THE WPC CLUB: DYNAMIC JOURNEY
By Dr. David George Briant
Herein is presented a look at the rich history of the largest all-encompassing association honoring Walter Percy Chrysler (WPC) and his firm – known formally as the WPC Club, Inc. Clearly his genius was real – to the benefit of millions of auto users far and wide. Thus let us provide context as preamble to the club’s creation in 1969. Chrysler Corporation came to success despite a relatively late entrance into the already crowded industry. From auto roots inventions done in Europe, Henry Ford I was the American that selected the right market to develop initially. WPC can fairly be credited with pushing ahead and motivating the modern car. A series of inventions unfolded slowly.
Automobile Preliminaries Consume 115 Years
The key automotive figures were English, French and German talents working at first mainly with steam. In fact, the first “automobile” was a steam-powered tractor put together by Nicholas Joseph Cugnot about 1770 in France. Intended to pull a field gun the machine did work but had no steering mechanism. Pioneer James Watt discouraged use of mobile steam units due to the scarcity of good roads. Richard Trevithick in Camborne, England built (1801) the first automobile known to have made it onto a road. It was a seven-passenger stagecoach powered by a single-cylinder steam engine of the “high-pressure” type, driving the rear wheels through a spur gear and a crank axle. The Frenchman Pecqueur developed the all-important differential – and had it operational on a wagon by 1828. Goldsworthy Gurney built a steam vehicle that demonstrated the efficacy of propulsive drive wheels as interfaces to road surfaces. He made an 1828 trip of about 200 miles from London and return attaining as much as 12 miles per hour at times. A number of such steam vehicles were in use during 1828 to 1840. Trips were scheduled and speeds rose to about 30 MPH with an early repair-free endurance claim of 1,700 miles! Running on metal rims wreaked havoc on road surfaces resulting in governmental action via heavy fines and the end of use by 1840. Railroad development surged, especially in Great Britain, while automobile progress simmered for a time as many other technical advances took attention including W. H. James (water-tube boiler/steam coach), Hancock (steam carriage), Bollee (steam omnibus of 1878), Daimler (motorcycle/hot tube ignition/reduced engine size), Levassor (central frame), and Serpollet (flash boiler).
Karl Benz Scores. In 1885 Karl Benz developed the first road vehicle to be powered by a hydrocarbon fueled internal combustion engine. Developing 3/4 horsepower, it included a single cylinder, water-cooled, electric ignition, four-cycle (by Otto, 1876) type with a mechanical inlet valve (carburetor), differential, and able to attain ten miles per hour.. Patented in 1886, the three-wheeler was exhibited at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and exists honorably at present. Mr. Benz built his first four-wheel car in 1893 – producing a total of 69 cars from 1885-1893.
North America Stirs
Massachusetts was the setting for the first USA steam car, built by S. H. Roper in 1889. The first electric car was built in 1891 by William Morrison, Des Moines, Iowa and subsequently bought by J.B. McDonald, president of the American Battery Company (Western Electrician, September 17, 1892). General Electric Company made a number of electric cars in 1897, at least one of which was refurbished by GE for an owner in the 1960s. The Brothers Duryea built their first gasoline-fueled car in 1892. Henry Ford’s followed in 1893. Elwood Haynes completed his in 1894. By 1895, the practicality of the automobile was settled – it could honorably take its place as an addition to the world’s array of transport modes. So-called perfecting devices, such as rubber tires (about 1889) and the electric self-starter, ignition, and lighting systems from genius Charles Kettering (1912 Cadillac), would roll in. Customer interest and commitment were needed and advertising would soon go to work on that. First, though, there had to occur the all-important USA first sale of a gasoline-fueled car – a Winton in 1898 to Robert Allison of Port Carbon, Pennsylvania.
The Rush To Enter. Action accelerated in 1898 with the forming of firms for Stanley (steam), Stearns, Thomas, Matheson, Winton, and Waverley. 1899 saw more – Locomobile, Olds, Baker-Electric, and Pierce-Racine. In 1900 came Packard, Peerless, Glide, National Electric, Lambert, Elmore, Babcock, Jackson, Knox, and Lane. 1901 revealed Acme, Gaeth, Pierce-Arrow, White (steam initially), Royal-Tourist, Stevens-Duryea, Waltham-Orient, Pope-Toledo, Welch, Pullman, and Rambler. 1902 produced Franklin, Pope, Studebaker, Sultan, Okey, Walter, Schacht, Cadillac (Henry M. Leland – truly interchangeable parts and later earning the Dewar Trophy twice), in 1903 Ford, Auburn, Overland, Moline, Premier, Bergdall, Holsman, Columbus, and Chadwick. 1903 may be considered a truly focal point year as real series and mass production was begun via Ford’s first Model A (1,708 were sold in the first season).
1903: First Cross-USA Auto Trip. On a $50 bet, a medical doctor named Horatio Nelson Jackson, his mechanic companion, Sewell K. Crocker, and bulldog “Bud” piloted a Winton (named “Vermont”) from San Francisco to New York City in 63 days, 12 hours, and 30 minutes traveling 5,600 miles and consuming 800 gallons of fuel bought in stores since gasoline stations were still in the future. The Winton had no windscreen or top. A Packard and an Oldsmobile also completed the West to East run that year. Print media played the action to the full!
Manufacturers Multiply. 1904 welcomed Buick, Cleveland, American-Napier, Stoddard-Dayton, Marmon, Mitchell, Jewel, McIntyre, Pittsburgh Electric, Rauch & Lang, and Simplex. 1905 added Maxwell and 11 others. 1906 revealed 12 more. 1907 brought Chalmers and 15 others. 1908 yielded nine more. 1909 saw Hudson and five others appear. From 1910 to 1916, 18 more were started including Dodge Brothers in 1914. By 1916, Henry Ford I had earned the title “Father of Quantity Production of the Automobile” as his factories turned out 533,921 Model Ts capping production runs of 168,200, 248,307, and 308,213 during the three previous years. For the moment Ford was King of the small, affordable auto.
General Motors Created in 1908. However, others were active – led by William C. Durant. 1908 saw a very quiet stock arrangement that produced General Motors, mainly involving Buick, Cadillac, Oldsmobile, Oakland and in 1917, Chevrolet. By 1916, GM fielded three different brands using V8s with 15 other firms also offering the type. The automobile began to surge in popularity. Oligopoly quite accurately describes the operating reality of modified USA capitalism at work. Weaker aspirants fall away or merge or are bought up by stronger players. There were various machinations carried on wherein electric cars were obstructed early in their development. The infamous Selden Patent action was fought in court and won by Henry Ford I to the benefit of the industry. GM and others, beginning in 1922 and continuing throughout the Great Depression, bought and dismantled light rail firms. The conspiracy’s mission was to replace electrically powered mass transit with buses. Post-WWII, in 1949, GM was convicted under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890 (U.S. vs National City Lines, 334 US 573,596, and fined $5,000. The damage done left dozens of the nation’s cities with transportation challenges relevant down to the present. Moreover, both Ford and GM were slow to move to hydraulic four-wheel brakes. GM’s extensive forest holdings contributed to their retention of wooden inner structures. HFI proclaimed to Kettering that Ford would not use the electric starter. In the face of these behaviors and other realities WPC would seize his big chance to shake loose with a vastly improved automobile..
A Shining Light Dawns. That an automotive genius would appear, and out of railroading to boot, excites the imagination. Let’s examine what happened and how those events led toward full participation of dues-paying enthusiasts in perpetuating product substance via the WPC Club.
Palatinate Immigrant Descendent Appears in 1875: Walter Percy Chrysler Arrives
WPC’s forebears arrived during June 1710 in New York, North America as part of several thousand persons traveling West on the North Atlantic under auspices of English Queen Anne, essentially as a yield of the previous century’s devastating Thirty Years War. By WPC’s birth in 1875 his parents were settled in prairie Kansas and doing very well by the standards of the day.
Railroad Beginnings. Given his Dad’s work in railroading, WPC was influenced in that direction – even declining an offered university education to become a working apprentice. Rising steadily, purely on merit in a very tough business, he was soon completing assignments that earned him a sterling reputation. By 1908, nearly a century ago, while watching early automotive progress, railroader Chrysler came to believe that the private automobile was just the machine to provide a higher level of personal mobility beyond rail.
