History & Mission
The Mission of the Gilmore Car Museum is to tell the history of America through the automobile. We foster experiences which connect people with the history, heritage, and social impact of the automobile through collecting, preserving, and interpreting its story.
Our Core Values
History: We share the passion of Genevieve and Donald S. Gilmore's intent to share their love of the history, heritage, and passion of the automobile and to help people of all ages understand the past and better appreciate the future.
Ethics: We act with honesty, integrity, and the highest professional standards. We embrace our role as stewards of the collection and honor our responsibility to preserve and interpret the collection through a commitment to research and curatorial scholarship.
Integrity: We demonstrate mutual respect with our volunteers, board members, employees, and visitors. We value diverse backgrounds, experiences, styles, approaches, and ideas and personally commit to the success and well-being of our teammates. We support the development of human potential with a creative and flexible work environment - encouraging an open community, and by providing coaching and feedback.
Environment: We believe in maintaining a unique, historical setting to enhance the visitor experience, and the preservation of open space to expand the experiential opportunities of the museum.
Education: Education is the primary mission of the museum. Through the development of programming and well-balanced interpretive exhibits, we are an important resource for our community.
Community: The museum embraces the local community by being a responsible neighbor and encourages collaboration and partnerships.
The Gilmore Car Museum started in the early 1960s when Donald S. Gilmore began collecting vintage automobiles. Some of the first vehicles in his collection included a 1927 Ford Model T, a 1913 Rolls Royce, and a 1920 Pierce Arrow. Restoring that classic Pierce-Arrow at his home on nearby Gull Lake ignited a passion. Over the years that followed Donald continued collecting some of the world’s most renowned automobiles.
To accommodate his collection he acquired 90 acres of land in southwestern Michigan in a small town known as Hickory Corners. It was his wife Genevieve who had the idea of turning the collection into a museum, providing future generations access to Donald’s one-of-a-kind collection. They established a non-profit foundation and opened the museum to the public for the first time on Sunday, July 31, 1966.
Today, the Gilmore Car Museum is North America's largest auto museum with over 400 vehicles on display and over 190,000 square feet of exhibit space. The Museum’s 90-acre Historic Campus features numerous vintage structures including a restored and fully-functioning 1941 Silk City Diner, a recreated 1930s Shell Station, six onsite Partner Museums, and so much more.
The Gilmore Car Museum is a founding member of the National Association of Automobile Museums, as well as a member of the American Alliance of Museums, the American Association for State and Local History, the Michigan Museums Association, and the MotorCities National Heritage Area - affiliate of the National Park Service.
- The Gilmore Car Museum started as the hobby of Kalamazoo Businessman Donald Gilmore in 1963. Gilmore was the Chairman of the Upjohn Company at the time
- Opened to the public as a non-profit museum in July 31, 1966 with 35 cars on display
- The Gilmore Car Museum is a public, 501(c)3 non-profit educational institution, dedicated to preserving the history and heritage of the automobile in America
- The Museum is open year round. The Historic Campus and outer buildings are open from April 1 – November 30
- Daily admission is required, please click here for current rates
- Pre-registered educational school groups are free, as well as active military members
- To get the most of a visit, it is suggested to allow a minimum of 4-6 hours for exploring
- There are two dining options on the campus: The authentic 1941 Blue Moon Diner or during the winter months, the Heritage Cafe
- The museum is handicap accessible, including two personal elevators allowing access to second floors. A limited number of wheelchairs (free) and mobility scooters (a daily rental fee) are available for those who may need assistance. Please ask one of our Museum Store attendants upon your arrival for assistance.
- The Gilmore Car Museum is just 20 minutes from I-94 and US-131, located midway between Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Battle Creek, and Lansing, Michigan
- More than 112,000 guests from all over the world visit the Museum annually
- Situated on 90-landscaped acres in rural southwest Michigan
- Museum collection is housed in a recreated factory building from the turn of the century and within a historic campus of several historic buildings, which include eight restored 19th century barns, an authentic operating 1940s diner, a recreated 1930s Shell gas station and train depot from the 1890s. Recreated auto dealerships include a Franklin dealership from around 1918, a Model A Ford dealership from 1928, a 1930s Lincoln and a 1948 Cadillac dealership
- There are nearly three miles of paved roadways, on which antique cars, as well as the Museum’s London Taxi, Checker Cab, Model T, or the London Double Decker bus can often be seen traveling
- Since 2004, the Museum has invested over $15 million toward infrastructure and expanding its campus by nine new structures, bringing the museum total to nearly 200,000 square feet. It also added a highly regarded high school mentoring program and created an automotive research library / archive open to the public
- George & Sally’s Blue Moon Diner, an authentic 1941 diner, opened for business on site in 2005
- In total, the Museum features over 190,000 square feet of exhibit space
- Today, nearly 400 automobiles from all eras are displayed with a total combined collection of over 500 vehicles.
- The oldest car on exhibit is an 1899 Locomobile Steam Car
- The one of-a-kind enlarged movie set from the 1967 Disney feature film, “The Gnome-mobile”, and a 1930 Rolls Royce were personal gifts from Walt Disney.
- There are over 100 vintage pedal cars on display
- The Museum houses one of the largest displays of automotive mascots and name badges in North America, with more than 1,500 items on display
Collections on the Historic Campus
- Classic Car Club of America Museum
- Pierce-Arrow Foundation Museum
- The H.H. Franklin Collection
- Model A Ford Museum
- Lincoln Motor Car Heritage Museum
- Cadillac-LaSalle Club Museum
- Museum of the Horseless Carriage
- Checker Motors Historical Records & Archives
- Considered one of the “Top three car museums in the nation” by the experts – OLD CARS WEEKLY, ANTIQUE AUTOMOBILE and CAR COLLECTOR magazines
- Hailed as “Michigan’s #1 Historic Auto Site” – TRAVEL MICHIGAN
- Named the “#1 Cool Collection” in Michigan – AAA LIVING MAGAZINE
- Listed on “the ‘bucket list’ of must see auto museums” – AUTOWEEK MAGAZINE
- Declared “Beyond any argument, this is one of the world’s great car collections” – HEMMINGS MOTOR NEWS
- The Gilmore Car Museum exhibits have created an “entertaining lesson in 20th-century popular culture” – WALL STREET JOURNAL
- “One of the most unforgettable automobile museums on this continent” – OLD AUTOS MAGAZINE - Canada