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Willem Weertman and Chrysler Engines 1922-1998

Willem L. (Bill) Weertman spent 40 years with Chrysler Corporation. He was responsible for all new engines for the corporation's front-wheel drive vehicles and for adapting and testing engines from outside companies. He led the design efforts for the LA V-8 engine series, the 426 Hemi® engines, and a new six-cylinder engine for Australia.

The ultimate Mopar holiday gift has just been introduced - by the Society of Automotive Engineers. It’s Willem Weertman’s long-awaited book, Chrysler Engines, 1922-1998, and it’s about what you would expect from the company’s chief engine designer - the man in charge when the slant six, Hemi V8, and 2.2 liter engines were created.

The book is intensive in detail, discussing little-known aspects of every engine built by Chrysler (for car use) during the long time span from the company’s creation through to 1998. Weertman tells the inside story not only of the engines he was involved with, but also of the earliest engines used by Chrysler, even those not sold in Chryslers — the original engines from the cars that predated the company.

Chrysler Historical threw open its collection for Weertman, not surprisingly, since the book sprang out of an internal project which was to discuss the company’s engines and cars, as an educational piece for the new owners. As a result, the book is filled with rare photos, diagrams, and specifications, the like of which have never been seen in one place. Many of the diagrams have been greatly enhanced, so unlike the average car book where many pictures are less than the original, in Chrysler Engines 1922-1998, they are better. Photographs appear to have been digitally enhanced, so the black and white photography is also far more clear than we are used to. The two-column layout is clear and easy to read; and tables abound with specific details, in some cases year by year. Weertman also covers the cars the engines went into, goes into critical reviews and racing results, and in essence provides an almost complete story.

Chrylser Engines 1922-1998 Willem WeertmanEvery engine gets full attention in this book, unlike many others (including, for example, The Ultimate American V-8 Engine Data Book). That means development history, charts, diagrams, and photos. The largest share of attention seems to go into the first three Chrysler engines, with huge diagrams and cross sections carefully reconstructed so they are very clear and easy to see; but everything is covered. Weertman also goes over alternative choices - engines that were considered but not made, such as a V-6 based on the 318 (rejected for the Australian Valiant), and the aluminum-head slant six. The 2.2 liter and 2.5 liter engines get attention that is normally lacking, and even the foreign engines, including the Volkswagen 1.7 liter motor for the Rabbit, are covered to a degree (including cutaway diagrams, specifications, and photos of the cars it went into). Dodge Brothers engines, from the time the company was acquired, are also covered, as are AMC engines at the time of the acquisition (selected prior engines are discussed briefly). Not included were engines from cars that were actually engineered and built by other companies and sold with the Dodge labels (e.g. Mitsubishi Colt), diesels or gasoline engines purchased for use in Dodge trucks, or alternative-fuel engines other than the turbines; most experimental engines are also not covered, though, again, some are mentioned in passing and some are covered fairly well.

There are special sections for the military engines developed and built by Chrysler during World War II (mainly for tanks and aviation), for truck engines, for boats, and for the turbines. For every engine, specifications include bore spacing, number of main bearings, valve operation, and other details; often, horsepower and torque ratings are listed by year. The photos and detail on marine engines is welcome since this is an area where information tends to be hard to find; aviation engines used in World War II are also discussed, and in both cases, photos and diagrams are plentiful and high quality.

Willem Weertman - not surprisingly for a long-time Chrysler engineer wrote clearly, with craftsmanship, and is easy to understand. His language and fact base are exacting, as one would expect from him but not from many writers. One can feel confident that he got his facts right.

Chrysler Engines 1922-1998 has perhaps one fault; it generally does not mention any possible drawbacks or compromises in design of engines that were actually produced, and many interesting or colorful aspects of engine development revealed by other engineers of the company are skipped in favor of a more direct, purposeful, descriptive, but above all else 100% positive coverage. He does mention in passing items like the origin of the V-10 truck engine (a call from Bob Lutz asking if the 360 could have two cylinders added; its feasibility was shown on computer and then checked with a test engine), and provides the kind of looks at discussions of engine design that only an insider has access to.

That said, this book - measuring 381 pages plus appendices - is an invaluable resource that will provide Mopar fans and owners with a huge amount of knowledge they have probably never encountered before. As we write this, in early December, it seems like a good time to mention that for $75, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better, more engaging present for the Mopar fan in your life - and personally, I think we can buy presents for ourselves!

Available from the Society of Automotive Engineers. You can read the interview first (or after you order the book!)

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