Buys First Car – Then Learns to Drive. Without knowing how to drive, WPC convinced his wife Della that their $700 savings should go toward a new Locomobile selling for $5,000 – the banker who loaned the $4,300 would come to WPC in 1920 requesting Mr. Chrysler’s help – but first, WPC would dismantle the big luxury car to examine its workings. Della’s first ride would have to wait for a while.
Accepts Pay Cut To Join General Motors. Lured to Buick by GM Board Member James J. Storrow in 1911, and taking a cut in annual salary from $8,000 (actually an offered $12,000 if he would stay with American Locomotive Co.) to $6,000 to do so, he demonstrated high order leadership immediately. WPC demanded and received a raise to $25,000 after three years of hard, brilliant work for Charlie Nash. Buick’s operations improved steadily and WPC was appointed GM’s first Executive Vice-President in 1916 at $500,000 per year on a three-year contract (William Durant had returned to GM, and its common stock in 1916 traded as high as $850/share, exceeded only by Firestone Tire & Rubber at $1,700/share). WPC’s contributions during 1911-1919 were notable and he gained experience and stature while making friends wherever he lived.
Saves Bankers & Willys/Maxwell. Leaving General Motors in 1919 as a multi-millionaire out of GM stock, he was soon approached by bankers to recover jeopardized loans to troubled Willys (for a million dollars per year fee on a two-year contract) followed quickly by concurrent similar surgery at Maxwell (for the same bankers and an extra $100,000) -both successful. WPC’s “doctoring” at Willys and Maxwell opened opportunity! In retrospect, WPC surely brought a high degree of dynamic leadership skills to the task – coupled with a thorough grounding in engineering and financial practices. His real-time, right-now persuasiveness rounded out a true leader. How about the Chrysler name on his own car?
1925: WPC’s Firm Penetrates Automobile Industry Oligopoly
In an amazing story, WPC collaborated with professional engineers Fred M. Zeder, Carl Breer, and Owen R. Skelton (whom he met in 1916 while they were busy improving Studebaker design). Out of WPC’s charismatic, generous leadership, a long-lasting collaboration took place–yielding the Chrysler Corporation by June 1925. By the time WPC moved to create his own company multiple attempts had already been made through some 2,000 firms–with Ford Motor Company and General Motors Corporation emerging as dominant. WPC envisioned a better performing, safer vehicle made out of the best materials and selling initially in the mid-price range.
Chrysler Six Capability Stuns. Technically the original Chrysler Six proved sensational – furnishing high performance as well as the safety of hydraulic brakes, full-pressure engine lubrication, oil filter, air cleaner, and a wholly improved driving sensation. The 1924 Chrysler was his conception, ably, indeed, brilliantly executed with his close involvement – creating just the excitement ticket to launch the ride!
WPC Stresses Performance. Ralph DePalma drove a strictly stock 1924 Chrysler a full thousand miles while averaging 68.33 MPH in an elapsed time of 1,007 minutes and 54 seconds – actual underway time was 878 minutes, 10.8 seconds – done at Fresno, California on 17 September 1924 under American Automobile Association official supervision. Public interest in competition emerged early: the world’s first auto race had already been run in July 1894 from Paris to Rouen. Of 46 cars entered all used Daimler engines except the 12 steamers.
Chrysler Product Antecedents From 1877
Many enterprising persons populated the early auto scene. The organizations linked in some way to the development and growth of the Chrysler Corporation are included here to illustrate the complexity that made those times so exciting: Columbia Bicycle (1877), Gormully & Jeffery Bicycles (1879), G&J Tire Company (1890), Electrobat (1894), Riker Electric (1896), Crest Manufacturing Company (1896), Evans & Dodge (1899-1901), E.R. Thomas-Detroit (1900-1907), Dodge Brothers Inc. who provided Ford with the first 750,000 Model C, F, T running gear assemblies; Dodge car introduced in late 1914–(1901-1928), Thomas B. Jeffery Company (1902-1916), Pope-Toledo Company, Toledo, Ohio Facilities (1902-1911), Overland Division-Standard Wheel Company (1903-1908), Columbia and Electric Vehicle Company (1903-1910), Maxwell-Briscoe Motor Company (1903-1910), Stoddard-Dayton (1904), Dayton Motor Car Company (1905-1910), AM Motor Car Sales Company (1906-1908), Brush Company (1907-1910), Chalmers-Detroit Company (1907-1909), Alden Sampson Manufacturing Company (1908-1910), Willys-Overland Company (1908-1953), Chalmers Motor Company (1909-1917), Paige-Detroit (1909-1927), Hudson Motor Car Company (1909-1954), United States Motor Company (1910-1913), Saxon Motor Company (1913-1917), Duesenberg Motor Company (1913-1918), Maxwell Motor Company (1913-1917), Kelvinator Corporation Electrical Appliances (1914-1937), Nash Motor Co. (1916-1937), Maxwell Chalmers Company (1917-1922), Willys Corporation (1918-1922), Graham Brothers (1918-1927), Essex Division of Hudson (1919-1922), Lafayette Motors Corporation, (1919-1924), ZSB (Fred Zeder, Owen Skelton, Carl Breer & Associates) Engineering Company (1921-1925), Maxwell Motor Corporation (1922-1925), Mitchell Motor Car (1924), Graham Brothers Truck Division of Dodge (1925-1927), Chrysler Corporation (1925-1998), Graham-Paige Motors (1927-1945), Seaman Body Corporation (1936), Nash-Kelvinator Corporation (1937-1954), Kaiser-Frazer Corporation (1945-1953), Willys Motor Inc. aka Kaiser-Willys (1953-1963), American Motors Corporation (1954-1987) Kaiser-Jeep Corporation (1963-1970), AMC Jeep Division (1970), Renault (1978), Lamborghini (1987-1993) and post-Chrysler Corporation: DaimlerChrysler Aktiengesellschaft (1998 to present).
Big Three Via Dodge Brothers Purchase – Second Place, Debt-Free By 1936
Purchase of the Dodge Brothers complex massively strengthened the firm and established it as a solid member of the press-coined “Big Three” during 1928. The Roaring Twenties decade closed with Mr. Chrysler the leader of what was now a major corporation (moving ahead of Ford Motor Company into 2d place in 1936) that provided relatively generous wages and salaries to the entire employee body. Most employees knew they were working to create excellent automobiles–an enduring dedication with positive lasting effect for decades. Yes, Chrysler has produced prestige vehicles–as exemplified by the quite incredible 1931-1933 Imperials. The record setting overdrive-equipped 1934 Chrysler and DeSoto Airflows touched the future and were soon emulated domestically–plus creations in Japan, France and elsewhere. But more, millions of Plymouths and Dodges served strongly to satisfy the full range of family needs. With DeSoto, these vehicles earned a worldwide reputation for endurance and reliability. Chryslers, Imperials, Dodges and Plymouths from the earliest days became known for their performance including racing and endurance feats in North & South America, Europe and Australia.
WPC Attacks The Great Depression
The Great Depression wreaked economic and human havoc during the 1930s, and was finally expunged only by the advent of USA industrial build-up as World War II progressed. WPC’s answer to The Great Depression was an all-out offensive–a major investment in a second-generation family of sturdy four-main bearing sixes, all-new In-line Eights and a whole new Plymouth factory. Dodge and Plymouth volume sustained financials such that only 1932 saw operating loss during WPC’s involvement (-$11,254,232.10).
World War II Arrived – Ready Or Not
As the war tocsin sounded, Chrysler Corporation cooperated fully with governmental authorities. Employees and the supplier body went to work quickly and produced equipment needed by the armed forces of the United Nations.
Vaunted Engineering Staff Challenged. Chrysler’s prowess was real and the country benefited by the more than 2,000 projects Chrysler Engineering was assigned to carry out including nickel-plating advances for the Manhattan Project. Dodge Division built 18,413 engines for B29 Very Heavy Bombers (WPC NEWS, July 1999).
25,059 Main Battle Tanks. While US Army designers specified the WWII Chrysler-built Grant, Sherman and Pershing tanks, many improvements to the 25,059 built or refurbished at the Chrysler-operated Detroit Tank Arsenal stemmed from Chrysler talent (WPC NEWS, February 2000). In 1943 alone, 5,111 were equipped with the quickly engineered Chrysler Multi-Bank 30-cylinder engine, dubbed A-57, based on five In-Line, L-Head, Six Cylinder 250.6 CID units (109 in M3A4 Grants; 7,499 in M4A4 Shermans). This power plant became a favorite of the British and Commonwealth Armies, providing durability beyond any other American or German tank engine of the period. A prime A-57 powered Sherman named Willie Pusher II, numbered T232274, is displayed proudly in London’s Imperial War Museum. WPC Member Mel Sherman has the honor of owning and caring for a Sherman M4A1 Tank armed with the more powerful 76mm gun (photos in WPC NEWS, August 2006).
