WALTER CHRYSLER and the Chrysler corporation

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This is an extract of the article, with small photos. You will find the complete article with full-sized photos in my e-book View America: North East - Part 1

In the travel series View America, North East - Part 1 covers Michigan and Wisconsin. It is not a traditional travelogue, but a non-commercial and more or less objective chronicle of an in-depth exploration of these states. Each state is described with its own brief historical background and its main sights, tourist attractions and points of interest.

My book does not describe lodgings, restaurants or entertainment, except where these may interact with the narrative. It is illustrated with more than 100 full-sized photos.

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Walter Chrysler

Walter Percy Chrysler (1875-1940) was born the son of a machinist in Wamego, Kansas. He only had a primary education, but was an extraordinary mechanic. He started his career as a railway worker, but was greatly interested in the rise of the automobile. For instance, on a Chicago exhibition he bought a Locomobile for $ 5,000. Since he never learned to drive, he had the contraption delivered by rail to his home in Minnesota. There he took it completely apart at least a dozen times, to examine its construction...

In 1910 he joined the American Locomotive Company, and quickly worked his way to the top by his exceptional technical skills. In 1912, Billy Durant hired him, and immediately appointed him as Buick's Work Manager. Four years later he became Buick's president, and in 1920 he even became GM's vice-president.

After a serious argument with Durant he left the company, but was immediately contacted by an administrative board of bankers. They wanted him to bail out the ailing Willis-Overland company (now Jeep), which was followed by the equally ailing Maxwell company.

Meanwhile, he and some friends worked on the plans for what later would become the famous Chrysler Six. In 1924, the Maxwell Motor Corporation brought this car on the market, and sold 32,000 units in one year! In 1925 he founded the Chrysler Corporation, that absorbed Maxwell Motors.

Three outstanding engineers (Zeder, Skelton and Breer) invented many innovations, which steered Chrysler to the top for a long time. For instance, they came up with hydraulic brakes, six-cylinder engines with high compression, and the carburetor. They set the back seat in front of the rear wheels, instead of on top of them, which significantly improved ride comfort, and allowed a complete redesign of the bodywork.

Walter Chrysler 2

Auburn Hills : Walter Percy Chrysler museum 3

In 1928 he founded the Plymouth and DeSoto brands, and bought Dodge Brothers (John and Horace Dodge), which again gave rise to several famous models. In 1930, the beautiful Chrysler building was built in New York, and in 1933 Chrysler surpassed Ford's sagging sales. In 1935, Walter Chrysler withdrew from business, and he died in 1940. A more than remarkable man!

The Walter Percy Chrysler museum

The Walter Percy Chrysler Museum in Auburn Hills is most remarkable. It presents several movies about the life of Walter Chrysler and the evolution of his company. The basement contains a fine collection of antique Mopar cars. With nostalgia we admired a beautiful 1970 Dodge Challenger.

Chrysler remains best known for the lush forms of the rich limousines from the 30's, the remarkable 30-feet-long 1950's Imperial parade Phaetons, and of course for its extraordinary Mopar Muscle Cars from the 60's. This museum is most definitely worth a visit!

Auburn Hills : Walter Percy Chrysler museum 1

Auburn Hills : Walter Percy Chrysler museum 5 - Dodge Challenger

   
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Video : Vanishing Point (1971) - Dodge Challenger

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