Green Bay, Wisconsin, is known for the football Packers. And, of course, snow. For fans of the automobile, though, Green Bay’s real attraction is downtown – in what once was a Cadillac dealership. Perhaps the most unique automotive museum in the Midwest, the Automobile Gallery is a combination of conference center, banquet facility, and beautifully executed automobile museum. It is Green Bay’s automotive treasure.
You can’t miss the bright red 1959 Cadillac Coupe de Ville prominently displayed outside the entrance. Once inside, after paying a very reasonable admission, you’ll be treated to a rotating display of automobiles, some owned by the Gallery and its founder, William “Red” Lewis, others on loan for temporary display. Once you’ve made your first visit you will want to return – again and again. You’ll see something new, as well as revisiting your favorites.
A personal favorite when we visited was a light green 1959 Buick Electra 225 convertible. In 1959, Buick had a different approach to fins – it set them at a 45-degree angle. With a leather interior almost matching the exterior color, and even a color-keyed steering wheel, the car exuded a sense of what it was to live lavishly at the end of the 1950’s, when the United States had come to take prosperity for granted.
In another section of the Gallery sits another Buick for the prosperous – but this one conjures visions of the man with the ranch, someone who usually lets others do the heavy lifting, but is still they type of man that can carry the load whenever necessary: the 1957 Buick Caballero. This – a station wagon – was the top of the line Buick for that model year, from an era when General Motors made hardtop station wagons. Though the Chevrolet Nomad and its brother under the skin, the Pontiac Safari, produced from 1955 through 1957, are better known hardtop station wagons, General Motors also produced hardtop wagons by Oldsmobile and Buick.
Unlike the Nomad and Safari these were four door pillarless wagons. (The Oldsmobile version was the Fiesta.) The Caballero was a very limited production model, built by Buick as four door hardtops and then converted by an outside contractor into finished station wagons. (For that reason, the Caballero does not have “Body by Fisher “carriage insignia on its door sills.)
Two cars, convertibles, tell the story – quite literally – of the rise and fall of the tail fin.
One is a 1960 Plymouth Fury. The other a 1961 Plymouth Fury. They are displayed one next to the other. These are essentially the same car, produced in successive model years. But the 1960 model has tail fins that rival those of the ’59 Cadillac. The next year’s model, the 1961, has none. The demise of the tail fin, apart from Cadillac, was just that quick.
There is more, of course.
An original Corvette LT1, a DeLorean in original condition, the 1967 Corvette convertible that once belonged to Green Bay Packer quarterback Bart Starr (yes, it’s green), muscle cars, sports cars, classic cars. There is even an electric car – produced in the early part of the last century, its manufacturer is still in business. But now they build the convertible tops for Corvettes.
Green Bay’s automotive treasure, The Automobile Gallery, is located at 400 S. Adams Street, in downtown Green Bay, Wisconsin. Admission is $10, or $8 for veterans, students, seniors, or children ages 7 to 17. Children under 6 are free.
The exhibits are not roped off, so you can get a good look at each of the cars, which include cars on loan in a second building. The Automobile Gallery is closed on Mondays, but can also be closed at other times when it hosts special events. It is best to check their website to be sure they’re open when you plan to visit.
If you are interested in another wonderful Wisconsin Automotive Museum, please see our post about the Wisconsin Automotive Museum in Hartford.