Chrysler Corporation employees as well as many persons working in dealerships served in all branches including the Merchant Marine ships.
Post WWII Changes Soon Swept In
Denial of new civilian vehicles during 1942-1945 created a seller’s market after V-J Day. Concurrently, there emerged a set of varied experiences that stimulated imagination. As the 16 million uniformed men and women (out of a population of 130 million) returned to civilian pursuits the society changed. The passage of the GI-Bill and a rising standard of living made for expansion of infrastructure very much linked to the automobile’s promise of personal and family freedom. The Korean War of 1950-1953 interrupted and sobered the national mood as rearmament meant shortages of certain materials such as chromium. President Eisenhower’s closure of the war soon yielded styling changes and flashier colors for the balance of the decade. Nearly continuous expansion leading toward the “good life” attracted new waves of immigrants to the “New World” already built on immigration in growing numbers since the 17th century. Millions of veterans had seen some of the world beyond USA borders and were better for it, a supreme irony: a measure of positive change engendered and stimulated by war.
Freedom Enhancement Via Personal Mobility
Autos became steadily more reliable, vastly more powerful, and with paved highways progressing across the system attracted what came to be enormous numbers of motorists. Henry Ford I had achieved earlier the displacement of animal transport, through his vision and policy of continued price reductions via mass production and marketing of the 1908-1927 Model T. To WPC, opportunity was at the door as Ts held on too long. Early Dodges had already defined -Dependability – in peace and war as they brought markedly improved autos into the sales arena.
Chrysler Often Led. As the decades since the 1920s unfolded the automobile industry changed dramatically with Chrysler’s influence leading often. Technical progress brought universal use of the self-starter, hydraulic brakes, improved tires, safety glass, high compression, better steels, and improved fuel and lubricants plus formal, engineered proving grounds. Chrysler Engineering yielded much including scientific engine mounting (Floating Power), seating between the wheels, aerodynamic body shapes, hypoid rear axles, welded unitary steel construction, independent front suspension, overdrive, power steering, HEMI engines, Superfinish and much more. Auto sales and service became a gigantic business with thousands of employees. Vehicle “styling” grew in importance–including annual appearance differentiation. The influential “Sloan Ladder” proved a brilliant conception–fashioned from entry Chevrolet and upward in stepped pricing to Oakland/Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick and finally, pinnacle Cadillac. Roads, while lagging behind vehicle volume, advanced steadily and the pioneering Federal “make-work” Pennsylvania Turnpike project would prove prophetic.
Mid-to-Late 1950s A Brighter Time. By the close of the Korean War the American public proved hungry for a happier, brighter time – exemplified by color – indeed color in television, film media, magazines and surely in automobile finishes. Yes, some colors were garish and excessive – others very attractive indeed, in a throwback to a number of Chrysler beauties of the later Twenties. The beginning of the eventually named Dwight D. Eisenhower System of Interstate and Defense Highways in 1956 soon stimulated new construction involving motels, restaurants, and multiplying public attractions. Palpably, the face of the nation changed. The climate was growing rich with potential for the collection of automobiles and the benefits of owner association. By 1962, the first “club” was in the works.
Original Chrysler Products Restorers Club
Mr. Stephen Setto (542 Regent Street, Houston, PA, club headquarters) served as Editor (as the sole named officer). The Original Chrysler Products Restorers Club – adopted the definition –A nonprofit organization devoted entirely to helping members restore, maintain and preserve their Chrysler products.- and operated from 1962 to 1968. Central figures included George and Rose Michl, Galen Brandt, Paul Stern (owner of a 1941 Thunderbolt with retractable steel hardtop and a 1941 Newport dual-cowl phaeton of five each were actually completed), Walter Gall and Orlando Geiger. The publication was soon named ‘WING NEWS’, an appropriate identifier linked to the original winged radiator cap of the 1924 Chrysler. WING NEWS, in its first appearance, featured the 1925 Chrysler B-70. Measuring 5 3/8ths by 8 3/8ths inches the publication was packed with useful information. For example, Volume 1, Issue 3 concentrated on the 1928 Dodge Standard Six and Victory models and included official specifications, wiring diagram and lubrication chart. Parts interchange data for the subject cars was included along with names, addresses and cars owned by the membership. The national flavor was clearly present with members listed across the USA. Charles O. Rixford of Vista, CA was listed as owning a butane-fueled 1941 Chrysler New Yorker Convertible Sedan. Morris Sarnoff’s name appears! Paul H. Stern, with 16 cars, listed several others he was seeking. Norman Frey’s name appeared in the March 1965 Membership Roster. A highlight that year was the Chrysler Factory Meet held June 28-30 and supported by Dodge Division via lunch, trophies and a copy of Ward’s Quarterly containing the “Chrysler Story” for each participant. Certain WING NEWS issues have survived and can be obtained from WPC Club headquarters as photocopies. As the California group organized they attempted to contact Mr. Setto, since his was the only national club for Chrysler Products at the time. Mr. Setto was unresponsive to letters but eventually sent the mailing list to the California group, several of whom had constituted the Western Region of the Setto effort (that closed with the final issue of WING NEWS for July 1968). The California Chrysler Products Restorers Club was founded on 17 March 1967 with Norman Frey as its first President and serves well today. Celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2007, the organization has the following name history: November 1962, The Original Chrysler Products Restorers Club; 17 March 1967, West Coast Region of CPRC; 7 March 1968, Walter P. Chrysler Club (WPC Club); 5 December 1969, Western Region of WPC Club; 17 May 1971, San Francisco Bay Region of the WPC Club; 19 August 1980, The Original Chrysler Products Restorers Club; 21 July 1981, Northern California Chrysler Products Club and 21 July 1987, California Chrysler Products Club. Special thanks go to Norman Frey and current WPC Club Director Sandy Hummer for providing information about the first club efforts.
WPC Club Proves Exciting
“Members helping Members” translates to a significant body of applied energy to “Make It Happen” year after year. Personalities vary, of course, but good will efforts yielded forward movement. Contemplating the unfolding story of WPC Club happenings causes pause – in that so much has already been done over the years since the founding. Honors are owed to each person voluntarily contributing to club operations including presidents, other officers, directors, editors, authors, technical advisors, regional presidents and officers, meet host teams, photographers, international, national, regional, and photo meet participants plus other members and families all. Responses by local businesses, civic leaders and public personalities have often contributed materially to Meet successes including famed collector Jay Leno. A number of Chrysler luminaries have responded verbally and in writing via valuable WPC Club input regarding personal “on scene” participation in the Chrysler story. Six Presidents have served the WPC Club since 1969: Founding President Norman Frey, W. L. “Bill” Adams, Sherwood Kahlenberg, Dr. Ralph Kendall, the late Chuck Jensen, and Richard Bowman.
Norman Frey As Catalyst: The Seven Founders
The WPC Club story begins in 1967 via a courageous group of seven volunteers brought together by Mr. Norman Frey (NF). In addition to NF, they were: Jim Crittenden, Karol Hok, Bob Locke, Charles Lundal, John Peters, and Ken Wilson. The “father” of the WPC Club, NF – a true gentleman- is quieter in manner than Walter P. himself but no less persistent! Your writer’s initial contact with NF to join the WPC Club in 1972 was characterized by his dignity, kindness, knowledge and a definable charm. NF’s sons Bob and Bill plus daughter Joanne Lunardi carry on also as WPCers to this day. The purpose inspiring those working so hard was to draw together as “members helping members” in a positive fashion that honors the many humans that made the vehicle family possible. Chrysler Product fans owe you much, sir!
