With the Dodge Viper gone, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV will turn the Conner Avenue Assembly plant where it was manufactured into a place of memories and meetings.
The automaker announced Wednesday the 51-year-old plant will be renamed Conner Center. FCA will use 77,000 square feet of the 400,000-square-foot plant to display some of the 400 historic vehicles and concepts it will store there. The company will convert another 22,000 square feet into a meeting and events space.
The new space won’t be open to the public, Fiat Chrysler officials said Wednesday, although they said the company isn’t opposed to the possibility. The automaker might unveil new vehicles there.
It’s a move to preserve Fiat’s Chrysler’s footprint in Detroit and maintain a plant with a storied history of producing one of the company’s most famous vehicles. It’s the second time the company will have a museum of sorts. The Walter P. Chrysler Museum in Auburn Hills was converted to office space after closing permanently in 2016.
For Brandt Rosenbusch, manager of historical services at the automaker, it’s a chance to get all of his toys under one roof and string together 85-vehicle displays that bring together the very first Chrysler — the actual 1924 Chrysler that Walter P. Chrysler drove — and the last Dodge Viper ever made at the plant.
“We’re good pack-rats,” Rosenbusch said. “We don’t get rid of many things.”
The renovation should be finished by the end of June.
Fiat Chrysler will be auctioning off Viper memorabilia salvaged from the plant since it was decommissioned in August.
“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. “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.”
The company will auction 1,800 pieces, including eight signed hoods, 500 pieces of art and Viper merchandise from the Viper store. The auction is already live online at auction.unitedwaysem.org and will run through April 13. All proceeds go to United Way for Southeastern Michigan.
Article and Photo courtesy of Ian Thibodeau, The Detroit News