Bill Watson's Chronological History of Chrysler Corporation
Part VI: 1964-1971, the Muscle Car Era
1940-49 • 1950-63 • 1964-1971 • 1972-80 • 1981-92 • 1993-97
History • By Year • Coming: 1998-2007 (disastrous Daimler deal) • 2008-2013 (re-rebirth)
Chrysler History, Part 7
1964 - Barracuda; control of Rootes; California emissions
- April - Plymouth Barracuda launched, weeks before the Ford Mustang; perhaps “pony cars” should really be called “fish cars.” Mustang would, though, for various reasons, outsell Barracuda by 10:1.
- 50 Chrysler Turbine cars built, bodies by Ghia, for extensive tests by average motorists.
- Philip N. Buckminster named general manager of Chrysler-Plymouth Divison.
- Chrysler Corporation purchases 30% of voting stock and 50% non-voting stock of the Rootes Group (UK), builders of Hillman, Sunbeam, Singer, Humber cars and Karrier and Commer trucks.
- California Motor Vehicle Pollution Control Board (CARB) approves its first U.S.-developed exhaust control system - the system engineered by Chrysler Corporation (November)
- Simca ships all tooling for Simca Vedette (nee Ford Vedette), including the Ford engine, to Chrysler in Brazil; the flathead Ford V8 carries on for a few more years, made in Brazil, for Vedette only.
- Chrysler creates Chrysler Credit Corporation, which would later carry the company as it lost money on cars
- Show car - Dodge Charger
1965: C body created; Chrysler Boat
- New C body for 1965; Fury and Polara move up into “standard size” bodies (C size).
- Old B bodies become Plymouth Belvedere and Dodge Coronet.
- Sterling Heights stamping plant completed.
- New aluminum die casting plant completed in Kokomo, IN
- New foundry and expansion for second car line at Plymouth plant on Lynch Road
- Last Crown Imperial Ghia limousine built.
- Purchased: outboard engine business of West-Bend Co., Hartford, WI. and Lone Star Boat Co., Plano, TX. Together, they form Chrysler Boat Corporation.
- December - Simca Automobiles S.A. becomes Societe des Autos Simca.
- Show car - Plymouth XP-VIP, Dodge Charger II
- 14 millionth Plymouth
- 10 millionth Dodge car
- Illustration: 1965 Chrysler New Yorker
1966: Dodge Charger
- See our fully detailed 1966 page - with racing, the Street Hemi, and more
- February 1 - Chrysler Corporation takes over marketing of Rootes and Simca products
- February - Exchanges 25% interest in Simca Industries for Fiat's 8% interest in Societe des Autos Simca.
- Belvidere, IL, assembly plant opens
- April - Dodge Charger introduced.
- May - Chrysler Corporation now controls 45% of voting stock of the Rootes Group and 77% of total equity.
- K.T. Keller dies.
- Show cars : Chrysler 300-X
- Works starts, quietly, on Plymouth Duster, which will replace Barracuda as the sporty A-body.
- 15 millionth Plymouth
- 4 millionth Chrysler
1967: Townsend chairs board; Chrysler Financial; control of Barreiros
- Lynn A Townsend named chairman of the board and is succeeded by Virgil E. Boyd as president of Chrysler Corporation
- Glenn E. White becomes general manager of Chrysler-Plymouth Division; Robert J. McCurry becomes general manager of Dodge Division.
- In June, purchases Redisco Inc. from American Motors and merges it with Chrysler Credit Corporation to form Chrysler Financial Corporation.
- October - Acquires 77% control of Barreiros Diesel S.A. (Spain)
- Chrysler has a 92% interest in Chrysler do Brasil S.A.
- Show cars: Plymouth Barracuda Formula SX, Dodge Deora. Deora was created by an independent shop and was leased by Chrysler as a show car.
- 11 millionth Dodge car
- See our detailed 1967 page
- March - buys auto business of King-Seeley Division from King-Seeley Thermos Co. for $28 million, and uses it to create the Introl Division.
- August - Forms Chrysler Plastic Products Co., producing sheet vinyl and fabrics for automobiles and other applications.
- Chrysler Corporation becomes the world’s fifth largest industrial corporation
- As Huntsville starts transitioning from rocketry, the division’s parts checking system is adapted to use in Chrysler plants
- Signs agreement with Nissan Diesel Motors Company, Tokyo, Japan, to distribute Chrysler-Nissan diesel engines in North and South America.
- Show cars - Dodge Charger III, Dodge Daroo Dart
- 16 millionth Plymouth
- Plymouths of 1968.
1969: Joint agreement with Mitsubishi
1970: E body created; Duster; Rootes becomes Chrysler UK
- Dodge Challenger introduced - shares "E" body with Plymouth Barracuda
- Plymouth Valiant Duster introduced
- Richard K. Brown named general manager of Chrysler-Plymouth Division
- John J. Riccardo named president of Chrysler Corporation.