Letter Sent To Known Collectors: Responders Become -Charter Members-
Initial major action was to create a letter (dated 2 January 1967) for sending to as many known collectors of Chrysler products as could be identified (32) in their area of California. NF’s letter noted that he was already a member of the Antique automobile Club of America, The Airflow Club of America, and The Chrysler Products Restorers Club. NF suggested meeting at least four times each year plus have two events per year with the cars. There would be three elected officers. Known quickly as the Charter Members, responders were: Tad Burness, Richard Carson, Howard DeSart, Bruce Dishman, Roland Funk, Gene Holzeger, Wilbert Horne, Charles Hunter, Pete Jacobsen, Vince Loplito, Clarence Murphy, Doug O’Connell, Bruce Osborne, Nick Parodi, Bob Pollard, Tony Robello, Paul Taylor, Ken Thompson, Ed Williams, and James Wilson. Among this group’s favorites were several 1931-1933 Chryslers and Imperials. Early complications concerning club name issues ensued. Permission was obtained to use the company founder’s initials (as suggested by the late Doug O’Connell) and so -The WPC Club, Inc.- came to life as a legal entity. By February 1970 there were 565 members including 12 Canadians, one in Mexico, four in New Zealand, two in south Africa, and one in Norway. Michael Lamm, then a free-lance auto writer contacted the Club seeking choice cars for testing. Member Clarence Murphy provided the initial WPC decals to be sold ($1) to provide funds for trophies and prizes at the first National Meet to be held in conjunction with Harrah’s at Reno, NV (August 7-9 1970). Bruce Osborne made room arrangements for that first national meet. Membership passed the 800 mark by April 1970. WPC Club Western Region members were privileged to see and hear Doug O’Connell’s magnificent 1931 Custom Imperial LeBaron Roadster – a creation much publicized via magazines and calendars.
Monthly Publication Established. The newly constituted Board of Directors, in turn, approved the publishing of a magazine for members to be prepared and mailed monthly. Thus, the WPC NEWS came into being. The rationale was that members would volunteer news, personal ads, and articles for inclusion.
Dues Kept Relatively Modest. International interest potential was recognized in the initial two-tier annual dues of five dollars for domestic delivery of 12 issues plus an additional dollar for members in other than USA countries. Inflation, of course, has eroded the dollar, requiring dues increases periodically. Then and now membership represents outstanding value. As pioneers, those early WPC Club individuals began a significant engagement with automotive history. They chose well. Chrysler had stirred the industry via product improvements that meant accelerating vehicular progress and contributing to a standard of living unparalleled in history.
Enthusiastic Volunteers All: Initial WPC Club Leadership
In support of President Frey, as the first mailing of WPC NEWS (featuring a 1924 Chrysler Touring) went out, were Bruce Osborne, Vice-President; Howard DeSart, Secretary; Jim Crittenden, Treasurer; Ed Williams, Member-at-Large. Notably, there was now an active and growing “national” club initially featuring both an Eastern (the late Paul Stern, serving as Chairman) and a Western Region (Will Horne, President).
William L. “Bill” Adams Elected Second President in 1974
The July 1974 WPC NEWS announced William L. “Bill” Adams as President and introduced Sherwood Kahlenberg (SK) as Vice-President. Founder NF continued as a Director along with Gail Ross and Tony Robello. Howard DeSart was Secretary/Treasurer. Douglas F. Jones served as WPC NEWS Editor. Impressively, 32 Technical Advisors were named including Don Narus (Town & Country specialist). Expansion continued with more than 2,303 Members. President Adams praised the founding work of NF in his Message. He urged return of the “wants, needs, and desires” questionnaire sent to the membership for early use of the input by the Board.
Sherwood Kahlenberg Elected Third President in 1975
SK became President, beginning a 12-year incumbency, as successor to Mr. Adams, who assumed duties as Vice President. Tony Robello took up Treasurer functions. Founding President NF continued service as Regional Director/Coordinator and Paul Stern was Technical Director. Galen Brandt was Club Store Director. Robert Young functioned as Editor, WPC NEWS. Annual dues were $6.00 ($7.00 outside the USA). Messrs. Stern and Brandt of Pennsylvania were new Directors, demonstrating the growing reach of the Club. In November 1975 Bob Schwartz, President of the Rocky Mountain Region, Denver, Colorado was elected to replace retiring Member Robello. Regions were expanding rapidly with 13 listed and another seven in the planning stage. By May 1976, David Konick was listed as Secretary and there was an Editorial Committee (EC) composed of Nick Dezmura, Milt Dorsey, Robert Locke, Laura McKinstry and Stan Opatowsky. In August 1976, K. C. Eberhard replaced Member McKinstry. August 1977 saw the first issue without Norman Frey’s name appearing among the leadership list. Ross MacLean now joined the EC. May 1978 saw membership reach 3,805 and Kevin McCabe listed as a new Director. Bill Stoeckel joined CE ranks. August 1978 listed Bob Schwartz in the combined post of Secretary-Treasurer and Arnold Yochelson (AY) became a Director. January 1979 saw AY assuming duties as Secretary and Regional Coordinator. March saw the CE group joined by Monte McElroy. Robert Woodford (RW) took on the position of Treasurer. In 1979, with membership at about 3,500, a cloud appeared as quoted in 40th Anniversary issue of Silver Dome Gazette – In 1979 there was a dispute between the San Francisco Bay Region officers and the national officers who were located in Southern California at that time and in November of that year, the San Francisco Bay Region was expelled from the WPC Club. CCPC history records that about 200 technical books was transferred to the new headquarters in southern California. As 1980 opened, the leadership consisted of SK, President, K.C. Eberhard, VP, A. Yochelson, Secretary, K. McCabe, Treasurer, R. Woodford, and Technical Director Paul Stern. By July 1980, AY became Director of Publicity, RW became Secretary/Treasurer and Co-Region Director. K. McCabe became Co-Region Director. In 1981 Milt Dorsey (MD) became a Director and Robert G. Dudley (RD) became Treasurer. RW was no longer listed on the Board as of April 1982. Jack Boyle joined the Board in May 1982 and by September was listed as Technical Director while RD was Secretary-Treasurer. As 1983 opened, MD became Treasurer and George Von Gaertner, Secretary. K.C. Eberhard stepped down as VP. Thomas Brown was listed as Director by October 1983. Educator Joseph Bemer joined the Board and contributed an article on the 1950 Chrysler and future President Dr. Kendall began service as a Director (July, 1985). Richard Bowman, another future President, joined the Board in November 1985 replacing the resigned Tom Brown. SK announced his resignation from office effective on 5 July 1987 after 12 years, three months and 25 days. SK cited the pivotal return of Chrysler Corporation to positive comment in the Wall Street Journal, 10 July 1981 as a yield of the Club’s Meet in Detroit. SK concluded his 1975-87 tenure with the 26-page publication of the Chrysler Corporation’s long-lead press review staged during 16-18 June 1987 (WPC NEWS, October 1987). Unfortunately, this yearly feature could not be continued after eight years of publication thus depriving the Club body of the Chrysler Corporation’s official briefing presented annually.
Dr. Ralph T. Kendall, MD Elected Fourth President in 1987
Dr. Ralph T. Kendall, MD (CO) stepped up to the WPC Club presidency in July 1987 as announced in the October 1987 WPC NEWS. A new club address appeared therein (and since) as PO Box 3504, Kalamazoo, MI 49003. Secretary was now Joseph Bemer (MI), Treasurer-Editor Richard Bowman (MI) [RB] and Directors, Nick Dezmura, Jane Kendall, and future President Chuck Jensen. 1987 concluded with a feature article by RB entitled “Let Yourself Go Plymouth”. A year into office, Dr. Kendall issued a July 1988 official request for Club property, including archival records, to be turned over to the Board. Response was incomplete. Concurrently, he welcomed soon to be Vice President Joyce E. Yazejian to the Board to replace Nick Dezmura, stepping down after eight years service. In May 1989, Treasurer and WPC NEWS Editor Richard Bowman reported the membership at approximately 5,000 in 23 countries (13 percent were outside the USA). As of May 1989 about 10,500 vehicles were represented – the earliest a 1910 Maxwell. Provisions for photography at a $10 fee/each further improved the Swap Meet feature of WPC NEWS. Future Web Master Ian Smale submitted an excellent article on his 1960 Dodge, published in the June 1989 issue. Of special note was the joint article by Warren Erb and Diran Yazejian concerning the 1938 Imperial C19. By July 1989 a total of 23 regions were listed. Richard Bowman produced a detailed article about the construction of the fabulous 1946-1948 Town & Country beauties. By February 1990 a clear win was announced as the club’s new computer system came to full flower over the prior recalcitrant machine. Back issues became popular at $3.00 each. December 1989 saw a delightful Norman Rockwell painting reproduced in full color as the back cover of WPC NEWS.
