Chrysler: Life and Times of an Automotive Genius

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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. ...
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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.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
From humble beginnings as a Kansas railroad-shop apprentice wiping down locomotives for 5U cents an hour, Walter Chrysler (1875-1940) rose to become a railroad master mechanic and foreman, then a leading auto manufacturer and industrial mogul. Brashly confident, convinced of America's limitless potential for economic growth, Chrysler, "the quintessence of American business in the 1920s," built Manhattan's Chrysler Building--art deco emblem of modernism and progress--whose spire went up just one month before the 1929 stock market crash. This dynamic biography brings a surprisingly neglected giant out of the shadows. Chrysler, self-educated, self-made son of a German immigrant, is not nearly as well known as Henry Ford, even though he expanded Detroit's Big Two (GM and Ford) into the Big Three, when Chrysler Corporation bought out Dodge in 1928. (His legacy lives on in Daimler-Chrysler, formed in 1998.) Two contrasting personalities emerge: one is the far-sighted, risk-taking industrialist, perhaps the last great individualist of automaking, a man who seemed genuinely concerned about his employees, a caring father of four with a rare gift for managing men, plants and machinery. The other is the hard-drinking, big-eating, tuba-playing bon vivant, "probably... a functioning alcoholic," who embarrassed his family and nearly wrecked his marriage thanks to his affair with showgirl Peggy Hopkins Joyce. Curcio never fully reconciles these two sides of his elusive subject, but his robust, engaging portrait is chock-full of lore from the classic automobile era, as it sets the Chrysler saga against the backdrop of the Roaring 20s, the Depression and the labor unrest of the 1930s. 50 photos. (July) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
Walter P. Chrysler (1875-1940) is the subject of this splendid new biography by Curcio (Suicide Blonde). Although he established the mighty Chrysler Corporation (now DaimlerChrysler), there was much more to Chrysler's life. From hardscrabble beginnings as a railroad machinist, he rose with hard work through the ranks to head a locomotive factory. When Chrysler was introduced to his first automobile, it was love at first sight, and he soon found his way to Detroit and the fledgling automobile industry. He personally supervised the design of the first Chrysler automobile in 1924, and its quick success led, in part, to the founding of the Chrysler Corporation the following year. Chrysler loved a challenge--whether it was designing a new car, saving a company from bankruptcy, or creating a new building that would change the New York skyline. There were personal setbacks, especially during the Great Depression, but he persevered. While some of the anecdotes here seem irrelevant and a few of the design chronicles are at times longwinded, the book has been rigorously researched and reads well. Highly recommended for larger public libraries and transportation collections.--Richard Drezen, Washington Post News Research Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195078961
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 7/20/2000
  • Pages: 720
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 2.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Vincent Curcio, a veteran theatrical manager-producer, is the author of Suicide Blonde, a biography of Gloria Grahame. A long-time car enthusiast, he lives in Union City, New Jersey.

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Table of Contents

Preface ix
Introduction xi
Part I The Early Years
1 The Land from Which Walter Chrysler Sprang 3
2 The Background of the Chrysler Family 7
3 Kansas, the Plains Indians, the Stage Coach, and the Coming of the Railroad 16
4 The Birth of Walter Chrysler; How Financial Corruption Built the Railroads: What Texas Cattle Meant to Kansas 26
5 Ellis, Kansas: The Cradle of Walter Chrysler's Life 37
6 Boyhood in Ellis 44
7 Going to Work at the Union Pacific Roundhouse 55
8 Working on the Railroad 68
9 Getting Married, and the First Big Break 77
10 Putting a Lid on It, and the Go-Ahead Signal 83
11 Trinidad: The First Major Responsibility 86
12 Childress: Springboard to the Future 99
13 Oelwein, Iowa: Superintendent of Motive Power and the First Car 104
14 The First Manufacturing Job: ALCO 117
Part II The Automobile and the Assembly Line
15 The Early History of the Automobile 127
16 The Development of Mass Production 178
Part III Greatness
17 Chrysler at Buick 215
18 Chrysler at Willys 261
19 Putting Together the First Chrysler Car 281
20 The Significance of the First Chrysler Car 307
21 Maxwell Becomes the Chrysler Corporation 323
22 Art and Color Take Over the Car Business 336
23 Chrysler Makes it the Big Three 361
24 The Chrysler Building 400
25 1929: The Crash 445
26 The Great Depression Hits the Automobile Industry 466
27 Streamlining and the Airflow Car 518
28 Labor and the Strike of 1937 558
29 How He Lived: Summing Up 603
Acknowledgments 667
Sources 671
Index 691
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2001

    Well Researched Book On Chrysler And The Auto Industry

    Vincent Curcio has written a well-researched book depicting the rise of Walter Chrysler from a railroad worker through to leading his own automobile company. The development of the automobile industry from its failures, mergers, integration of mass production and the impact of industry leader Henry Ford is included. The reader emerges with a very different depiction of the automobile industry and the men that developed it. The book, while very extensive and filled with details, is a superb choice for persons interested in the man Chrysler as well as in automotive and financial industry developemtnat the turn of the century.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2000

    a wealth of information

    Those who are interested in the development of the automobile in America should read this book. Mr. Curcio not only gives us a biography of Walter Chrysler, but inter twines the history of automobile inventiveness, and how the magazine Scientific American played an important role in making available to all who read the magazine, the ideas and experiments being done with regards to the development of what began has a horseless carriage. This concept of having your ideas published accounted for why there were so many designers, engineers, and inventors whose names adored so many automobiles. I was suprised to come across the name of Hiram Percy Maxim, who was an automobile engineer, and executive with the Columbia Electric Car Company of Hartford, Conn. For those of you who don't know, Mr. Maxim was considered to be the person responsible for establishing country wide radio communication via amateur radio operators, and the organization that was called the 'American Radio Relay League' There's mention of Charles Kettering, the brillant engineer, who gave us no-knock gasoline enabling engineers to develop higher compression engines. I was postively astounded to read that Chrysler had just gotten married an bought a $5000 car which he obviously couldn't afford. Then to only take this brand new vehicle apart and reassemble it many times, until he understood how everything in that autombile worked.

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