Fiat Chrysler repackages Conner Avenue plant

Former home of Viper hand-assembly will now house FCA's US Car Collection

Published: March 22, 2018, 1:30 AM
Updated: April 30, 2018, 5:21 PM

2013 SRT Viper

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has decided that the Conner Avenue Assembly Plant, which built the Viper since its launch in 1995, would become the new home of the FCA US Car Collection that totals 400 concepts and historic vehicles.

The plant was operated by Champion Spark Plugs since opening in 1966, and was acquired by Chrysler in 1995 to hand-produce the Dodge Viper, which remained in production at the plant until 2017. The Plymouth Prowler was also hand assembled at Conner Avenue, though its bodies were produced in Ohio.

Plymouth Prowler (Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Specious)

The newly-renamed Conner Center will become a meeting and display space (initially just for FCA use) showcasing 85 of the company’s historic production and concept vehicles, though the entire collection will be housed on site (and presumably refurbished as needed).

“With a storied history of its own, the Conner Avenue facility is an ideal location to showcase the vehicles that have sustained the company for more than 92 years,” said Brandt Rosenbusch, Manager, Historical Services. “We are proud of our history and have been working diligently in the daily care and restoration of these important vehicles. This move will allow us to house all of our collection under one roof and have the space to share that history with our employees.”

1902 Rambler

The vehicle displays will take up roughly 7,154 square metres of the plant’s 37,161 square metres of floor space. Among the vehicles on display will be the 1902 Rambler (the oldest in collection and representative of the second-largest US manufacturer at the time, behind Oldsmobile) and the 1924 Chrysler Touring (the first car to wear the Chrysler name).

The meeting space will accommodate various groups of varying sizes in the converted administrative offices at the former plant (roughly 2,044 square metres). FCA has said it could open the doors to public bookings in the future.

1996 Dodge Viper RT10

Viper went out of production last year, and FCA has also announced an online auction of 1,800 pieces of Viper and Prowler memorabilia — including signed hoods, prints and posters — with proceeds going to United Way of Southeastern Michigan.

“We found things like signed sketches, photos and posters, not to mention all of the items that were part of the operations of the plant,” said Mike Tonietto, former Conner Avenue Assembly Plant Manager and auction coordinator. “As more and more items were discovered, the question became ‘what do we do with them?’.

Plymouth Prowler

“We know there are lots of Viper – and a few Prowler – owners, fans and even employees around the world who will want to own a piece of automotive history,” concluded Tonietto. “This is a great way to share some one-of-a-kind pieces involving these iconic vehicles while at the same time supporting an organization that does so much good in the community.”

The auction of Conner Avenue memorabilia runs through April 13.