Chuck Jensen Takes Helm in 1991 WPC Club’s Fifth President
As world-experienced Chuck Jensen (IL) [CJ] took on duties as President the Board of Directors consisted of: Vice President, Jane Kendall (CO); Secretary, Joseph Bemer (MI); Treasurer-Editor, Richard Bowman (MI); Directors, Joyce E. Yazejian, (MI) (Club Store management); and Ralph Meilander (OH). Mr. Jensen was appointed to replace retiring Dr. Kendall, who served most effectively. President Jensen was quick to praise Ralph’s service and credit Chairman Gerry Gates and his committee for excellent staging of the Seattle 175-car meet. Among many favorable inputs to CJ, 20 -year Member Dayle Woods (NE), remarking on his first National Meet participation, wondered where he had been the past twenty years! His 1928 Dodge Victory Six won the Lindy Willis Award for a Dodge Brothers vehicle.
Mr. Jensen at Final Iaccoca Shareowners’ Meeting. Illustrating the maturity and reach of the WPC Club, CJ reported his attendance at the 16 May 1991 Chrysler Shareowners meeting at the Belvedere plant presided over by Chrysler Chairman Lee Iacocca. CJ and Lois drove their 1990 Chrysler LeBaron sedan to and from Seattle and posted interesting numbers: 5,253 USA Statute miles; 172.9 USA gallons of gasoline at an average $1.30, total $225.01; 30.4 MPG overall at cruise of 65 MPH or as posted – packed with the 1991 trophies! Warren Erb’s article explained the air conditioning system WPC designed for his new building in New York City and described what was known about a system for Chrysler vehicles (May 1992). Jane Kendall retired from Board service and Don Piscitelli replaced her in accordance with the WPC Club by-law procedures (announced in the September 1992 issue). In retiring from the Board in July 1993 CJ especially praised former President Dr. Kendall for his ongoing support.
Generous Contribution Appreciated. CJ made arrangements to have the Chrysler-linked portion of his major literature collection presented to the WPC Club. The extensive materials, totaling some 22,000 pieces now form part of the WPC Club library. Surely a most generous gift and marvelous personal legacy by Mr. Jensen as 2007 got underway.
Richard Bowman Elected Sixth President in 1993
After serving the WPC Club family for several years as Treasurer, then and still Editor, RB took the President’s Chair in July 1993 at the 24th Annual WPC Club National Meet held in Cleveland, OH as announced in WPC NEWS for August – along with a feature article by RB covering the 1938 Plymouth. As of December 1993 the Board included President/Editor, RB; Ralph Meilander, Vice President; Joseph Bemer, Secretary/Treasurer; Directors, Joyce E Yazejian (also Club Store), Don Piscitelli, and Ken Angyal. By December 1995, Ken Angyal had moved to Vice President-Regions. During 1996, Don Piscitelli became Vice President while John Lloyd (CA) became a Director. Barbara Meilander took over the Club Store and Ralph Meilander continued service as a Director. For 1997, Ralph Meilander became Secretary; Joseph Bemer, Treasurer; Ian Smale was WPC Club Website Editor. In 1998 the team rolled forward without change. During 1999 Robert McClure (PA) became a Director, replacing John Lloyd. For 2000, John Sarkisian (TX) became Secretary. During 2001, Robert McClure became Vice President-Regions while Ken Angyal took duty as Treasurer and Sandy Hummer was elected a Director. The Board held through 2002 and 2003 without change. In 2004, the Board shifted Ken Angyal back to Vice President-Regions; Robert McClure became Secretary; William Shannon, Treasurer; Einar Olsen, Director European Membership. 2004 was brightened as the WPC NEWS began to make use of color on a sustained basis. Board positions continued throughout 2005 and 2006. In 2007, RB celebrated a record 14 years in the lead spot at the near Chicago, Illinois meet. Following the 2006 37th National Meet in Williamsburg, Virginia, the WPC Club Board of Directors shaped as follows: Richard Bowman (MI), President; Don Piscitelli (NJ), Vice President; Ken Angyal (TX), Vice President-Regions; Secretary, Robert McClure (PA); Treasurer, Barbara Meilander (OH); Directors, Sandy Hummer (NJ). Greg Biskey (MN), Paul Niles (IN), Wayne Simonson (MI); and European Membership, Einar Olsen (Norway). Each of the six Presidents, Boards and other contributors experienced the sheer workload of a large volunteer organization.
WPC Club Member Ian Smale Grows Vigorous Web Site
Canadian Ian Smale joined the WPC Club in September 1978 and was already four years into partnership with a stunning 1960 Dodge Polara Four-Door Hardtop Sedan. Attending his first WPC National Meet saw the Dodge taking Third Place in Class. By 1981, Ian became a Founder of the present active and robust Vancouver Island Region. President Bowman announced that Vancouver Island Region had “taken the plunge” onto the Information Highway thanks to Ian’s leadership (March 1997). RB expressed hope that the entire Club would soon be able to cruise electronically. As a step in that direction, RB announced that E-mail addresses would be added to the next roster. The RB President’s Message of July 1997 happily announced the birth of the WPC CLUB INTERNET SITE, concurrently crediting Mr. Smale, whose dedicated hard work was well and truly done. Nearly a full ten years later the Club has its own Domain thanks to Ian and the support of Mr. Bowman and the Board of Directors. Included are National Meet photos, a member photos section, listing of back WPC NEWS issues, the Club Store, Regional Events site, a secure area as host to the Club Roster (including a download option via member password), and a secure service to join or renew membership via credit card. Ian updates the site at least once a month with the President’s Message and a photo of the latest WPC NEWS cover. An on-line discussion forum for WPC Club Members is hosted by the AACA through Member Peter Gariepy – thus providing opportunity to ask technical questions, seek parts and related automotive matters.
Hummers’ Hershey Outreach Mission
Over the years since the 1970s current National Director Sandy and teammate Woody Hummer have traveled to Hershey, PA each October. Among other activities (including Chrysler Carlisle and the show at Macungie, PA) they set up and operate a booth on the Chocolate Field, Row O, Spaces 40-50. Pavement has replaced the infamous mud of former years. The event is the Antique Auto Club of America Eastern Fall Meet and is attended by thousands of enthusiasts from literally across the world. Representation there dates to early club efforts leading eventually to the 1969 WPC Club formation and included the late George Michl and wife Rose Michl, Paul Stern, and others. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has been the scene of many events since establishment as a colony by authority of King Charles II in 1682. Both the American Declaration of Independence and USA Constitution were “penned” in Philadelphia and Gettysburg (also the Eisenhower only family home) saw the key three-day battle of the 1861-1865 conflict. Thus many folks find their way to the WPC Club Banner and the friendly welcome there has yielded many new and renewed memberships.
The Principal Core Publication: WPC NEWS Created Each Month
The principal instrument serving the members is the WPC NEWS publication mailed monthly. Through 2007, and a total of 473 issues, WPC NEWS has grown into an important body of work. Indeed, when author Vincent Curcio prepared his excellent 700+ page Chrysler, The Life and Times of an Automotive Genius (Oxford University Press, 2000) he made use of various WPC Club members and source materials. Mr. Chrysler had collaborated with Boyden Sparkes, yielding the 203-page autobiographical Life of an American Workman in 1937. WPC’s children Walter Jr., Jack, Thelma, and Bernice added a moving 15-page postscript that was added to a 1950 reprint (Dodd, Mead & Co.).
Large Format Arrives. The move to the larger 81/2 x 11-inch format (April 1975) provided opportunity for additional coverage. Continued was the traditional “President’s Message” page containing commentary, announcements and items of club interest. Member Stanley Opatowsky’s research and writing ably graced that issue with his “A Primer On The First Post-World War II Chryslers”.
Selling, Buying, Bartering, Seeking Help. A popular section of WPC NEWS provides significant communication opportunity to members. Named variously at different times ranging from generic functional components including -for sale and wanted then as WPC Swap-Mart, Classified Ads, and for many years to the present WPC SWAP MEET. Up to 50 words per ad category per month is available without extra cost. Ad Policy rules have been developed and are stated in each issue. The feature has proven beneficial in a whole host of Chrysler product buying, selling, searching, restoration actions. Volume I, Issue I contained nine for sale and ten wanted ads to launch the feature in 1969. Ads were placed from places far away from California – including South Carolina, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Michigan, Mississippi, Indiana, Montana, and Washington. Clearly, no one could claim that the Founders hid their light at a time now nearly four decades past! Ad usefulness has continued ever since and the November 2006 issue contains a full eight pages of sale, wanted, leads, services needed, help needed, services offered, information wanted, literature and automobilia wanted.
