Marc Rozman: the Highland Park road test garage, and the water brake

marc rozman in cell 16-6aFrom the chassis rolls we went to the road test garage at the old Maxwell Plant, which is now actually a historical marker. The plant’s not there any more, they tore it down, but the road test garage… I’m not sure.

The old road test garage was the first concrete poured-wall building in Michigan: a high tech building, with the poured concrete instead of brick and mortar, it actually set up a new process of building, with forms in concrete walls.

That was the Maxwell Plant, the production line. You could tell it’s pretty old, working in there. They had stalls in there for doing the car work, and a maintenance area on one end, with the advanced car build up in one small area. The road test garage was where all the vehicles were worked on.

That was an interesting place to work, an old place. I did mostly transmissions. They were doing the lock up torque converters, back then, that was like ’70s… ’77, I guess, where they were doing the lockup torque converters.

We had to pull the transmissions out, put them back in, pull them out, put them back in, at least two a day. Our eight hour task was to do that. The transmission would come out, go back to the lab, be torn down, and you would take another one that was on the shelf, that they wanted to put in the car… put a new trans in the car, and do some testing with it. So, I did that for a period of time with the transmissions.

lockup torque converterAt the road test garage, you can be working on that, or anything that needs to be repaired on the car. It could be the President’s car needs to be worked on. We do that. I’d done that a few times; coming out of the dealership recently, I probably had more experience working on new cars, so I knew the issues that were involved with new cars that some of the guys in the road test garage didn’t know, and there were some things that they didn’t know about, some problems they were having, and I walked over and…

“What’s going on?”

“We’ve got this problem here.”

“Well, pop that panel and pick that screw, and you’ll be all set.”

“How did you know that?”

“Well, I dealt with it six months ago in a dealership, I know… you know.” And that was kind of fun, and I had an edge on them by that.

It was interesting there, there was a lot of history in that place. I’m pretty sure it’s been torn down. There was a marker out front one time. I have no idea if that’s still there, but… history is history until it’s torn down, but there’s pictures of it in the garage area, and the whole entry way there when you pull in, the main gate. There’s a little archway there, a little building… there’s an arch going over there from building to building.

They’re pretty much all torn down right now. There’s a new building on the site and there isn’t much else remaining that was there before. It’s kind of sad, but that’s progress, right?

It’s not like there’s no empty space in Detroit.

Yeah. There’s mostly vacant stores now. They even tore down the old Keller Building… the old building where the President would reside, and what have you, the headquarters, that’s all been torn down. There’s a lot of history, there.

Highland Park overview

That building was around for about 75 years at that point… so, what’s the life cycle of an engineering complex before it costs you more to have it then build a fresh one? So, I think the time was probably right to move on and come out here. So, it worked out pretty good.

I went from road test garage right to powertrain testing. That’s probably early ’78.

They had three buildings doing powertrain testing. That’s a big group. Powertrain testing is a big, big operation there. I don’t know how many dynos they had at the time, they had 98 or whatever dynos, at one time. Even more than that, but a lot of them were older. Some were for advanced testing, some were still doing turbo testing, at the time, they had a turbo lab going on, still. They had turbos running, some diesels, gas engine, advanced testing, cold testing.

back of building 135 in Highland Park

A lot went out to powertrain testing, and people don’t realize what happens at powertrain testing. A lot is done and tested, hot and cold, but there was a need for more advanced testing, and it wasn’t really a good place to get that done there [in the old facility].

I learned a lot there. There were a lot of good people there, and it was nice going in there, because at that point in time, a lot of guys that were there were older. At the time as you’re coming in as a new guy, you don’t know who’s who, and who did what, and you know, when you’re younger, you don’t realize the history or the goings on that happened back then.

I think I knew a little bit, but I wish I could go back now and talk to those guys more, and maybe ask more questions. And, I’d go into the engine storage area and I’d see a couple of Hemis there, they were still around in ’78, and I knew what they were, and like, “Oh, that’s kind of cool.” Maybe a month later they’re gone, I had no idea where they went, but they were there one day, gone next day. So they went somewhere for some reason, but who knows?

test cell

I’m sure a lot of guys knew what they were. Who’s to say where they went to. But a lot of people I had for supervisors were older, some of the guys were involved in the testing of the old stuff, and whether it be a Hemi or a 440, and a lot of those guys did a lot of work themselves. They would talk about it every so often, and that’s kind of cool.

There again, not knowing the history that we have now, it wasn’t the same degree of interest that we have today, … that’s why even now when I think about things, I look at what’s going on … it may be whatever right now, but in 20, 30, 40 years, they could be kind of interesting and fun. So, that’s why I take a lot of pictures and try to document that kind of stuff, and collect information, and… because if I’m around, I can hand it out to somebody else. So, it’s fun stuff. I learned a lot back then.

marc rozman and mary chappel at chrysler

Working the water brake

I was involved in a lot of good projects. Like anything else, when you come into the certain area, they always had to train you first. Powertrain had what they call a water brake area. A water brake is a water controlled dyno, controlled by a flow of water. If you pass more water through it, it would give you more resistance to the engine. You’d hear the engine winding up in RPM. If you put a water load on it, it would brake the engine, load it down. We went through a lot of water in those things, with the city water.

It’s a grubby area to work and get your feet wet, so you always go to water brake first, before you run into a cell that you can run yourself, and you got your hands dirty in there, and if you were fortunate, you spent about four or five months in there before they allowed you to move onto a cell.

The Marc Rozman interview by section

  1. Joining Chrysler, EPA testing, and running the dyno
  2. At the road test garage; working the water brake
  3. The famous Cell 13 and Hemi testing; working with legends
  4. Last 440, Pro Stock 355, and 3.5 V6
  5. Roller cams, cold oil, and snapping rocker arms
  6. Turbo 3.3, exploding engines, and troubleshooting
  7. The shaker table
  8. Working with engineers: learning and troubleshooting
  9. Marc’s 1969 Dodge Charger

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