350-vehicle classic auto museum rolls into town
By David Roeder
September 7, 2011
It’s not every day that Chicago gets a new museum ... . It’s a museum for classic autos and the person driving it is Larry Klairmont, an 84-year-old real estate investor and former Marine.
Klairmont, chief executive of Imperial Realty Co., plans to open the museum Sept. 25 at 3111 N. Knox, just east of Belmont and Cicero
. It will house the cars he’s acquired in the last 10 years or so since vehicles became his passion - all 350 of them.
He has Rolls-Royces, Packards and Duesenbergs; a 1920s fire engine; an Amphicar, an amphibious auto that Lyndon Johnson once owned; plus odds and ends such as Vespa scooters from the 1950s and a model railroad layout that Klairmont said came from the New York World’s Fair of 1939. A couple of vintage warplanes hang from the ceiling.
It’s a lot to put on display after only 10 years of buying, but Klairmont works fast. He said he bought 32 cars just last weekend at an auction in Auburn, Ind.
And at this museum, tentatively called Imperial Auto Collection, the Klairmont Collection, there will not be an admission charge
or gift shop in sight. Klairmont said his venture is not about making money but about giving back to a city that has made him wealthy.
“There’s no way I can make any money from all of this. I just love the cars and this is my gift to Chicago
,” he said. ... Klairmont plans to keep the place open five days a week, 20 hours per week. It’s in a 150,000-square-foot space
his firm has owned for years, property that used to be the W.F. Hall Printing Co.
The rest of the property, which stretches south to Diversey, has been redeveloped for industrial and retail uses. Klairmont said he has a deal with Wal-Mart
, which is building a 176,000-square-foot store.
His museum includes a 100-seat dining room that Klairmont plans to donate to charities
for fund-raising events.