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CEMA 2009: the 20th Chrysler Employee Motorsport Assoc. Car Show

by Gene Yetter • see the 2010 CEMA Show

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Allpar is meeting at the 2010 CEMA show! Register now!

Many employees of car companies, like car enthusiasts across the spectrum of the population, have a passion for cars. Why not? And I would rather that my personal vehicle be built by individuals who, after a day's work in the production environment, can go home and talk cars with enthusiasm to family and friends!

Past and present employees of the Chrysler car company who are members of the Chrysler Employee Motorsport Association (CEMA) get together annually to show off their personal "rides" in a car show that is open to other owners of Mopar and non-Mopar vehicles. Each year the show benefits a different charity. The 2009 event, the 20th annual CEMA car show, was held on Saturday, June 13, at the Walter P. Chrysler Museum in Auburn Hills, Michigan, north of metro Detroit.

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This year the show benefited the Chrysler Museum, which opened in 1999. The Museum has become an independent non-profit entity over the course of the restructuring of the company; and, with support of the Walter P. Chrysler Foundation, a large core of historic vehicles formerly owned by the company have been transferred to the Museum. Of those vehicles, some landmark models are on permanent display while others are rotated in or out from time to time. The Museum presents the company and its engineering innovations within a fascinating perspective on American history. It is not to be missed by car and history buffs alike.

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The Museum façade under blue sky the day before the show! Rain threatened on the 13th but held off except for a few sprinkles after a wet week throughout the region.

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Under a gray sky, early car owners await the 8 a.m. opening of the show on Saturday morning.

Up to the morning of the show, CEMA had been reporting 201 pre-registrations at its Web site, Due to day-of-event registrations, the total for the day ended up being 222 vehicles, according to club registrar Roe Green; that included 98 Dodges, 69 Plymouths, and an assortment of AMC, Chrysler, Desoto, Imperial, Willys, and other vehicles. Twelve additional, unregistered cars were in special exhibits like the race car exhibit; CEMA members accounted for 63 registrations.

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With the car show going on outside the museum, inside it was business as usual for Walter P. Chrysler (seated behind desk) and the famous trio of engineers and executives who helped him build the company in the Twenties and Thirties.

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Show planners reserved exhibit space in this area of the Museum grounds for a 40th-anniversary focus on high-performance "package cars" of the 1969 model year.

Old and new cars and trucks, from sedate restorations to race cars to beautifully maintained and mostly intact examples of classic models from the American manufacturers, were out in force. Allpar will present additional coverage on a few show vehicles.

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1931 Chrysler coupe.

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1954 Dodge Power Wagon owned by S. Speth won the award for "Best Truck/Jeep."

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1963 Plymouth station wagon restored as a Detroit Police Department Scout Car by George Patak. In those days, police station wagons were expected to see ambulance service and were equipped with collapsible gurneys.

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Jeep exhibit with typical World War II battle hardware and ammo.

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Non-Mopar cars were welcome among the Chrysler vehicles and a place of honor at the Museum entryway went to this recordholding 1969 Mecury Cyclone powered by 428 Mercury Ram Air engine. (Mike added, "The best part of that photo is that Greg Kwiatkowski, owner of the original 1969 Chrysler Engineering Charger Daytona #88, standing by the Merc.")

The show brought together several members of the crew that built a series of drag race cars in the early Seventies, the famous "Motown-" and "Mopar Missile" cars.

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The Missile crew members who were present included former Chrysler employees or contractors to the company (left to right in the picture), Tom Coddington, Ted Spehar, Joe Pappas, Dick Oldfield, Al Adam and Ron Killen. Recapping that story, three cars, a 1971 Dodge Challenger, a 1972 Plymouth Barracuda, and the most successful, a 1973 Plymouth Duster, were campaigned in the company-supported program. allpar has several articles on the Missile cars. The series will continue with more interviews planned.

Not present was another key member of the Missile team, Tom Hoover, the Chrysler engineer credited as a major influence on the development of the 2nd generation Hemi engine in the 1960's. Tom Coddington reported that Hoover couldn't attend because he was "being honored as a distinguished alumnus by the undergraduate college he went to -- Juniata College in his hometown, Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. Tom said they were hanging his picture in the hall, so he'd have to be there for that!"

In a surprise presentation, a collector of cars and race memorabilia Steve Atwell, who runs a parts fabrication business in the Detroit area, came to the show with several forgotten loose-leaf binders containing data-analysis records produced by Ron Killen during 1970 preparation of the Challenger Missile. An earliest known use of computerized analysis on a dragster, the data shows how the crew were thinking and working to improve performance of the cars. Killen's techniques were used throughout the Missile project. And beyond, as computer technology became more of a factor in operation of motor vehicles, making it possible to effect performance by fine-tuning electronic systems.

