Friday, December 04, 2009

Walter Chrysler, a brief note about an amazing biography

For a full write up: http://www.chryslerclub.org/walterp.html

But briefly he started working at age 18, as a janitor, and started taking educational courses like a machinist apprentice program where he studied air brakes (this was about 1893) and steam heat. He worked for railroads until 1900, when he took an electrical engineering correspondence course. He was a foremen with about 90 guys working for him by 1902, and in the next two years became a master mechanic; only 29 years old, and was the boss of 1000 men.

He further rose up the corporate ladder, achieving promotions and becoming the supervisor of many more workers, and in 1908 bought a Locomobile and took it apart to study it

At 34 yrs old he was promoted to works manager at GM, and in charge of Buick production where he quickly turned around the slow production and brought it up to 200 from just 45 cars a day. That is improvement on a scale that is hard to imagine, because it was simple things anyone could have seen and implemented.

In 1916 Walter was general manager of Buick, he resigned in 1920 due to not liking the direction Durant took producing frames.

At 45 years old Walter was retired when asked to save Willys-Overland which was $50 million in debt, but the risk of not pulling this off was so great that Chyrsler asked for 2 years at $1 million per year. He was concerned that failure to save Willys would reflect on his abilities. In two years the debt was reduced to $18 million and he left when Willys executives wouldn't go with development in a new engine.

At this time Maxwell Motors was $26 million in debt and Chrysler was asked to help out, and he did at a salary of $100,000 a year and a stock option. He secured a loan of $15 million for Maxwell and sold cars out of existing inventory for $995 -- a profit of $5 per car.

in 1925, MaxwelI Motor Corporation was re-organized into the Chrysler Corporation after 32, 000 Chryslers were built in 1924 and sold for $1595 — the same as Buick. This car was a true 70 mph performer with four wheel hydraulic brakes and a replaceable oil filter. On $5 million debt the company had a net profit of $4,115,000!

in 1926 the Chrysler 50 replaced the Maxwell and competed with Dodge. The model numbers indicated top speeds - 50, 60, 70 and 80 mph -- and later models used 62 and 72 designations to indicate improved models.

After putting together the Chrysler Corporation from the remnants of Maxwell-Chalmers in 1925, acquiring the Dodge Brothers Company in 1928 and introducing both the Plymouth and DeSoto the same year, thus becoming the number 3 position automaker, Walter Chrysler decided to wind down a little and do something different.

He built an office building, you've already guessed it's the Chrysler Building in New York, and it was a private business matter and not corporate relating to the car business. His sons weren't interested in the auto manufacturing business, so Walter had this, the tallest of its day, skyscraper built to be given as a business venture for his sons Walter Jr. and Jack Chrysler who were not interested in the automobile business

It was surpassed in height (but not beauty) by the Empire State Building in 1931, and today reamins the finest Art Deco building in the world. Walter Chrysler had his personal office here for a number of years. The tower culminates in a beautiful, tapered stainless steel crown that supports the famous spire at its peak.

The building has a lot of ornamentation that is based on features that were being used on Chrysler cars of the day, the thirty first floor corner ornamentations are replicas of 1929 Chrysler radiator caps, and the corners of the sixty first floor are graced with eagles, replicas of the 1929 Chrysler hood ornaments.

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