A tour of the Walter P. Chrysler Museum: Boss Chrysler’s Garage (basement)

LeMans Viper

There’s the Viper I was telling you about. And it’s [the cleaning of the dirt from its last race] purely, most if not all, just one of the porters doing a little extra. The front end is still good, though.

Dayonta winning Viper

24 Hours of LeMans at Daytona winning Viper interior

You are aware that this was an overall win, not the GT class win. This one, won first in class at Le Mans, I think the same year. That would have been 1990. Both Team Oreca, there was a lot of support too, but those drivers are still doing well. I think most of them are doing well in Corvettes, now.

This is one we let people sit down in [Prowler]. We ask people, please don’t drive it away.

Plymouth Prowler

And this is a 1955 Dodge La Femme. It’s not really a flowery upholstery, is it? That’s a ’55, by the way, no fins. It’s a pretty car, I think, and your husband would never ask to borrow it.

1955 Dodge La Femme car

1955 La Femme car dashboard

Purse that went with the La Femme

Here’s a car [Willys Jeepster]… I don’t understand why this didn’t sell. That looks to me like a really fun car, you know? I would love to have one. It was so much more comfortable [than the regular Jeeps] with almost all the same attributes. I think a little better looking, too. I don’t know, if you love Jeeps, then you love Jeeps.

1950 jeepster

1950 Willys Jeepster interior

Willys-Overland Jeep CJ-2A

This is one of the aircraft carriers [1967 C-body]. Pretty car. We’re on the wrong side to be looking at this one. [Looking at the tail end of a row of cars].

We used to get to order two lease cars at a time each year. It got to be a pain, ordering two new cars every year. If you believe that, I’ll tell you more. I loved it.

Researching the leased cars … I just kind of turned everything else off for a day or two, you know, and what am I going to lease, this year? They don’t do it any more.

I'm not sure who did the restore on this one but the little red one up here [1934 KC] was our guys.

1934 Dodge KC pickup truck

1929 Dodge Merchants Express pickup

Question: What is the brown thing?

Interviewee: That is a disguised Airflow for testing on the public roads. They didn’t have a proving ground until after World War II. It was supposed to be uglier than hell [to avoid attracting interest]. [audience comment: “It worked.”]

This, I wish I was allowed to open it. It's a Willys St. Clair, with the Knight sleeve valve engine, it’s a V8, aluminum head. It’s the cleanest looking V8 you'll ever see, just really a neat looking engine. Sleeve valves came from from Great Britian, and ended up in a number of British engines in World War II, especially the radials…

[Recording problems intervened at this point and there is some time when the talk becomes inaudible.]

Viper engine

inside the 1995 Viper pace car

Interviewee: Yes, I like the Viper. I think I have sat in that one in the photograph, there, with my elbow out the window. We have volunteer night, once or twice a year, and they always pick one car that you and your wife can be photographed in.

Pete with the Viper

Gene: Is this a real opening? [in the Viper body]

Yes, it’s to vent engine heat. The prototype upstairs, you can see it still has a bundle of snakes right in there.

Question: What is that thing? That’s a PPG car, isn’t it?

It’s a PPG car which we built. It was a pace car for CART. It was a 2.2 turbo.

Chrysler M4S Wraith

PPG pace car

Okay, if you guys are faithful readers of Dave’s website, then you know all about that car, right?

1928 Chrysler LeMans racing car

1928 Le Mans third and fourth place, behind a Bentley and a Stutz. And if the race had lasted one more minute, the Bentley wouldn’t have finished, so then the Chryslers would have been second and third, and the Stutz that had lost top gear, would be first. What an exciting race. Chryslers weren't exciting, they just kept going around and around and around, and everybody else was breaking up, crashing, blowing tires, doing all kinds of crazy things. Read my article! I had a lot of fun writing it.

Chrysler LeMans car from 1928

This was a famous drag racer. Al Eckstrund’s. The only thing I know about it, is that it has a Hemi in it.

Boy, those were the years. You could tell the Plymouths from the Dodges from the Fords from the Chevys from the Pontiacs. You knew what kind of car your man was driving.

Question: Without looking at the number…

Absolutely! NASCAR, now it seems like it’s infected the whole racing world, including Formula One. Stupid, stupid… Some of the finicky regulations in Formula One just blow my mind. What tires to use, and I don’t like that one, you got to use it anyway for so many laps or something. I don’t mind regulating the fuel capacity, engine capacity, but I don’t much like telling them it has to be a V8. Why does it have to be a V8?

Now, a 2.4 liter, sure, that’s the way it’s always been. No, the best formula ever was the 750 kilogram formula in ’37… 1935, 6 and 7, that produced some of the most unbelievable racing cars in history.

The six liter Auto Union engine and the Mercedes W125, two-stage supercharged, straight 8… oh man, they used to have a record, 1978, of Peter Collins and another Formula One driver driving the Mercedes W125 at one of the British sports car tracks. It must have been back in the ’60s, in the rain.

And they had the Mercedes… it had four gears, and wheel spin in every one, and they didn’t improve a thing, and it made some awful noises, you know, when it would finally burn through the wet and grip, it would go off and almost stall. I think if they had any sense, they would have waited for tomorrow.

It was interesting. And their commentary was interesting. You know, “what gear were you in there?” “Oh, I was using third, and I was in second and I just couldn’t control it.”

What do you know about the Goldenrod?

Those two kids from California, hot rodders, showed the whole world how it should be done. Before Goldenrod I can think of only one land speed record car whose designer was familiar with aerodynamic drag and the importance of frontal area. That would be the Englishman Jack Irving, who designed Henry Segrave's Golden Arrow.

Think about all of those ridiculous monsters with two aircraft engines [that preceded the Goldenrod]. The Summers brothers said, “I wonder what would happen if we built a car with practically zero frontal area?” And the only place they screwed up was when they put too many engines in. They made it too heavy. It was still accelerating in third gear [of four] when the car exited the mile timing trap. If it had one less engine, it probably would have been quicker and two less, it might have been perfect.

AMC Eagle

[Pete finished off by bringing the tour group in to see the movie in the basement theater.]

Previous: Chrysler 300 and 300G, Dodge Custom Royal Lancer D-500, Hemi and Poly, 300 and Fury, Dodge Main, Cordoba, minivans, FirePower

Main page / index of all segments

Chrysler HeritageHistory by YearChrysler People and BiosCorporate Facts and History

We make no guarantees regarding validity, accuracy, or applicability of information, predictions, or advice. Please read the terms of use and privacy policy. Copyright © 1994-2000, David Zatz; copyright © 2001-2016, Allpar LLC (except as noted, and press/publicity materials); all rights reserved. Dodge, Jeep, Chrysler, Ram, and Mopar are trademarks of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.


New Challenger GT: four wheels a-rockin’

Wagoneer on hold — “oops” again?

What’s in the driver’s seat?

Ram rodeo recap

All Mopar Car and Truck News



Dodge Challenger GT AWD Honey, we screwed up the truck High torque, long life: Jeep 4.0 The always-future Dodge Dakota pickup

Will the Wagoneer be Grand? Shelby Dakota: hot or not? Washer fluid bags! Chrysler Crossfire: fauxpar?