StaffAllpar HomeMore NewsCarsTrucksUpcomingRepairsTest drives

Ken Heatlie, Cell 13 Operator

by Bill Cawthon on

Ken Heatlie, former engine man for the Chrysler Golden Commando Race Team and Cell 13 dynamometer operator, passed away early in the morning of April 28, 2015. He had just turned 85 at the beginning of the month.


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.  He was praised for having a “fast and active mind.”

Fellow dyno operator Marc Rozman wrote:

We were all saddened to hear the news of Tom Hoover passing away recently, what a legend. I never had the opportunity to work with Tom directly but did work with many other great people in the dyno lab. One of those guys was Ken Heatlie; if Tom 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.) Ken retired shortly after that and like all things in life we all went on our way never to hear from Ken much again.

He was always ready for a good cup of coffee, a donut, and some socializing in the morning, Cell 13 was in the center of the hall that housed 16 dynos in building 135, so it was a convenient spot to gather. Many a story was told in there along a few pranks to keep things lively.
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.



His family-written obituary noted that he had been born in Detroit in 1930, and died in hospice care. He was a great-grandfather and 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. He is the father of three children, and had seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be given through (GoFundMe) to support Heatlie’s great-granddaughter, Daisy, who was born with Apert Syndrome.

Mr. Heatley died within two days of Tom Hoover, a famed engineer and fellow Chrysler employee/race engineer. Thanks to Marc Rozman for passing this information to us.

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.

Newest Ram Built to Serve models honor the U.S. Air Force

Former Ram chief engineer Michael J. Cairns
2021 Ram 1500 Rebel navigation screen
What’s new for ’21? The big list of changes

More Mopar Car
and Truck News

Some popular Allpar pages

Dodge Demon

2018 Wrangler JL

Staff details/contactsTerms of ServiceInformation is presented to the best of our knowledge. Plans change and sometimes mistakes are made. Decisions or purchases made based on this site's verbiage or images are done at the reader's own risk. Also see the Allpar News archives, 1997-2008 • Copyright © VerticalScope Inc. All rights reserved. • Mopar, Dodge, Jeep, Chrysler, HEMI, and certain other names are trademarks of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.