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

Legendary Packard: From Light Bulbs to Luxury Automobiles

July 2020 – February 2021:  All the vehicles showcased in this exhibit are truly stunning. Starting with a 1901 Model C built by the original company, Ohio Automobile Company, to a 1958 Packard Hawk, we cover the entire history of one of America’s finest automobile brands.

Learn more about the early days of the Packard brothers from their start in light bulbs to building a better car than Alexander Winton to eventually merging with Studebaker.

Location: Main Gallery

American Graffiti: Where were you in ’62?

July 2020 – Present: HEMMINGS MOTOR NEWS described American Graffiti as “one of the most car-saturated movies that is not explicitly about cars.” Set in 1962, this coming of age film follows the end of summer exploits of several recent high school grads against the backdrop of a single night endless car cruising.

The cars are truly the stars of this exhibit starting with the 1958 customized Chevrolet Impala that Ron Howard drove in the movie. There is the 1932 Deuce Coupe American Graffiti a.k.a. John Milner Coupe Hobbyist built tribute car and a 1956 White Ford Thunderbird like the one where the mysterious blonde Suzanne Somers was first seen on camera.  A 1958 Edsel Pacer Four Door Hardtop completes this special showing.

Location: 50s & 60s Gallery

Permanent Exhibits

Born to Perform: The Era of the Muscle Car

COMING SOON!  The muscle car building – dedicated to celebrating the muscle car era.

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: Train 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

Women Who Motor (Closed November 2020)

Fisher Body Craftsman Guild (Closed November 2020)

Ford Vs. Ferrari (Closed Spring 2020)

Cole Motor Car Company: From High Wheeler to the Classic Era (Closed November 2019)

Duesenberg: Celebrating An American Classic (Closed October 2019)

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