Feature: The Automobile Gallery Raises Muscle Cars to Art

Feature: The Automobile Gallery Raises Muscle Cars to Art

Story and photos by John Gunnell

The Automobile Gallery (www.TheAutomobileGallery.org) is also a muscle car gallery where Camaros, Mustangs, Chargers and Javelins are displayed in a unique setting as the works of art they really are. This downtown Green Bay, Wis., car collection is now in its second year of operations and muscle cars are a big part of creator Red Lewis’ vision to showcase a century of automotive history.

True American muscle cars, starting with Pontiac’s mid-1964 GTO, played a major role in at least one decade of motoring history, and other cars in The Automobile Gallery, such as a ‘57 Thunderbird with a 245-hp Y-block V8, a ‘60 Corvette with a 270-hp “dual quad” engine and a 2004 Cadillac XLR roadster with a 320-hp DOHC V8 provided other forms of neck-snapping performance.

Paul Faby, The Automobile Gallery’s Acquisitions Director, realized from the start that American muscle cars had to be adequately represented in the collection of about 75 cars, of which some 45 are on display at any given time. He was charged with finding significant models in the right colours, such as a yellow ’66 Mustang GT fastback and a Hugger Orange ’69 Camaro. Red Lewis considered it important to the success of the Gallery to showcase milestone cars in colours that would make the public’s viewing of the cars an exciting experience.

Lewis, a successful car wash operator and car wash equipment maker, amassed a major car collection and then donated a number of cars to The Automobile Gallery to get it going. To house the collection, Lewis completely updated the circa-1958 Denil Cadillac dealership and turned it into an art gallery-like environment where cars of all types are featured as artworks. Lewis calls the facility  “an environment as impressive as the automobiles that it surrounds” and says that his goal was to create a setting where the “automobile is art.”

In its mission statement, The Automobile Gallery states that it wants to “educate, inspire and share” Lewis’ passion for automobiles with other people. The gallery presents a retrospective look at cars from the early 1900s through 2015. The vehicles are moved or shuffled each month to give the Gallery an ever-changing look, and to keep visitors coming back to see different cars.

The modernized and renovated building also features a contemporary event space with a reception hall area, catering and dining facilities and an executive conference room with multi-media capabilities and a touch panel control system. Meetings and events held inside The Automobile Gallery help support the continued operation of the non-profit enterprise.

Admission fees to the gallery and event rental spaces also help support the facility. There is also a Guest Vehicle Program through which cars owned by private collectors from across the country can be displayed for several months. Guest Vehicle cars accepted so far have included a very interesting Pontiac GTO “resto-mod” owned by Bob Cloud and built by “Mr. GTO” Jim Wangers.

It seems that Wangers and Cloud were having a conversation about the late-model GTO based on an Australian Holden model and Cloud asked, “What if GM had done it right?” This led to collaboration between the two that created an Orbit Orange ’69 GTO Judge with many styling and performance updates.

Wangers added a duck tail spoiler and a fibreglass lower scoop. Under the hood is a Pontiac 428-cid V8 that’s bored out to 505 cu. in. and fitted with aluminum cylinder heads. The car has a TR6060 six-speed transmission and a nine-inch rear end with 3.73 gears. Wangers adopted the Corvette C6 front suspension and then added entirely updated upholstery and interior features.  A number of Pontiac publications and other magazines have featured the car.

Probably the most striking visual feature of The Automobile Gallery is its black-and-white colour scheme with red accents throughout.  Seven cars are displayed on unusual single-post lifts that are powder-coated white to blend in with the walls and give the impression that the cars perched on them are flying over other cars. This has led to some interesting gallery-within-gallery exhibits like the one featuring three muscle cars on and under one lift, or another showing several groupings of different Corvettes scattered around the main gallery.

The Automobile Gallery has regular gallery hours 9 am to 3 pm on Saturday and Sunday and can be seen at other times by appointment. Visit the Website for current times and admission prices or call 1-920-437-9024. You can also email to INQUIRE@THEAUTOMOBILE GALLERY.ORG.

Categories: Features, Muscle Car Plus