Ken Heatlie, Chrysler Dyno Tech (Cell 13 Operator) and Golden Commando

Ken Heatlie, former engine man for the Chrysler Golden Commando Race Team and Cell 13 dynamometer operator, was born in early April, 1930, and passed away early in the morning of April 28, 2015, at the age of 85.

ken-heatlie

Cell 13 was one of four race dynamometer cells in use at Chrysler in the 1960s and 1970s. As operator of Cell 13, Mr. Heatlie did much of the Hemi testing for the performance group.  He worked with Forest Pitcock in Cell 12 on much of the dyno work for racing and performance work, and was praised for having a “fast and active mind.”

Fellow dyno operator Marc Rozman wrote:

If Tom Hoover was the Godfather of the Hemi, then Ken was the father, testing the Hemi in many forms from the first day it came to life in December 6 of 1963 till the final day it was run in test Cell 13 (in 1977 or 1978, believe it or not.) He was always ready for a good cup of coffee, a donut, and some socializing in the morning.

It looks like Tom needed his dyno operator once again to make some noise. I'm sure they’re doing some serious big bench racing in a far better place.

ken-heatlie-dyno  

... They last ran the last Hemi in ’78 or ’79. Ken Heatlie was the operator. He was around for a long time, a sharp guy. ... I was there when they ran that engine [with four other guys].

Cell 13 was in the center of the building, that became our little hang out room, our coffee and doughnut room. You know, in the morning you get together, and a lot of guys who were involved in racing, you would meet there in the morning and talk about it… especially on Monday morning, you would talk about what happened at the race, the weekend, like it was either NASCAR race or drag racing.

A lot of guys were involved in racing, so they kept up with it, and so they would hash over what happened on the weekend. But there again things were toning down with the Hemi stuff, so less talk went on there. But that was our hangout room, and we’d harass Ken quite a bit on things, and a lot of shenanigans going on.

Edward Poplawski added,

I met Ken in 1970 when I was assigned to Dyno Test Cell #10 which was down the hall from #13. I started hanging out in #13 in my spare time and always was there every morning to get a coffee and hear all the racing stories from Ken, John Wehrly, Ted Flack, Tom Hoover, Bill Hancock, Jim Robertson, Al Nichols, Jim Broske, and others. After a while, Ken would ask me to take exhaust gas temperatures for him when he would do power runs and he would give me tips on building race engines and testing them. Eventually, in 1977, I joined the Race Group and ran Test Cell #7A at the end of the hall.

race group 1978

Ken was a real prankster and loved to “super glue” anything and everything. If you left your coffee cup on his console he would super glue it to the desk. Once, when a guy wasn't looking he put super glue on the handle of his coffee cup and after the guy put his thumb there and walked away and we heard him screaming Ken’s name with obvious disdain.

He was into R/C airplane modeling and flying and used to break in his engines at lunch time on his work bench. He had a fixture he would put in his vise, bolt the engine to it, add gas, and start running it and tuning it. The smoke and the noise were incredible as the engine would run 20,000 rpm.

Also, what was hilarious is that every Friday someone would bring in donuts for the group and if they weren't what Kenny liked, he would show his unhappiness. When Jim Broske joined the group and brought in donuts for the first time, Ken looked at them, picked up the box and immediately threw the whole box in the garbage can as he said they weren't up to his specs. Jim was completely shocked!

After his days of running dynos was done, he was promoted to a management position handling all equipment in the lab, which is what he did until he retired. He was quite a character.

Mr. Heatlie’s family, in an obituary, wrote that he had been born in Detroit in 1930, and died in hospice care. He was a great-grandfather and, his family wrote, enjoyed making people laugh, building and flying radio-controlled planes, fixing his cars, and “most things Scottish.” His wife of 61 years, Shirley, was with him when he passed. Memorial donations may be given through (GoFundMe) to support Heatlie's great-granddaughter, Daisy, who was born with Apert Syndrome. 

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