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Richard L. Benner, Jr.

Richard L. Benner, Jr. has contributed a large number of photos to Allpar, some of which have already been posted (e.g. the last Lebaron and pre-production Lebarons), and others (including rare turbine photos!) which are waiting for processing and posting. He wrote:

I was born 1/1/1946 in the city of St. Louis, Missouri. I am the oldest of 8 kids (1 brother and 6 sisters). I have lived in the St. Louis area all my life, except when I was I the Navy. I now live in High Ridge, Missouri, which is Southwest of St. Louis, just inside the Jefferson County line.

I served 4 years in the Navy (1965-1969) as an Aviation Machinist Mate (working on/with Jet Engines) and I served 2 years in Viet Nam (1967-68). I worked on Douglas A-4 Attack aircraft. While I was in Viet Nam, I ordered my first Chrysler product (through the Navy PX). I bought a new 1969 Plymouth GTX and picked it up in Portland, Oregon in November of 68. It was a 440 C.I.D. with the 4-speed tranny. The only option I had on it was the tinted windows. I had manual steering and manual brakes. Hey, I loved that car.

I had it until March 1970 when it was stolen (two weeks after I was married) from in front of my house in St. Louis. It was found close to Jefferson City, Missouri - stripped and being parted out. I paid $3,500 cash for the vehicle and after 15 months and 36,000 miles, the insurance company gave me $3,150 for it. I think I got my money's worth.

I joined Chrysler here at the Fenton, Missouri Automobile Assembly Plant on May 3rd, 1965. I worked at the plant until October 17th of 65 when I went into the Navy. I rejoined Chrysler after I got out of the service. I enjoyed working there. I worked in the paint department as a floater, then as a Supervisor (1971-74) and back on the line as an Inspector. I then moved into Trim/Chassis as an inspector in about 1980. I floated in inspection until 1987 when I became a test driver. I test drove and inspected all the BUX Daytonas and Lebarons. Those (BUX) are the vehicles that are shipped to Europe. I enjoyed that job very much. I went back to Inspection and did the final inspections on the end of the final line. I really enjoyed my time at Chrysler. In 1991, Chrysler shut down the Car plant here in 1991 and I was sent over to the North Plant here in Fenton, which was assembling Mini-vans at that time. I took the 28 years and out retirement on December 23,1993 and went into full retirement on February 28th, 1995. On a related subject, my brother David works at the Kokomo, Indiana plant. He was here in St. Louis until the plant closed and was sent to Kokomo. He will have his 30 years in this year.

At my time of retirement I was taking classes at the Chrysler Region 5 Training Center, which is across the highway from Chrysler, in Fenton, Missouri. I had been taking the classes since 1988 and was taking the automotive classes. In 1995 the instructor left so they asked me if I would like to teach. I have done auto mechanic work here at the house and the only person who touches my cars is myself (except for front end alignments) when it comes to any mechanic work done on them. I now work for O/E Learning and teach Chrysler employeeâs automotive classes and small engine classes. I teach 4 days a week, 3 - 3 hour classes a day for 6 months a year. I love it, it is NOT WORK. I am with the people I enjoyed working with while I was in the plant. If it EVER becomes WORK, I will quit and go back to full retirement.

A standing joke with my mother was that I was such a car nut that if I could I would marry a car. She told me that when I was about 16 years old. I met my wife to be when I was in the service in 1968. We were married when I was 24, in 1970. I reminded my mother of this the day I was married. My wife's maiden name is CARR. I am still married (33 years on February 27th, 2003) and have 3 grown married children. I also have 4 beautiful grandchildren.

I have always owned Chrysler products since that 69 GTX. I have had - in succession- a 67 Plymouth Sport Satellite, a 1972 Plymouth Satellite Station wagon (318 V-8, manual tranny), a 1975 Chrysler Cordoba, a 1979 Plymouth Trail Duster 4X4, a 1975 Chrysler Laser (2.2 L Turbo w/5 speed), a 1976 Plymouth Feather Duster (for son), a 1983 Dodge 400, a 1988 Chrysler Lebaron (turbo), a 1994 Dodge Shadow (for daughter), a 1992 Dodge Shadow (for other daughter), a 1989 Shadow (for son), a 1995 Dodge Intrepid, a 1995 Eagle Talon ESi (2.0 L DOHC w/5 speed), and a 2001 Dodge Grand Caravan (the last two of which I still own). Note that all of the vehicles with manual transmissions were MY personal vehicles. I will always have a manual tranny in MY vehicle. That is DRIVING.


These pictures are of my 1976 Plymouth FEATHER DUSTER. I no longer have
the vehicle. It is a different vehicle as it was FULLY LOADED. It had the
slant 6 engine and automatic transmission. It had the styled Rally wheels. It
had the vinyl top, vinyl bucket seats with a console and floor auto shifter,
full carpets and all the options. MOST Feather Dusters were kind of stripped,
thus the FEATHER concept. They also had lightened inner hood structure and
inner trunk structures. Wish I still had it and had more and better pictures.

As you can see, we always have been
CHRYSLER PEOPLE. See the 88 Chrysler LeBaron Turbo in the other driveway.
The 1979
Plymouth Trail Duster 4x4 and the 1983 Dodge 400. [Unfortunately these are
not visible]

I have been at/in all 18 MONSTER MOPAR Weekends held at Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Illinois, which is directly across the river from St. Louis. In 1988 through 1990, I entered vehicles into the car show from the Assembly Plant. I am enclosing the articles from the Chrysler in-plant paper about each show.

I also show my cars in other shows and have taken many awards. During the 1991 show I approached the show committee to see about working with them. I have been privileged to work the past 12 years with a fantastic group of car people. We set up and put on the car show at Monster Mopar Weekend. We have also put on a show in Chicago and we put one on in Bristol, Tennessee at the NASCAR track the past 3 years. It is so much fun to meet all the Mopar fans out there across the country.

I enjoy my Eagle Talon and belong to many clubs. I especially enjoy the Internet to converse with all the car people. I belong to 3 DSM clubs (Diamond Star Motors) with my Eagle and I am associated with many other clubs such as the INTREPID and ALLPAR on the Internet. I enjoy sharing and learning from all the good people out there. I have authored a few short papers on auto repair and enjoy the friendships I have made.

I have my father to thank for all of this. He was a truck driver who enjoyed auto mechanics. We tinkered and worked on many vehicles since I was about 12 years old. I am 57 years old now and have enjoyed every second of it. My father passed away just this January 5th, 2003 of a brain aneurysm. All who knew him will miss him. I will miss him.





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