Walter P. Chrysler

Inducted 1967

“The real secret of success is enthusiasm”

Walter Chrysler built his company through superior management and engineering. Chrysler was born in Wamego, Kansas in 1875. His father was a locomotive engineer, which undoubtedly influenced Chrysler’s decision to enroll in a four-year machinist apprenticeship at age 18. Chrysler began his career in the railroad industry, working for the Santa Fe Railroad and later becoming a master mechanic and superintendent for the Chicago Great Western railroad.

It wasn’t until the 1908 Chicago Auto Show that Chrysler began to take an interest in automobiles. He purchased a Locomobile touring car, but instead of driving it, he immediately disassembled the car to see how it worked. In 1911 Chrysler met with Charles Nash, then president of GM, who offered Chrysler a job as production chief for Buick in Flint, Michigan. Chrysler found numerous ways of cutting production costs and was eventually made president of Buick. He retired in 1919 in opposition of Durant’s vision for General motors. However, his retirement did not last long. Later that year, Chrysler was approached by a group of bankers who controlled the debt of Willys-Overland Motor Company. They wanted Chrysler to curb the financial bleeding and paid him an astonishing salary of $1 million per year to do so. Chrysler drastically reduced Willys-Overland’s debt and even attempted a takeover of the company from John North Willy’s in 1921, but was unsuccessful. Later that year, Chrysler acquired a controlling interest in the floundering Maxwell Motor Company. He built the first car bearing his own name in 1924, which was a very sophisticated automobile equipped with four-wheel hydraulic brakes, a replaceable oil filter, and capable of achieving 70 mph.

Chrysler reorganized Maxwell into the Chrysler Corporation in 1925. He acquired Dodge Brothers Inc. in 1928, as well as Plymouth and De Soto. He was named Time magazine’s “Man of the Year” in 1929 and his name was also emblazoned on New York’s tallest skyscraper. Chrysler stepped down as president of his company in 1935 and remained chairman until his death in 1940. By analyzing problems and resolving them through decisive action, Walter Chrysler succeeded where many automotive pioneers failed, and laid the groundwork for his company to become one of Detroit’s legendary “Big Three.”

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