1982 Pittsburgh Banquet Speech

By Paul Mallwitz

Reprinted from the 1982 Issue of the Chrysler Volume VIII Number IV 300 Club News

I joined Chrysler as a Test and Development Engineer out at the Proving Grounds and I stayed there for 2 years. During that time, I was in charge of endurance testing the first Plymouth and Dodge V-8 engines and also they slipped in the first Chrysler 300. So, little fledging engineer that I was, I was able to take the car home a few times and test drive it with some friends – I like to scared them to death. One of them still remembers every time I say anything about those cars. We really had a great time out at the Proving grounds at that point in time.

I, too, enjoy having the same hobby that you do, but I’m not as high class. I was able to pick up a ’55 Plymouth out in South Dakota about three years ago, and it made the cover of “Special Interest Auto” magazine. I think our hobby is one of the greatest things that’s come down the road in a long, long time in that it’s a family venture. I think that’s what this nation needs more than anything else to really tie it together.

I transferred to the Product Engineering Group, Chrysler Division, in ’55 and that was headed up by Bob Rodger. I’m sure in some of your literature you’ve run across that name. He was just a great guy who met with a rather untimely death. Some of my fondest memories are with Bob. He was really the father of the Chrysler 300.

As I remember, and I’m not really sure of the story, the Chrysler 300 really had its roots in the Mexican road races back in the early ‘50s where we would have an entry. It was a Chrysler New Yorker with 2 4-barrel carbs on it. It met with limited success on those races. At that time, some of us would stick around work after everybody went home and just sort of sit back and relax and reflect on the day’s fiascoes. It was during one of those times that Bob called in his lieutenants and decided that they ought to think about a special high performance Chrysler to come out in ’55. It was to have 2 4-barrel carbs and they came up with the 300, which was the horsepower rating of that engine which at that time was the highest horsepower ever produced by an American installer in an American vehicle. That’s the way the 300 came about. They decided it would basically be a New Yorker 2-door hardtop with an Imperial front end on it. That was our start.

During that period of time, NASCAR was in its early years, and Carl Kiekhaefer of Mercury Outboard in Oshkosh, WI was on the racing circuit. He was a very rich gentleman; he would order a limo from us to transport his dogs. He was also a darn good racer and organizer. He had Buck Baker from Charlotte, NC and Norm Nelson from Racine, WI as two of his drivers. I can’t remember who else he had, but they won just about everything in NASCAR in those early years with this Chrysler 300. Of course, the race car evolved into the smaller car, such as the Dodge/Plymouth variety with the same size engine that was in the Chrysler 300, so, therefore, its demise in the racing circuit came about early. Nonetheless, during its heyday, it really won more than its share of races. We’d have to get axles made real quick and have them sent down to Carl Kiekhaefer wherever he was down south. It was always interesting when Carl was involved.

The year that I really got involved myself in the Chrysler 300 was the year of the “F” model. We started fairly early in the season with some people that we knew were going to buy these cars, and we did sell them. They were sort of hand prepared for them. People such as Dick Dice from Birmingham, Al and Greg Ziegler. I believe somebody here has Greg’s old car. I lost my records when I transferred from one office to another, so I could not research that one back.

We started fairly early in the model year, in December, and I think the mile acceleration and the flying mile were scheduled some time during the first week in February. So, we had quite a bit of time to get these cars prepared. There were about seven or eight of them and a mule car, a red 300F. I saw one out here in the parking lot last night that was exactly like our mule car which we used for testing out at the Proving Grounds and wherever we might want to run tests and so forth. That car I saw last night really brought back some memories. By the way, those engines were all hand built by our chief mechanic there in our engineering garage, Carl Pruehs. It’s too bad that Carl couldn’t be here tonight; he was invited, but he had other things going; but without Carl we wouldn’t have had the success that we had with those Chrysler 300s that year. He’s just a tremendous mechanic.

We delivered these cars and sent them on their way to Daytona Beach. I think I’d worked all night long at our engineering garage at Jefferson plus part of the morning. Finally I went home, took a shower, had our mule car, picked up my wife, and we headed for Daytona Beach. That was quite an exciting trip down there being as I was fairly new in the business and really full of expectations. It really proved out to be that, and I’ve got some little side light comments that occurred during that adventure down at Daytona.

We rented the dealership down there, San Juan Motors, and we would haul these cars in at night so we could get down to the beach early in the morning. So, we’d do a little job here and there and maybe put in new plugs or whatever in the evening. Well, we all stayed at one motel close to the ocean front. I don’t know if any of you ever had the experience of trying to start one of these recalcitrant engines with no heat the carbs in the morning and keep it running. If you could, you were fairly lucky. Burt Bouwkamp and I shared the same room, and we were just getting up when the first engine fired. Somebody out there was ready to take the car down to the beach. About five minutes later, another one started up and, of course, these things would reverberate something terrible up against the motel walls. The fourth one started up, then the next one started up, and by that time some guy came out on the balcony and yelled, “I wish you’d get that thing started up and out of here.” Well, Burt and I still had our car to start and get out of there. So our turn came, and we got started and out of the motel without any serious injury to body or limb, but I did encounter the cop on the beat going down the street. Of course, I was revving the throttle, going from neutral to drive and so forth, and this car would just reverberate off the walls of these building and this little cop came running out in the middle of the road with a flashlight trying to flag me down. Burt said “Don’t stop,” so I had the distinct pleasure of outrunning a cop on the beat. That particular day, Burt and I took out cars down to the dealership, and we started working on the cars, changing plugs and so forth, the car was up on the hoist when a knock came at the door. Burt went to see about it and the fellow knocking informed Burt that he had to have a new universal joint put in his Chrysler 300. Burt informed him that the dealership wasn’t open, and he said he was Bud Fauble from Chambersburg, PA. These were four guys who came down in this Chrysler 300; they had outrun the cops in South Carolina and Georgia and they needed this universal joint to run this car in the flying mile. Finally Burt was able to convince him – this was the first time he had met Bud – and instead of just going away Bud said he was going to go out there and run the car the way it was. Well, Burt and I got together and decided he was going to kill himself if he did that. We called him into the garage and told him rather than jeopardize his life we would make him a deal. We had this mule car but it was illegal as heck. It wouldn’t pass inspection come hell or high water. We told him if he wanted to drive that car and if he won or placed, he was not to go to the impound area but was to go straight back. That suited Bud just fine; that was exactly what he was looking for. And he did win the flying mile that day, and he never did check in at the impound area. Some people say there was a mystery car down there that day; well I think that was it.

