350-vehicle classic auto museum rolls into town

By David Roeder Business Reporter  – droeder@suntimes.com
Press Release Date: 9/7/2011

It’s not every day that Chicago gets a new museum, but one is on the way, polished and ready for its close-up with the city’s car-ogling public.

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.