Here is a richly detailed account of one of the most important men in American automotive history, based on full access to both Chrysler Corporation and Chrysler family historical records.
Chrysler emerges as a man who loved machines, an accomplished mechanic who also had highly developed managerial skills derived from half a lifetime on the railroads, a man whose success came from his deep understanding of engineering and his total commitment to the quality of his vehicles. Vincent Curcio traces Chrysler's rise from a locomotive wiper in a Kansas roundhouse to the head of the Buick Division of General Motors, to his rescue of the Maxwell-Chalmers car company, which led to the successful development of the 1924 Chrysler--the world's first modern car--and the formation of Chrysler Corporation in 1925. Chrysler was quite different from the other auto giants--a colorful and expansive man, deeply involved in the design of his cars, a maverick in establishing his headquarters in New York City, in the world's most famous art deco structure, the fabled Chrysler Building, which he built and helped to design. Because of his emphasis on quality at popular prices, the company weathered the Great Depression with flying colors--losing money only in the rock-bottom year of 1932--and despite the market fiasco of the Chrysler Airflow (which was years ahead of its time), the company grew and remained profitable right up to Chrysler's death in 1940.
The definitive portrait, Walter P. Chrysler is must reading for all car enthusiasts and for everyone interested in the story of a giant of industry.
It takes a while to get used to Vincent Curcio's highly colored prose, but his old-fashioned narrative technique suits his subject, the Kansas railroad mechanic who rose to become head of America's most dynamic car company. Born in 1875, Walter P. Chrysler came late to the automobile business, joining Buick in 1912, when the early companies were firmly established. Chrysler made his mark by being a great leader who thoroughly understood engineering and production, and who valued the contributions of his employees and directed them to produce high-quality, popularly priced cars. He made it his business to ignore conventional wisdom: he headquartered his company in New York instead of Detroit, commissioned a fabulous art deco skyscraper to house it, and introduced the first mass-produced, streamlined, aerodynamic car in 1934. The Airflow was a financial disaster but hugely influential on future design, and the well-managed Chrysler Corporation made money even during the Great Depression. Chrysler himself became enormously wealthy and enjoyed a lavish lifestyle during the decade before his death in 1940. Curcio's detailed, wide-ranging text offers an instructive history of the automobile industry as well as a full-bodied portrait of a classic American individual, praised by his peers as "one of the world's greatest manufacturers and one of the world's best men." --Wendy Smith