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A private tour of the GM Heritage Collection: Automobiles, Artifacts, and Automobilia.

The GM Heritage Collection is housed in a large but discreet business park located in Sterling Heights Michigan.

The GM Heritage Collection is housed in a large but discreet warehouse located in Sterling Heights Michigan.

This week I had the pleasure of enjoying an extraordinary private tour of the GM Heritage Collection. I was in Michigan visiting some friends and clients and was fortunate to spend the morning with car dealer magnate David Fischer. David generously arranged the tour and then we headed over to Troy to check out his dealership operations. David owns and operates the Suburban Collection which is a group of 41 dealerships that represents 33 brands. HIs father owned an Oldsmobile dealership and eventualy David took over the business and grew it into an empire. The American dream is alive and well in Michigan! Today the Suburban Collection can sell you everything from a Buick to a Bentley. More information is availabe at www.suburbancollection.com

The GM Heritage Collection is home to over 600 antique, rare, and exotic GM cars. The collection includes several fabulous GM concept cars from the 1930’s to the present. Of course, no impartial representation of GM’s history could be complete without including a few models that many of us would like to forget. The collection includes a zero mile Chevy Vega and a mint condition Chevy Chevette. There is even a Cadillac Cimmeron four door convertible concept car!

The Cadillac Cimmeron that never was....

The Cadillac Cimmeron that never was.  David Fischer is standing in the background.

The collections spans all years of GM’s production.  We were shown around the 600 car collection by Greg Wallace who is the manager of the Collection. Greg is a longtime GM employee and was instrumental of the creation of the collection. The genesis of the idea goes back to when he was working in an operations position at GM and suggested to upper management that the Company should leverage it rich heritage by owning a collection of GM products. The idea did not fall on deaf ears and today Greg oversees the procurement, inventory, and overall management of all six hundred cars. Besides being one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met, Greg’s knowledge of every GM model is encyclopedic. There was just so much to see that it was overwhelming. Lucky for me Greg and David gave me a rapid fire history of the significant cars and we spent about an hour touring the facility. Like the Prado in Madrid or the Louvre in Paris, one really needs days to take it all in. I plan to return to Sterling Heights when I have more time. 

The entrance to the GM Heritage Collection makes a serious impression.

The entrance to the GM Heritage Collection makes a serious impression.

The early Cadillac on the right was the first car to have variable valve timing!

The early Cadillac on the left was the first car to have variable valve timing!

A Cadillac retrospective!

A Cadillac retrospective!

Standing in front of the Cadillac history section.

Standing in front of the Cadillac history section.

A fantastic 1959 Cadillac.

A fantastic 1959 Cadillac.

A recent GM concept car.

A recent GM concept car.

Just another concept car...

Just another concept car…

Note the car on the far right. Electric cars are really nothing new.

Note the car on the far right. Electric cars are really nothing new.

1937 Buick

1937 Buick

1937 Buick Concept Car. This vehicle was designed by Harley Earl. David said that Harley drove this car to the office for five years. This was his actual car and is probably the most valuable and significant car in the GM Heritage Collection.

1938 Buick Concept Car. This vehicle was designed by Harley Earl. David said that Harley drove this car to the office for five years. This was his actual car and is probably the most valuable and significant cars in the GM Heritage Collection.

The

The “Jet Era” concept cars.

An early John DeLorean Pontiac GTO

An early John DeLorean Pontiac GTO

The exhaust of the Corvette Mako Shark.

The exhaust of the Corvette Mako Shark.

The number of rare Corvette's was astounding.

The number of rare Corvette’s was astounding.

No GM collection can be complete without the Vega and the Chevette!

No GM collection would be complete without the Vega and the Chevette!

David next to a 1970's concept Corvette.

David next to a 1970’s concept Corvette.

The GM Heritage Collection also includes endless library stacks of internal corporate memos from GM legends like Alfred Sloan, Charlie Kettering, and Harley Earl.  The files also include original build sheets, brochures, manuals, and other GM automobilia, There is even a fabulous collection of neon signs from dealerships that are long gone.  They have almost every single badge that was ever affixed to a GM automobile (and many from other brands as well). The GM Heritage Collection is simply a treasure trove of automotive history and it is growing every day!

The GM archives at the Heritage Center.

The GM archives at the Heritage Center.

Neon signs in perfect working condition.

Neon signs in perfect working condition.

One of several walls of brands from GM and other manufactures.

One of several walls of brands from GM and other manufactures.

After we toured the first warehouse we went next door to David’s building where bespoke GM cars are serviced, staged, and prepped for races, car shows, and for GM senior executives.

The warehouse next door is owned by David and houses several GM race cars, show cars, and executive demos. David has an agreement with GM to service and manage these special cars.

The warehouse next door is owned by David and houses several GM race cars, show cars, and executive demos. David has an agreement with GM to service and manage these special cars.

I plan to return to the GM Heritage Center when I visit Michigan again sometime in the future. It was truly the experience of a lifetime! Thank you David and Greg for making my year! GM has such a rich history of innovation and design and the GM Heritage Collection represents the important history of GM in such a special and memorable way. If you really want to read an excellent history of GM, pick up Alfred Sloan’s landmark book My Years at GM. It is one of the best books on American management that I’ve ever read. Moreover, it provides a detailed and well written account of GM’s history. I recommend reading the book prior to visiting the GM Heritage Collection. Alfred Sloan himself would be so proud of what Greg and his team have created in Sterling Heights. You can take an in depth tour of the entire collection here.

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