Feature Articles Enable Substantial Depth. Especially coveted by many members, these volunteer treatments serve to probe. Moreover, the literature body builds month-by-month and taken in total provides a rich access collection available nowhere else. One article reached back to 1955 to relate the adventure of a 23-year old in driving a well-worn 1941 Plymouth throughout Europe over the course of 56 days while covering 8,010 USA miles (WPC NEWS, January 2001). Each WPC Club President has asked the Membership to volunteer at least one article on his or her favorite vehicle.
First WPC NEWS Color Cover. September 1977 marked the first color WPC NEWS cover–displaying the famous Chrysler Turbine Car and was the seventh consecutive month of 32 pages per issue. February 1978 saw a full 40 page printing–another record. There was a listing of Contributing Editors (CE) including Dwight Cervin (CA), Edward Fogelmark (Sweden), Charles Gayman (CA), John Lee (NE), Kevin McCabe (Ontario, Canada), and John McCall (GA) as additions to the former EC members. 1978’s Election Committee Chairmen were named as Doug Cederberg (WA) and Don Puvogel (WA). By March 1978 Jim Benjamin (ND), Dave Godfrey (UT), Jeffrey Godshall (MI) and SK were added to the CE group.
WPC’s 1932 Sedan Limousine Featured. April 1978’s issue featured another color cover – this time of WPC’s custom-built 1932 CL Close-Couple Sedan (referred to officially as a “Special Built Sedan Limousine 7803384, Model CL”) supported by SK’s article stemming from visits to Chrysler headquarters in 1973 and 1977. Once owned by Mr. Doug O’Connell (suggestor of the initials WPC for the club’s name) the car was politely asked to be returned to the Chrysler family – when son Jack Chrysler passed away the car was presented to the Henry Ford Museum).
Brownlie Imperial Rendering. April’s cover presented the beautiful 1957 Imperial color proposal rendering by high-talent Bill Brownlie. May 1979 found John Robertson joining the CE group and an action piece by Diran Yazejian telling of his family preparation of a sparkling 1941 Dodge Business Coupe including travel to and from Manassas, VA Meet adventures. Harry and Virginia DeMenge presented their 1931 Chrysler CD-8 Second Series Roadster at Albuquerque in 1979, earning People’s Choice plus the Chrysler Corporation Trophy. Mike Petersen joined CE ranks in November 1979.
Four-Panel Color Foldout. Members opening the June 1980 “Special Collector Edition” issue were greeted by a stunning four-panel color foldout of the rendering that served as a basis for the 1974-75 Imperials. Also in color was a photo of the new 1981 Imperial plus a fascinating re-print presentation on the creation of Chrysler Corporation by A.B. “Tobe” Couture. Appearing before the 1969 Airflow Club National Meeting were major Chrysler players Carl Breer, Tobe, and A.G. Herreshoff (submitted by Hardy Trolander).
Eighty-Page Roster Prepared. As 1979 closed, the WPC CLUB NEWS mentioned concern for the firm’s business while noting ten years of club progress via an 80-page Roster issue. 1980 opened strongly with the presentation of Part I of CE Pete Costisick (IN) two-parter covering the 1967-69 Barracudas. Included for January was a clear presentation of the challenges facing the auto industry including the Iran crisis of the day.
Feature Article Index. The WPC NEWS September issue currently and for some years back contains a useful summary Index of Feature Articles including respective Volume and Issue references. Listed also as space permits are most National Meets, all Winter Photo Meets, various special topic articles and available “Wing News” issue volume numbers.
Technical Contributions. Member input adding specific ideas/actions to improve the vehicles is vital. As an example, late Member Jack Fallon (NM), a Mechanical Engineer and Nuclear Weapons Site Designer, shared tips regarding body mounts, rocker panel protection, sway bar bushings, idler sheave life extension and wire wheel theft protection in the February 1979 issue. Member Mike Petersen contributed a number of ideas from his experience with his 1955 Dodge plus an excellent recounting of long distance travel from north to Deep South and return.
Winter Photo Meet Designed. An important and enduring innovation was conceived in 1979/1980, in the form of a Winter Photo Meet and using the WPC NEWS to get the word out to the Members. Here was solid opportunity for Members to think, write, and photograph their special car or truck – and subsequently having the effort published as a permanent record adding to the pleasure of all readers. While nearly everyone loves photos, the essays supporting entries can contribute to interesting reading.
International Winter Photo Meet Feature. March 1980 was exciting as the first International Winter Photo Meet presentation appeared. Quickly noted by other clubs this new event increased membership participation opportunity even while conserving fuel. The CW Airflow that began life as the official limousine of Philippines’ President Manuel L. Quezon earned Best of Show honors as set out in the April 1980 issue. The feature continues to offer participatory opportunity for all members. Clever cover composition in full color has brightened the Annual Photo Meet issue since 2004. Several Golden Quill Awards have recognized the magazine’s positive progress.
Layout, Setup, Printing, Envelopes, Mailing. For some twenty years, since club headquarters moved to Michigan, WPC NEWS has been printed by Toothman Printing, owned by Bob and Peggy Toothman. Sue Hagesma does the setup – always carefully done. Over the years, a series of Toothman employees assigned to the tasks have performed admirably. Assuredly, the modern computer helps mightily, particularly since RB still creates the entire complicated Swap Meet portion as well as much of the text.
WPC Club Regional Subsets
A host of bonus opportunities are realized by those locales organized as subsets of the WPC Club. As 2006 closed, 27 Regions/Presidents were listed in WPC NEWS: Garden State, Chip Loree; Antique Chrysler Club of Long Island, George Knopp; Liberty Bell, Lowell Hawk; Carolina Chrysler Club, Cheryl Marsh; Tennessee Valley, Steve Crumley; North Coast, Eric Poti; Great Lakes, David Radcliff; Iowa, Lee Exline; Wisconsin, Jim Landrum; 10,000 Lakes, Gary Yazell; Northern Illinois, Guy Morice; Greater Omaha, Tom La Hood; Houston, Gary P. Hamel; Texas, Bill Roberson; Rocky Mountain, Chris Mickle; New Mexico, William B. Fisher; San Fernando, Aaron Kahlenberg; San Diego, Eric Kelly; Inland Empire, Rusty Tillitson; Orange County; Pacific Wonderland, Tom Fox; Columbia River, Ramon Cooper; Puget Sound, Jon Carson; Vancouver Island (Canada), Paul Mitchell; Sweden, Bo Bengtsson; Nation’s Capitol, Chris Hernson; Southwestern Pennsylvania, Robert McClure. The Regions are encouraged to make full use of the WPC NEWS by sending in their respective events announcements and summaries thereof. Several regions are making use of e-mail as technology grows. Several Regions are celebrating major anniversaries – a further opportunity to add member–as did the Great Lakes Region recently when 37 new enthusiasts joined from one event.
Those Superlative WPC Club Annual National/International Meets
Magnificent Learning Opportunities. Annual National Meets are an important part of WPC Club offerings and have been very successful with excellent vehicle diversity and sufficient numbers to make for a busy show and judging day. Enthusiasts bring their children and relatives to the superb WPC Club Annual National Meets held in various places in the USA and, thus far, a very special gathering in gorgeous Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. These events, of course, require significant early planning, done usually well ahead of the exciting weeklong event. The members attending serve as judges with results tabulated for announcement of winners during the Saturday evening banquet.