Goodyear furnished the tires for the mile run and the mile acceleration. They had done some testing and found out if we dropped the normal pressure down 5 pounds (24 was normal) – and we went down to 19 on the rear tire for the mile acceleration we could get a lot more traction without any negative effects on handling the car. We informed everybody they were to lower their tire pressure by 5 pounds. Now, one Greg Ziegler thought if 5 pounds helped that much, another 5 pounds was going to be even better – so we found out later. Greg came in for his mile acceleration; he took off beautifully, traction going, went through the trap in very good shape but he let off on the throttle and got reverse torque on those tires and almost landed in the Atlantic Ocean. I don’t know if you remember Tom McCahill of “Popular Mechanics”, but in the next issue of his magazine he had an editorial about these two smart engineers from Chrysler who told everybody to lower their tire pressure down to 14 pounds. I don’t think he ever did get the right story.

We did dominate that year; it was one of the last years that they had the flying mile on the beach. The Speedway was just beginning to operate and that was NASCAR'’ sole interest, so I don'’ think we competed after that. This sort of brings me to the end here. One thing I do want to mention to you is that right now my present job is resident engineer at Chrysler’s Part Division, and although we don’t have any parts, we do have catalogues. We have parts catalogues going back further than even ’55 and should any one of you here desire one, I’ll arrange for you to get one.

Some of the questions put to Mr. Mallwitz from the floor were:

Q: Were any of the rocker covers ever chromed?
A: No. Some people may have chromed them after they bought the car, but we never put chrome covers on.

Q: How did you get the brakes to work on these cars?
A: With great difficulty. Those center plane brakes on the cars had to be put together like a watch in order to make them work properly. I was sort of glad when we finally phased it out of production.

Q: What exactly is the flying mile?
A: The course for the flying mile is really in three segments. There is a mile where you start out and you accelerate up to top speed. The second mile is the speed traps and that’s the mile you’re measured on. After the end of that mile you’ve got another mile or so to decelerate and come to a stop. So, it’s a flying start, you’ve got a mile acceleration to get up to speed, then you start the clocks and at the end of that particular mile, the second segment, that was your time for the mile.

Q: Did you ever use electric fuel pumps on these cars?
A: To my knowledge, we never had electric fuel pumps on those cars. I know some people did install them, but I don’t remember us ever using anything but the mechanical lever type pump.

Q: When are you going to give us 300M through Z?
A: You’re going to have to wait a while. Try to make a 300 out of an Aries or Reliant size automobile.

Q: You mentioned Burt Bouwkamp. Who exactly was he?
A: Burt was one of the project engineers who worked directly under Bob Rodger. He and I are good friends and are really the only ones left in the corporation who lived through this period of time. When I look back and reflect on this fact, it occurs to me that we really didn’t know at that time what 20 years would do and what those cars would mean. I’m just sorry that I lost so many of my records and information that I had from that era. Chrysler had truly classic automobiles back in the 50s and 60s. I predict that you people have got a real sound investment because I really think those automobiles are going to be real classics in another 15 years just like the classics are of the 30s. So, keep it up, show them off, they’re great automobiles.

October 2013 update:

Burt Bouwkamp was kind enough to review the article and added these comments:

Paul worked for me in 1955 to 1960. I was Chrysler Division Resident Engineering Manager
and Paul was a Resident Engineer with engine and transmission responsibilities.

Some minor corrections:

1. I got to the Chrysler Division in 1954. Paul Mallwitz got there in 1955. The C-300 was already "in the pipeline" so Paul and I had nothing to do with the planning of it. Execution -yes but planning-no.

2. Carl Pruehs did not build the engines for Daytona in 1960. They were built by the Chrysler Jefferson engine plant. They were specially built low friction engines and they were built under the direct supervision of Lee Bowman (Chief Inspector) and Bob Phillips (Engine Plant Superintendent). Lee and Bob were enthusiastic supporters of the Daytona program.
Carl Pruehs and his mechanics did a lot on the preparation of the cars for Daytona Beach - including installing the Pont-a-Mousson transmissions - but they did not build the engines.

3. The prototype ("mule car") was legal. We did not want Bud Fauble to win the trophy because it would not have been fair to the other drivers who purchased their 300's. When I loaned Bud the car to drive in competition I got his approval to withdraw from competition if he was the fastest car. He wasn't - he finished third. Results attached.

4. I (not Goodyear) recommended 15 psi rear tire pressure for the mile acceleration. Too my knowledge only Gregg Ziegler used low pressure in the rear tires - and he did have control problems. He said he almost went in the ocean.

Thanks for the opportunity to see Paul's script. You can use my comments as an update if you want.