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Chrysler Insitute of Engineering 1951: Where did they go?

The Chrysler Institute of Engineering was a major accomplishment by the Three Musketeers and Walter P. Chrysler. It was the leading automotive educational facility in its day, though later it devolved into a cooperative program and then disappeared; students learned both theoretical and practical knowledge, and had to put in tours of duty in three parts of the company.

Do you know the stories of these graduates of the Class of 1951? Can you fill in our blanks? (End of the page)

Here’s what we know about this group:

Burt Bouwkamp

Burt Bouwkamp would become the Dodge Chief Engineer before becoming the head of product planning (and a board member at Mitsubishi). As head of product planning, he pushed for the E-body cars, whose failure sent him to Europe—where he participated in the creation of two Car of the Year winners which would save Chrysler on a global level. See this Allpar interview.

Bert Cartwright

Bob Sheaves credited Bert with the design of the Torqueflite automatic around an existing planetary gearset patent; Curtis Redgap noted that Chrysler’s implementation was lighter, stronger, and more reliable than those of Ford or GM. It became the choice of some luxury automakers as well.

Daniel Black wrote, “I knew Bert, but not really well, since he was a chief and I was a newly hired CIE in his department. Bert was a great engineer and had several hobbies; he carved ducks and used them to duck-hunt in St Johns Marsh. He was also passionate about fishing and owned a place in Harrison Township on a canal, as well as a place in the Keys. His passion was deep sea fishing. When I visited him he had a log book of all the fish he caught, barometer, date, moon phase, and weather. He won several local tournaments. Bert retired around age 59. He made a killing on Chrysler stock when it was $3/share around the Iacocca days. Mortgaged his house and went all in.”

George Butts

George Butts, who died at 91, came to Chrysler as a student engineer; he stayed with the company for 38 years, during which he moved from engineering to product planning. He was Chief Engineer of Dodge Trucks in 1967; and General Manager of Dodge Truck Operations in 1972. He became the VP or Product Planning in 1973, and retired in 1988 as the Vice President of Quality and Productivity (a post he gained in 1980). In 1976, he told Popular Mechanics that all aspects of engines would one day be governed by electronics. Burt Bouwkamp recalled, “I learned two lessons from George that I still use today: (1) Number your pages. (2) Organize proposals to: (a) tell management how much it costs and when they have to spend it; (b) tell management how much they will get and when they will get it.

Can you tell us more about these people? Do you have more stories about Burt, Bert, and George? Let us know!

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