Former missile plant converted into new car museum

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1957 Chevy Bel Air and 1954 Buick Skylark to be part of new museum | Photo courtosey of the Providence Journal/Steve Szydlowski

A former missile manufacturing plant on the Raytheon Co. campus in Rhoad Island has had its 114,000-square-foot space gutted and is slated to open in June as the Newport Car Museum with space for separate showrooms, events, a library, and storage space for about 60 cars. Fifty of the cars to be housed within the new museum come from a collection amassed by Gunther and Maggie Buerman, the driving force behind the project.

The Buerman’s car collection includes examples of Chevrolet Corvettes and Ford Mustangs and will be supplemented with furnishings from their mid-20th century furniture collection that includes designers such as Charles and Ray Eames, Arne Jacobsen, Hans Wegner, and Knoll Inc. Additionally, the walls will be decorated with large photographs and informative videos.

According to Maggie Buerman, the project is style driven, while Gunther adds they looked at the National Auto Museum in Reno, Nevada; the private Ralph Lauren Car Collection in Westchester County, New York; and the Revs Institute in Naples, Florida for inspiration.

“It’s more of an art museum than a car museum,” said Gunther Buerman, adding that he considers classic cars as works of art.

Buerman started collecting 12 years ago. His Corvette collection includes an original 1953 model, a 1957 model with fuel injection, a 1963 split-window, a 1967 with a 427 cubic inch engine, a 1990 ZR1, and a 2017 Z06. Significant Mustangs in his collection include a 1965 that had belonged to an uncle, a 1970 Boss 429 and a 1965 Shelby GT 350 R.

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Audrain Automobile Museum located nearby the new Newport Car Museum | Larry Edsall photo

Other prominent vehicles highlighted in the collection include modern Mopar in the form of a Plum Crazy Plymouth Challenger Hellcat, a 1970 Plum Crazy Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda. a restored 1965 Shelby 427 SC Cobra that formerly belonged to a member of the Walton family, and a number of “fin cars” which will have their own display spaces. Among them: a yellow 1954 Buick Skylark, a pale blue 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air and a red 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz, all convertibles.

The bright-colored cars are complimented by a blue 2016 Acura NSX, a black 1961 Mercedes SL, a drab olive 1985 British Army Land Rover Defender, a green 1974 Jaguar E-type and a silver 1993 Jaguar XJ220.

“There’s something here for everyone,” said Wayne Lee, the facility manager.

The Newport Car Museum will be the second car museum in the area, the first being the Audrain Automobile Museum which opened two years ago on Bellevue Avenue in Newport.

“It’s like having two restaurants in town,” Buerman said, adding he was not concerned about the museums being in the same area and that he expects to attract visitors that would visit both museums.

 

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