Major Team Work Required. Carrying out a major meet involves intensive work by a Region’s members – with the WPC Club Board in an oversight and supportive role. Each Meet has its own flavor, culture, and high points. Among the plethora, 1981 Detroit’s gathering at Corporate Headquarters was a dramatic happening – in that Chrysler was just then working its way back under the driving Lee Iaccoca. Diran and Joyce Yazejian led the on-scene preparation over more than a year’s time. A sharp memory is of the warm greetings by Chrysler employees as tours were conducted – no Public Relations staff could have exceeded the genuineness evident throughout. The superb Meet Booklet became a collector item for detail, art, layout, and explanations. Meet content included the voice of WPC himself, Chelsea Proving Grounds tour (an Abrams Main Battle Tank roared past the tour bus), George Stecher speaking on the fabulous Turbine Car, Tours of Highland Park, Meadow Brook Hall, Jefferson Car Assembly (from antecedent 1907 Thomas-Detroit, and greatly modernized, to “K” cars), into Canada for the Champion Spark Plug Plant and historic Fort Malden. Chrysler even provided an engine display set up in the Troy Hilton that drew much Member interest whether 1924, 1928, 1933, 1951 designs or the seventh generation turbine plus Slant Six and K-Car Fours.
Parking Lot Floating Conversations. Each year many Members gather informally, singly and in clusters to examine the various cars and trucks as they appear. Each Meet has vehicles brought in that one may never see at any other place than the special days unfolding. Some vehicles are trailered in – triggering interest as they are cautiously de-trailered and lined up. Others, such as Member Lowell Stahlman’s smooth running 1939 Plymouth Two-Door Sedan, are proudly driven whatever distance is required.
Show Day Protocols. Very early for many, the Great Day begins at or near the Headquarters Hotel. At the crack of light or just before, enthusiasts appear in growing numbers – checking their vehicles, removing covers, doing final cleaning, polishing, dusting, and performing inspections. Depending on Show Field location, vehicles begin the “parade” process and on arrival receive Registration and voting materials plus a pause for photographs and then murmur on into respective class position with the help of volunteer Members. Out come various chairs, coolers, and other comfort items to clear the vehicles for show. The required fire extinguisher in each vehicle must be visible. Perhaps a 1956 New Yorker will be emanating soft music from its chic record player of that year. Some hoods are raised for inspection. Others are kept closed and no one gets uptight about that – however much hood closure may affect Member voting choices. Indeed, the traditional Member voting surely has worked very well for decades now. Awards seem overwhelmingly given to the correct entrant–on balance. WPCers recognize merit beyond vehicle color and body type. One example to illustrate–the WPC Best of Show 1949 Chrysler Royal Highlander was owned and driven to Lake Tahoe (1978) from Bartlesville, Oklahoma by tall James Bole. His only concession to blistering July desert heat was to do most driving during “cooler” hours each day. This was Jim’s first show and he was clearly taken aback – momentarily – when his name was called!
Long Distance Recognition. Participants often tour extensively before and after Meet Week. Member LaRue Plotts of Pennsylvania enjoyed long-distance fun in his superb three-toned 1956 Chrysler New Yorker St. Regis two-door hardtop – and at least once – made a North American loop extending even to Mexico City and return, thus earning that year’s Long Distance Award via a total run of some 13,000 miles! Dick Romm tooled his 1951 New Yorker across the country at a mile per minute, subsequently contributing an excellent narrative for the WPC NEWS.
Planned Driving and Bus Tours. In addition to a fine display of gorgeous vehicles, participants enjoy specially contrived tours of the area, frequently to places of interest well beyond even eager non-WPC Club tourers. The social aspects are intense as old friendships are renewed and new links fashioned. Moreover, memorable happenings occur such as a stalled tour bus rolling backward on Chelsea Proving Grounds’ 15 percent grade. Also at the CPG, members got to experience the famous Gas Turbine Car including a demonstration of its flashing performance. Standing next to David Huckin’s glorious Imperial Dual Cowl Phaeton while feet away, idling at 20,000 RPM, the GT car surely thrilled your writer! What a hobby!
Canada Privilege. Traveling to lovely Victoria, B.C. provided Members with the experience of a large ferry ride over adjacent waters and into the flower-bedecked city. Held in July due to school and vacation parameters, Meet Weeks over the years have seen varied weather offerings. Thus Galveston, Texas is quite different than Rutland, Vermont.
Enduring the Hard Luck Award! To be sure, there is provision for Hard Luck awards, thankfully usually “welcomed” in balanced fashion by the recipient victim. The positive support received by your writer at Colorado Springs in 1986 (1962 Imperial repels Toyota attack) is not forgotten, including the quick reaction by those who located the port side Imperial Script assembly presented at the Banquet by President Kahlenberg (amidst a background panorama of periodic crashes of thunder, apparently triggered by SK’s announced personal inspection of the show field – a great collegial evening).
Learning About Distant Places. Members attending the Annual National Meets experience varied adventures as well as educational opportunity. Locations include Hershey, PA (1969)–Eastern; Sebastopol, CA (1969) Western; First National Meet, Wooster High School, Reno, Nevada (1970); Second National with Harrah’s Swap Meet, Reno, Nevada (1971); Reno, Nevada (1972); Santa Barbara, CA (1973); Portland, Oregon (1974); Detroit, MI (1975); Denver, CO (1976); LakeTahoe, NV (1977); Manassas, VA (1978); Albuquerque, NM (1979); Seattle, WA (1980) – the year Mt. St. Helen’s exploded and a special Meet Registry signed by the participants was accepted by Mr. Iaccoca for the Chrysler Archives; Detroit, MI (1981); Chicago, IL (1982); Lake Tahoe, CA (1983); Elmira, NY (1984), Lauren Campbell; Detroit, MI (1985); Colorado Springs, CO (1986) – Al Kruger swings into effective action to control an accident scene thereby earning recognition as “Kojak”; Burbank, CA (1987); Plymouth, MA (1988, ) – standing at the foot of Mayflower-linked graves was a moving experience; Kalamazoo, MI (1989, Richard Bowman); Kalamazoo, MI (1990, Richard Bowman); Seattle, WA (1991, Gerry Gates); Chicago, IL (1992, Guy Morice), Ray Zuend (IL) took Best of Show Imperial with his silent running 1929 rolling masterpiece -note that Norrkoping, Sweden was the site of the Sweden Region 10th anniversary and attended by Wayne Maddox); Cleveland, OH (1993, Barbara Meilander and Kathy Fern); Galveston, TX (1994, Konrad Clegg and team) -here a beautiful antique radio was raffled by the host Region and won by Nancy Martin, requiring a larger rental car and cancellation of air travel in order to get the rare radio safely to Phoenix; Victoria, BC, Canada – first Meet outside the USA (1995, Rita Green); Detroit/Auburn Hills, MI (1996, Diran Yazejian and Pat Opipari) – the largest Meet ever plus tours of the new complex; Rutland, VT (1997, Jim Blakeman, Dwight and Mary Porter); Portland, OR (1998, Tom Fox); Akron, OH (1999, Tom and Vicki Nicol); Kalamazoo, MI (2000, Richard Bowman and Kevin Swarms — Member Lawrence “Larry” DePaolis of Freedom, Pennsylvania had brake parts shipped in to repair Lowell Stahlman’s 1939 Plymouth, Ian and Vera Garbutt traveled from England); Parsippany, NJ (2001 prior to 9/11, Don Piscitelli- the Garbutts traveled from England again); Wisconsin Dells, WI (2002, led by Al “Kojak” Kruger and wife Mary); Minneapolis, MN (2003, Mickey Williams, Jim York, Jim Schewe); Omaha, NE (2004, Ron and Ann Glowen); Burbank, CA (2005, Aaron Kahlenberg, SkillsUSA of JFK High School) and Williamsburg, VA (2006, Richard Bowman and the entire Board plus the Yazejians, Glowens and others).
WPC NEWS Annual Meet Issue. For the benefit of all, WPC NEWS follows up the Meet excitement with a comprehensive discussion and all-important photo display in a subsequent issue. Extensive use of color since 2004 has further increased reading pleasure. The fact of dozens of WPC Club vehicles arriving for the Meet stirs positive interest wherever situated. Cameras and video camcorders appear and go into action. Conversations develop as former contacts are renewed and new ones made amidst gleaming metal, wood, and glass wrappers.
Mount St. Helens No Damper. Despite Mt. St. Helens’ event the 1980 Seattle Meet was beautifully staged and displayed the entrants on multi-level terrain in a gorgeous setting. LaRue Plotts capped 41,000 miles of traveling to WPC Club meets by a 5,000-mile tour in his 1956 New Yorker with the return trip to Pennsylvania remaining. The DeMenge team took both Best of Show and Chrysler Corporation Trophy honors with their honeymoon car, a 1941 Plymouth convertible.
