TALES OF 40 YEARS #5 – STANDARD CATALOGS

John Gunnell |

When Chet Krause hired me in 1978, he gave me the title of OLD CARS PRICE GUIDE editor, but another part of my job was to compile a book called THE STANDARD CATALOG of AMERICAN CARS. Chet had given the same task to previous editors, but the book did not get done. He said that I could travel wherever and whenever I wanted if it would help me do the book. In 1979, I went to the Detroit area to knock on the doors at the auto companies to see if I could get material for the book. I combined the trip with an event that involved Chrysler celebrating an anniversary of its Chelsa Proving Fround. This facility opened in 1954 and was hosting a 25th birthday party. Three clubs participated with I believe 99 cars (33 each). They lined them up three abreast for a tour around the Proving Ground track. There were 33 Chrysler 300s, 33 Winged warriors (Superbirds and Daytonas) and 33 mixed Chrysler models. They made a couple of laps. Then they left the track and Chrysler rolled out a HEMI and made a very noisy lap at 100 mph. You could hear that car coming from a long ways down the track and it roared past the crowd. Next they brought out one of the 1963 Chrysler Turbine cars and also drove it over the course at 100 mph. As it flashed by us it was almost totally silent except for a low whine. They also displayed a car — as I remember it was a 1979 Dodge — that was also a turbine-engined car built for the EPA. During the trip to Highland park I went to the old engineering building where they kept the historical archives at that time. I was shown a Walter p Chrysler’s old toolbox. I was trying to get Chrysler production figures and their historian showed me cardboard boxes filled with thousands of hand-written sheets with numbers on them. “All the information is probably there,” I was told. “But it would take a lifetime to make any sense out of it.”

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