The GM Heritage Center

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GM doesn’t have an actual museum in the Detroit area; none of the big three do actually. Ford has some cars in the Henry Ford, Chrysler had the Walter P Chrysler Museum, which is now private. And GM has their Heritage Center.

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All in all, there are 600-some cars that make up the whole collection, but the main building only holds a fraction of it. Most of the main collection is made up of concept cars and first-off-the-assembly-line cars.

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One of the cars I wanted to see the most is this, the Astro 1. Designed by Larry Shinoda, the guy behind the Split Window C2 Corvette, Mako Shark, and the Boss 302. The Astro is from 1967 and was designed as a low drag coupe concept that was only three feet tall. I just love it.

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Being GM, there was a good amount of Corvettes. But not just normal Corvettes, they had an amazing line up of concept Corvettes. One of the best looking is the Aerovette.

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It was an early attempt to make a mid-engined Corvette. The car dates back to the late ’60s, but because of the cost, it was stopped. But when Ford said they were going to sell the Pantera, the Aerovette, originally called the XP-882 then XP-895, was brought back and at the 1970 New York Auto Show.

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At the time, GM was working on their own Wankel motor, but that too was scrapped. At one point the Aerovette was a four rotor, now this scale model is the only four rotor remaining because the actual Aerovette in the Heritage Center is running with a V8.

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They also had the Reynolds Corvette. The car was built by Reynolds Metal to show how much weight they could save by building a replica of the XP-895, out of aluminum.

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Then there’s the two most famous, the Mako Shark and Manta Ray. Probably two of the best looking Corvettes out there. I’ve seen hundreds of photos of the Mako and we have a scale model of it so I kind of knew what to expect. But the Manta Ray was stunning. The huge fenders and six headlights looks awesome in person.

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Now we’re in 1990, and GM is still messing with the idea of a mid-engined Corvette. The CERV III was an incredible car really. For the brakes each wheel had a dual disc set up, then a six speed transmission made up of a Hydramatic three speed linked to a two speed transmission, and finish with all wheel drive. A twin turbo V8 tuned by Lotus gave the CERV III a hypothetical top speed of 225mph.

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I mean, how awesome would this be if it was actually put into production. We still might get close though, there’s a chance that the next generation Corvette might be mid-engined.

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With the Corvettes done, there were some other cool concepts. The Cadillac Le Mans was built to honor the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Four prototypes were built in 1953 after Cadillac’s entrance in the 1950 24 Hours of Le Mans. One car burned, another is privately owned, one is here, and another is still missing. And next to it is probably one of the most famous concepts cars ever, the La Sabre.

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Designed by Harley Earl, it was influenced by the jet age. Not only was it an incredibly important concept car, but it was also Earl’s personal car.

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The Corvair never had a good reputation, but you wonder what would’ve been if this Super Spyder was put into production.

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The La Sabre isn’t the only famous concept car that is in the GM Heritage Center though. I am sure most people recognize the Firebird II. The turbine powered concept car was designed to be a four seater family car. If any car summed up the ’50s, it’s this.

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It’s pretty wild to think that these cars were actually made and somewhat considered as a possible production car. The Firebird I was from ’53 and was basically a jet plane with wheels.

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Just imagine driving a car with a turbine engine right behind your seat. The ’50s were a special time.

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Cadillac also has their own selection of concept cars.

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This is the Cadillac Cyclone. Like the La Sabre, it was also influenced by the jet age. And surprise surprise, it too was designed by Harley Earl.

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And then there’s the Cadillac Cimarron concept from 1985, with all the tech you could ever want.

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Cadillac decided to try something different in 2003 with the Sixteen. Cadillac used a V16 back in the ’30s, but using a V16 in the 2000s is almost unheard of. Sadly it never happened, but man it was an awesome idea.

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Going from concepts to race cars, Cadillac again had a little display. The ’51 Cadillac is a tribute to the car that raced at Le Mans with Briggs Cummingham.

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Oldsmobile has kind of been forgotten it seems, but once I saw the Aerotech all the memories came back. Basically an experimental high speed car, it was clocked at 257mph and 267mph later. The car ran between ’87 and ’92, so it ended just after I was born, but the shape of the car is almost unforgettable.

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The race cars are in the back corner, but as soon as I walked in my eyes went to the C5.R. I’ve been going to sports car racing since the late ’90s, so the C5.R is one of the main race cars from my younger days. And it was a pretty formidable race car.

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There is also a huge selection of engines. Out of all the engines, this one is probably the most famous. The 427 Mystery Motor was a motor that was used in NASCAR and absolutely destroyed the competition. In the 100 mile qualifying races in Daytona, the Chevys with the 427 just left the competition behind. And of course, the famous Smokey Yunick was involved with a Mystery Motor at one point.

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You have to have at least one engine with a twin turbo set up and calliope pipes, here we have an Oldsmobile 455 twin turbo.

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And now some more common cars. This Chevette still had the seat covers and window stickers from the dealer.

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Not sure why this Holden was mixed in with the EV cars, but it was cool to see.

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The entire collection isn’t just concepts and race cars, but that’s what I went for. Every road car in the collection has been restored to the same, or better condition then what they were when they rolled off the assembly line, like all of these trucks and SUVs from the early 1900s.

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The Heritage Center is private, but they have over 300 shows a year, meaning there’s a good chance to get in if you’re interested. The collection always changes between their 600 cars, so you never know what will be in. And you have to like a place where the coat room includes a ’66 Corvette.

Delaney

Email: delaney@lifebalsters.com
Instagram: @lifeblasters, @ericdelaney

One thought on “The GM Heritage Center

  1. There seems to be some dispute concerning the Chevrolet Astro I. As far as I understood it, it wasn’t designed by Shinoda but by Lonberger ? Or did both work on the project, or was it a Lonberger design, but was Shinoda the project leader etc. ?

    Best regards

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