It’s not uncommon for European automakers to have established museums to showcase some of the more spectacular and/or unique models that have marked their history. One superb example is the Porsche Museum in Germany.
This is not necessarily the case with North American carmakers, in part because there are already a bunch of museums devoted to vehicles of all kinds in the United States. There is the legendary Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, but it doesn’t actually belong to the manufacturer; it’s owned by the Ford Foundation. At FCA (previously Chrysler), a museum did open in 1999 in Auburn Hills near the automaker’s headquarters, but it closed its doors in 2012 – due to lack of visitors.
You would think that an automotive giant like General Motors would also have a museum to call its own. But the truth is, there are so many vehicles marking the history of the company and its brands that to house them all under one roof would require a massive exhibit space.
Still, a smaller-scale project did in fact see the light of day. GM has assembled a relatively limited number of some of its most representative models in a small building in an industrial park in Sterling Heights, Michigan. The Heritage Center is not, however, open to the public; the only visitors allowed in past the unassuming little GM Heritage Center sign at the door are those invited in by General Motors.
Here are some images of the most memorable cars and trucks I saw on two separate occasions when I visited the Heritage Center as a guest of the company.
Buick Y Job
This might be the car in the collection that is the most valuable in the eyes of General Motors. The general consensus among automotive historians is that the 1938 Buick Y Job, a creation of the auto giant’s design studio, was the first real concept car, or design study, prepared for display at big auto shows. GM’s design studio was at the time headed by the now-legendary Harley Earl.