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 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 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!
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.
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.