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The Passing of a Chrysler Letter Car Engineer

Posted November 08, 2022 5:00 AM by dstrohl
Pathfinder Tags: Chrysler

Burt Bouwkamp, the Chrysler Corporation engineer co-responsible for much of the Chrysler letter car success in racing, died on October 26, 2022. According to his obituary in the Detroit Free Press, Bouwkamp joined Chrysler in February 1949 after graduating from the Chrysler Institute of Engineering in 1951 with a master's degree in automotive engineering, ultimately retiring after 38 years.

Burt came aboard after Chrysler and Imperial Chief Engineer Bob Rogers had already developed and received approval to build the 1955 C300. After the 300 C through E failed to set records from 1957 through 1959, Rogers ordered Bouwkamp to develop a competitive car that would win at Daytona in 1960. Bouwkamp’s job was to first help develop the car that would become the Chrysler 300 F Specials with 400 hp short-runner long ram induction and a four-speed transmission from France’s Pont-a-Mousson; and second to identify the drivers who would want to own and run one of the six specials on the beach. All six cars exceeded 140 mph and broke the previous flying-mile record set by professional driver Tim Flock in a 1956 Chrysler 300B.

The rest of his time at Chrysler includes contributions to some of the fastest and most powerful cars ever sold in America. After Bouwkamp’s work on the letter cars was his 1964 promotion to chief engineer at Dodge, where he planned and developed the 1966 Dodge Charger and later the Omni/Horizon models. His contribution to Chrysler Corporation is hard to measure but easy to calculate. If not for Burt, there would have been no short ram versions of the 300 F that won on the beach, no 1966 Dodge Charger (which continued the 300 F theme of full-length consoles, buckets front and back, and electroluminescent instrument lighting) or the spectacular Dodge Chargers that came later.

In May of 2017, Chrysler 300 Club member Keith Boonstra arranged a lunch with Burt Bouwkamp together with a group of Chrysler enthusiasts and club members. The video was filmed by club member Noel Hastalis and in it Burt talks about the development of the minivan, Chrysler executives Hal Sperlich and Bob Rodger, Burt’s time at Daytona’s Flying Mile including his recollections of Bud Fauble, Gregg Ziegler, and Vicki Wood. It's worth a watch.

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Re: The Passing of a Chrysler Letter Car Engineer

11/08/2022 1:55 PM

Proof that genius does not emanate from design committees.

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