Family Fun: Gilmore Car Museum

Family Fun: Gilmore Car Museum
Photo courtesy of Gail Ryan.
Photo courtesy of Gail Ryan.

One of the things I like best about Michigan is that the most amazing and interesting places are to be found tucked away, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. One of these gems is the Gilmore Car Museum, located in the charmingly-named Hickory Corners, about a half hour east of Plainwell, Michigan.

A beautifully restored 1930s Shell gas station at the entrance is your first hint that this place is going to be something special, but the real magic is hidden in a series of red barns, much like any others you might see when traveling through the Michigan countryside. To enter is to discover a treasure trove of magnificently restored cars from every decade in the history of the automobile.

The Gilmore Car Museum was founded in 1963, when Donald Gilmore received a 1920 Pierce Arrow restoration project as a gift from his wife Genevieve. As in many similar cases, Gilmore couldn’t stop at just one, and soon purchased 90 acres of farmland to house a collection of over 30 vehicles. Several historic barns were dismantled at their then locations and trucked to the new site, where they were carefully reassembled to house the growing stable of automotive marques.

Photo courtesy of Gail Ryan.
Photo courtesy of Gail Ryan.

It was Mrs. Gilmore who came up with the idea of opening the site to the public as a museum. From there a non-profit foundation was formed, and the museum saw its first visitors in 1966. Both Gilmores have passed away since, but their legacy lives on in this wonderful collection of over 400 beautifully restored vehicles. Such is the reputation of their custodians that Classic Car Club of America, the Pierce-Arrow Foundation, the Tucker Historical Collection and Library, and the Cadillac-LaSalle Club have all made it the home of their own extensive collections.

Wandering from barn to barn to view classics such as the 1929 Duesenberg J, the 1934 Ford Woodie Wagon, a stunning 1958 Edsel, and a 1982 Checker Cab, you might get to see some of the museum’s collection on the move, including a London Routemaster bus. If you’re lucky, you’ll be invited to hop on for a ride along some of the nearly three miles of paved roads on the campus.

Photo courtesy of Gail Ryan.
Photo courtesy of Gail Ryan.

Walking through the museum will work up an appetite, and the beautifully nostalgic 1941 Blue Moon Diner, itself relocated from its original location in Connecticut, fits the bill with its menu of Chicago-style dogs, pecan pie, and frozen custard. On your way out, you can stop by the gift shop stuffed full of apparel, collectibles, and toys. If you run out of time for that (quite a possibility, as you lose yourself in the magic of the museum itself), you can purchase your gifts in the museum’s online store.

In addition to being open year round, the Gilmore Car Museum also hosts a number of special events throughout the year, the next one being the peerless Grand Experience Concours, on June 2nd. The site is available for banquets and weddings, and the museum offers a range of education programs for K-12 school groups, and for young adults through its Garage Works program.

Adult admission to this day-long experience is just $12, for children aged seven to 15 is $11, and children six and under are free, as are active-duty military. The museum is open from 9am to 5pm on weekdays, until 6pm on weekends, and every day of the year except Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s.

With the school holidays just around the corner, add the Gilmore Car Museum to your list of things to keep the little ones occupied over the summer!

 

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I was born in Dublin, Ireland, and lived there for 30 years before making my home in Vancouver, BC in 1998. I narrowly escaped careers as an engineer and an accountant and ended up following my interest in computers into the IT industry, where I have worked as an administrator, consultant and analyst for almost 20 years.