)

The Fabulous Hudsons (Closed August 2017)

Celebrating 50 Years: The Donald Gilmore Collection (Closed June 2017)

The Golden Age of Sports Cars* (Closed April 2017)

Mid-Century Performance (Closed September 2016)

American Legends: Hot Rods & Customs (Closed November 2015)

History of Stock Car & NASCAR Racing (Closed September 2012)

Alice Ramsey: Across the USA (Closed 2012)

A History of Drag Racing (Closed 2011)

A Question of Power: Gas, Steam, Electric (Closed 2005)

*Denotes National Association of Auto Museums Interpretive Exhibits Award-Winner