WPC Club Store Mail Order Ready. The active WPC Club Store has a long history of service to the club and is currently in the able hands of Member Jane McClure in Murray, PA. Offered for sale to Members are a variety of excellent quality shirts, hats, patches, and other items. The Store’s Display at the Annual Meet is well received and patronized.
WPC Club Awards Always Welcomed
Recognition by knowing peers are important happenings as a yield of participation in shows staged by the WPC Club and its several regions. The number of classes established for each contest depends, of course, on the number and types of vehicles entered.
For Example. While driving to the 2005 Burbank Meet Member Jack Kinsey met and overcame Hard Luck more than seven hundred miles north when his modern vehicle gave up. Undaunted, Mr. Kinsey shifted to his show entry, a gorgeous 1934 Dodge DR coupe, and drove on in – yielding Class 3 First Place plus the Hard Luck Award. The 2006 Williamsburg event saw 33 Classes established with first, second, and third place winning potential. For example, Class 1, First Place went to the 1924 Chrysler B entered by Bob and Jane McClure. Class 33 First Place was a 2006 Jeep Commander by Guy and Carol Morice. Best of Show honors went to Peggy Van Bibber, Plymouth, 1960 Valiant V200; Chris Herndon, Dodge, 1966 Charger; DeSoto, Thomas Jones, Jr., 1948 Deluxe Club Coupe; Chrysler, Morris Sarnoff (veteran member of the pre-WPC Club), 1950 Town & Country; Imperial, 1956 Southampton Coupe, Bob Porter. People’s Choice went to the former Shah of Iran Imperial, a 1965 Ghia Limousine brought by Chip and Karen Loree. President’s Cup went to Jim Buffington, 1977 Chrysler New Yorker Brougham. Best of Show Chrysler Cup Winner merited the WPC Club’s October 2006 color cover for Ed and Terri Huston’s resplendent 1910 Maxwell Model G. Special awards included the Chuck and Lois Jensen recognition of 1946-early series 1949 P15 Plymouths (activated when P15 Plymouths are shown); the Costantino Award, Chuck and MaryAnn Rouse, 1955 Dodge Coronet; the George Michl Memorial Award, Branson Cheek, 1924 Chrysler B. The Board of Directors named Ron and Ann Glowen winners of The Dr. David George Briant Award for the “best spirit” of the Meet in recognition of their photos and clerical support actions. In 2002 Member Kevin Swarms won this award for his important contributions to seven meet attendees having assorted mechanical and electrical challenges requiring many hours of intense under hood focus in vigorous Wisconsin heat and humidity. Kevin collapsed from heat exhaustion and was hospitalized for treatment. Not recovered sufficiently to attend the Banquet, Kevin was visited as he reclined in bed, and accepted the Award delivered by Dr. Briant and President Bowman.
Noted Important Enrichments
Happily, Chrysler and Chrysler-linked folks – current and retired – continue to contribute to the WPC Club. In addition to enabling officials” making it possible to visit Michigan, Ohio, California and other factory and related locations are a number of retirees or close associates.
Ross Roy at 1979 Albuquerque WPC National Meet. The writer recalls a conversation at the 1979 Albuquerque Meet with Mr. Ross Roy while reclining against a grassy slope. In about an hour Mr. Roy traced his career from the early Dodge Brothers car forward through his company producing Ross Roy Data Books. The essence was the need to communicate Dodge Brothers’ merits to busy potential buyers who had already become accustomed to Ford’s Model T. Early Fact Sheets placed with farmers helped Mr. Roy get the message out that Dodge represented a quantum leap beyond Ford. Two Ross Roy Data books – covering the 1942 Chrysler and the 1966 Chrysler and Imperial models–are the writer’s treasured source companions.
Jay Leno Has Choice Chrysler Product Examples. The tour of Collector and WPC Club Member Jay Leno’s buildings (2005 Burbank Meet) was remarkably interesting and a rare privilege. A 1956 Imperial Southampton Two-Door Coupe with factory air conditioning gleamed amongst other gorgeous vehicles. Operating steam and electric cars added to the interest. Mr. Leno had earlier autographed the writer’s WPC NEWS (Sept 1997) article.
Executive and Expert Wheelman Burton H. Bouwkamp (BHB) has shared his 38-year experience at Chrysler that began with the famed Chrysler Institute and an initial assignment (Resident Engineer-DeSoto Warren Plant) involving the 1952 DeSoto HEMI introduction. BHB has kindly responded quickly and effectively to information requests, tapping into his background in France, Spain, England, Cuba, and Japan (including Mitsubishi Board service). Moreover, he shared insights such as contributions to the firm’s A/C challenges in the 1957 line (especially focused during his early-Castro visit to Cuba!).
WPC Lured Top Talent. Raymond Dietrich’s styling talents came to the attention of WPC himself in 1932 and their relationship lasted until Mr. Chrysler’s passing in 1940. Mr. Dietrich kindly responded and presented personally at the 1979 Albuquerque Meet.
Professional Proof Positive. Bobby Jack Ludwig, Chrysler’s long-time (now retired) Chelsea Proving Grounds Manager, shared the “magic” of the work done to literally prove vehicles and all manner of assemblies, components, finishes, and special assignments. In addition to hosting WPC Club visits/tours BJL provided major input for the article about the facility and its operations (WPC NEWS, September 2005). BJL’s tenure experienced many journalists including the pioneering USA tester “Uncle” Tom McCahill, long-time writer for Mechanix Illustrated magazine. His many always welcomed visits to Chelsea usually included a pair of prize hunting dogs, shotguns, and a penchant for fast driving – highlighted by a 144-mph test track run in a brand-new Dodge Convertible with HEMI engine and TorqueFlite – appearance as the magazine’s color front cover yielded positive publicity for Chrysler.
Bob McAtee’s Captivating Trip Narrative Series. Collector and Member Bob McAtee teamed with master pianist Bill Lauer, to carry out long distance runs in his 1948 New Yorker (1988), then again in a 1959 Imperial (WPC NEWS, June 1989), and still again in a rare 1941 Imperial Town Sedan (reported December 1991) – and graciously prepared excellent reports that were welcomed into the WPC NEWS. Here the sharing held the reader transfixed, as 1940s’ comforts were credited, highway conditions overcome, museums visited, collectors contacted, a driveline imbalance corrected, a fuel line cleared, a carburetor float tapped free, numerous washings and other vehicle tidying done. Superb.
Member Larry DePaolis (Freedom, PA) especially contributed to the feature article published in the February 2001 WPC NEWS that illuminated the important 1930 Chrysler Model 66. Moreover, while visiting the WPC Museum he took time out to obtain brake parts needed by Lowell Stahlman’s 1939 Plymouth and had them rush shipped from PA to the Kalamazoo Meet site.
Single-Marque & Other Clubs. Among the throng will be WPC vehicles that also are beloved by several single-marque clubs such as TC America, a very active organization put together by grand lady B. Karleen Tarola to ensure the well being of the unique two-seat Chrysler TC by Maserati (her inception recruiting successes included Airflow developer Carl Breer’s family). The history of the marque and its club was featured in a two-part article run in WPC NEWS issues for August and September 2000. Cooperative relationships have been a hallmark historically. National DeSoto Club and the DeSoto Club of America plus the Chrysler 300 Club, Inc have ads in the November 2006 issue. Among others are: the previously noted California Chrysler products Club (40th anniversary in 2007), The Airflow Club, Dodge Club of Argentina, The Dodge Brothers Club, Chrysler Restorers Club of New Zealand, Chrysler Restorers Club of Australia, Inc., Chrysler Restorers Club of Australia (South Australia) Inc., Chrysler Owners Club of Queensland Australia Inc. and Okanagan Mopars, Vernon, British Columbia, Canada.
The WPC Club Inclusivity Paradigm
The flavor of the WPC Club is blessedly largely a family oriented inclusionary culture. All marques preceding, linked, or tied to WPC’s firm are actively encouraged to participate. Gift memberships make welcome presents to friends, business contacts, relatives and even non-current Chrysler Product users. WPC Club’s roster of more than 13,000 vehicles drawn from ancestral and current production marques provides a range of age and mix potentially of interest across the membership. After all, a vehicle brand-new today will be 25 years old a quarter-century from now! WPC Club Founder Norman Frey’s 1924 Chrysler pair will reach 84 years young in 2008. Of course a hobby collection that one can use actively for fun family travel gains an edge over a host of valued collections of static type.
Dr. David George Briant