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Ron Killen, electronics specialist with the Missile crew, looks over data books he hadn't seen since the early Seventies.

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A page from Killen's book, summarizing computer generated information to study the performance of the Motown and Mopar Missile race cars.

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A new car to use the Missile name and paint scheme is raced by Bill Beaudin. The original owner of the name in 1970 was engine builder Ted Spehar. The name was transferred to Arnie Klann, present owner of Spehar's former car, the 1971 Challenger cited above. Klann and Spehar have both approved of Beaudin's flying the Missile's name and colors.

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The Missile Barracuda and Duster were driven by Don Carlton. After the Missile project officially ended, Carlton moved to a shop in North Carolina where he and mechanic Clyde Hodges eventually built this car, a 1977 Dodge Aspen. Carlton died tragically in a racing accident (not involving the Aspen) in July 1977. His car was recently acquired by Mike Ricketts, who rechristened it as the Macomb Missile for his home county in Michigan. Ricketts also exhibited a 440-powered 1967 Dodge Super Stock Coronet.

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Master of ceremony for the award session of the show Mike Mahoney looks on.

Also presented was a talk by Chrysler designer Tom Gale, who influenced the company's success with its Viper, Prowler, PT Cruiser and 300M models in the 1990's. He was joined for the presentation by his son, Jeff. Father and son talked about and projected images of favorite car designs. A brief video clip is accessible at the CEMA Web site.

Show awards were made in 14 categories. "Best of Show" award went to a 1969 Plymouth Road Runner A12 owned by David Kowalski. A complete rundown of awards is available at the CEMA Web site.

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Tire Wheel Land vehicle Vehicle Car sponsored a prize for the "Best Unrestored Original Survivor" and that prize went to a 1957 Chrysler Imperial with original paint, motor and interior and only 13,000 miles on its odometer. A full spread on the Imperial and its owners will be posted on allpar next week.

Allpar is meeting at the 2010 CEMA show! Register now!

At club and vendor tents on the lawn in front of the Chrysler Museum, CEMA members hawked membership in the organization and sold commemorative t-shirts. Representatives of the National Chrysler Retirement Organization, an advocacy group to serve former salaried employees, reached out to prospective new members. And Bob Lees, who organized a project to build a second edition of the "High & Mighty" Plymouth dragster of 1959, was also selling t-shirts and talking up his project.

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I flash my new t-shirt printed with Marc Rozman's photo of the High & Mighty II.

The original Hemi-powered High & Mighty embodied all sorts of creative engineering tweaks by its builders: Tom Hoover, Pete McNichols, Dick Burke and other Chrysler engineers working for the sport of it - i.e. on their own time! Over a two-year campaign, the car set drag race records and established the Hemi as a dominant motor for racing during the period and until this day. Reports on the High & Mighty II project are on allpar and at the CEMA club site.

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The Chrysler Museum is located at the corner of Featherstone and Squirrel Rds. in Auburn Hills, at the southeast corner of the 500-plus acre Chrysler complex overlooking Interstate 75 (pictured above).

The Museum is listed by the National Park Service among 16 "MotorCities National Heritage" attractions, which also includes the Henry Ford Museum and the Automotive Hall of Fame.

Besides the annual CEMA car show, the Museum hosts other events including six cruise nights (two each in June, July and August), an "Acorn Tour" in October for vintage vehicles, and a year-end exhibit ("Cars, Trees and Traditions") with cars posed in settings decked out for the Holidays.

Membership in The Chrysler Employee Motorsport Association is free for present or former employees of the company. Club vice president, Lori Emerling, reports CEMA presently has about 550 active members. Members of the club get together for many events in the area.

Since the Walter P. Chrysler Museum is now an independent entity and must provide for its own existence, fans of Mopar cars may want to support the institution in order that it survives. Stop in when visiting Detroit, take part in the events it hosts, and leave some bucks in the gift shop near the front entrance.

Donor and sponsor support information is available on the Museum's Web site.

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The centerpiece sculpture, Motus Historia, by Joseph Wesner, is in front of the Museum.

The dedication on a plaque on the second floor of the Museum reads: "Title translates from Latin as 'History in Motion.' The wheel form represents transportation, human design and technology. The circular rings imply movement and progress, time and history. The stepped base suggests growth, development and acquired knowledge over time." Amen!

2010 CEMA show - join Allpar there!

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