- Chrysler Corporation now owned 73% of the equity capital of the Rootes Group, which on July 1st becomes Chrysler United Kingdom Ltd.
- Societe des Autos Simca becomes Chrysler France SA
- Byron C. Foy dies.
- Show cars : Cordoba de Oro, Cencept 70-X, Dodge Diamante
- Huntsville delivers its first car radio, engineered and built by the division created to support NASA; the 2-watt AM radio is an evaluation sample. They also delivered an electronic ignition module, which in 1971 would be the first used as a standard feature in mass-market cars.
- 18 millionth Plymouth
- 13 millionth Dodge car
- 5 millionth Chrysler
1971: Colt, Cricket imported; last year of the Street Hemi
- See our fully detailed 1971 page - with racing, the Street Hemi, and more
- July - Los Angeles assembly plant closed.
- The industry moves to net horsepower ratings, instead of gross, reducing reported horsepower and confusing generations of ill-informed buyers, owners, and enthusiasts. Most engines drop 40-60 horsepower as the effects of alternators, water pumps, oil pumps, fans, and fuel pumps are part of the equation; the Street Hemi, notably, remains at 425 horsepower, gross and net.
- Dodge imports Colt, built by Mitsubishi in Japan, beginning with 1971 models.
- Plymouth imports Cricket, built by Chrysler United Kingdom, beginning with 1971 models.
- Chrysler Corporation purchases 15% interest in Mitsubishi Motors Corporation of Japan, starting a relationship that would not end until DaimlerChrysler tried, unsuccessfully, to acquire Mitsubishi.
- Electronic ignition is standard on many cars; Chrysler is the first to adopt this feature on a mass scale.
- Huntsville unveils a new auto emissions analyzer, the first dispersive-type test system for the purpose.
- Dodge Dart Demon introduced, based on Plymouth Valiant Duster.
- Plymouth Valiant Scamp introduced, based on Dodge Dart Swinger.
- Dodge Coronet two door models dropped, replaced by Dodge Charger models.
- The post of general manager of Chrysler-Plymouth and Dodge Divisions is vacant.
Bare-bones Draft / Work In Progress: 1972 - 1998
1972: Chrysler makes its own radios
- Huntsville produces AM/FM automotive radios for Chrysler
- Huntsville makes four-speaker stereos with eight-track tape options; before long they would also make CB radio and tape deck options.
- Launched in 1976 on the premium 400 and 440 engines, the “Lean Burn” system, developed by Huntsville, marked the first time a computer was used for spark control in a car. It cut emissions enough to avoid use of catalytic converters but was not known for trouble free operation, due to materials technology and some packaging decisions.
- Huntsville launches the first Vacuum Fluorescent display digital clock; it is also the first automotive timepiece certified as having Chronometer accuracy.
- A new 225,000 square foot plant was built on Wynn Drive, Huntsville, to support the growing need for automotive electronics.
Huntsville people dreamed up and built the world’s first mass-produced integrated trip computer.
- Huntsville and National Semiconductor create the world’s first digital car radio, replacing the old mechanical push button tuner with integrated circuits.
- Electronic Voice Alert, developed and built in Huntsville (with the help of Texas Instruments), launches in the 1983 models and spawns jokes about “Your door is a jar.”
Chrysler sold Chrysler Defense, Inc. to General Dynamics, for $239 million, partly to counteract a similarly-sized writedown in its Peugeot investment and create a profit for the year.
The military unit was sold at a bargain price; it had an $80 million profit in 1981. The remainder of the military operations at Huntsville were renamed Military/Public Electronic Systems; in October 1983, the division built a “revolutionary” rail traffic control system for 110 miles of the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak’s busiest route. It was the first computerized railroad operation in North America to provide traffic and electric power control from the same equipment.
- Chrysler announced that it would expand its Huntsville complex, creating the $65 million Chrysler Electronics City at 100 Electronics Boulevard to build electronic parts for automotive, commercial, and military uses
- In 1988, the Military/Public Electronic Systems division was renamed to Pentastar Electronics, Inc (PEI). PEI began to set up systems for testing Chrysler’s cars and military systems alike, calling the product the Direct Electrical System Test Set (DSESTS). According to the PEI web site, as of 2012, this system is still the primary test and diagnostic system for Abrams and Bradley tranks, and the Marines’ LAV. A version of this system would later be put into the tanks themselves for on-board diagnostics.
Chrysler’s first child care center opens in Huntsville, Alabama.
- Late in the year, a small web site is created, called “Valiant Car Pages.” It would soon be listed in the “Useless Site Pages,” with a comment of “What could be more useless than a web site about cars?” In 1998, the site would be split and renamed allpar.com and valiant.org.
- Chrysler sells defense electronics unit Electrospace Systems, Inc., and its airborne systems unit, Chrysler Technologies Airborne, to Raytheon. In 1997, the “historic military segment” of Chrysler in Huntsville was purchased by a group of private investors backing company managers; they named the new company PEI Electronics.