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Saturday, September 7, 2013
OTTO ROSENBUSCH AKA THE MAN THAT SAVED CHRYSLER FROM THE OTHER GUY THAT SAVED CHRYSLER
I am going to fast forward parts of the story, it is obvious that I am a MOPAR guy, my first car as a teen was a 1971 Dodge Challenger in B5 Blue, 318 2bbl, auto, p/s and nothing special although if i found a car today in the same condition I would be pretty excited. I purchased it from the used car lot of Neptune Dodge (long gone) in Sheepshead Bay Brooklyn for $1500 with a partial assist from my Grandma Lena on my 17th birthday pooled with money I saved from working part time! I became a Chevy guy for awhile, then a truck guy and then back to Mopar. Otto was hired by Chrysler in 1949 in the design department with his newly acquired degree in industrial design. He designed the Ship Logo for Plymouth! In 1961 he fled to American Motors during a hard financial period at the end of the forward look era of Virgil Exner and did quite well there and Chrysler noticed, enticing him back to them in 1965. His larger than life personality had him in charge of car show operations and in 1977 Chrysler once again was in a downward spiral and Otto had a new hat to wear as the keeper of the archives. Otto found a virtual horror show of completely disorganized files and collection of vintage vehicles including the first Chrysler ever built, the prototype 1924 touring car and as expected the cars were in poor shape. Along with long time friend Bruce Thomas another Chrysler employee who actually owned the "Detroit" 1952 Imperial Parade Phaeton when released from Chrysler (Bruce was very helpful during the last restoration of the NYC car, we spoke recently and he really gave me the correct facts about it ) assisted the cataloging of the Chrysler collection. Otto performed these tasks while trying to convince us to buy a new Cordoba or Volare! Enter the "MAN THAT SAVED CHRYSLER" Lee Iacocca as the auto maker faced bankruptcy and headed into the 1st ever Gov't bail out as they borrowed 1.5 Million from uncle sam and to make this work everything not needed was being sold. Otto's parents didn't raise no dummy so he made a very bold move and decided to hide everything from the bean counters and just imagine how he scrambled to move all the cars and larger items into borrowed space of collectors garages all over the Detroit area! In days the Chrysler Historic collection disappeared, really! As expected he was approached my corporate and he just convinced them it was so poorly maintained and documented it had been lost, he had enough useless records and trinkets to make it look like it was a lost cause and they bought it hook, line and sinker.For almost 10 years Otto probably was on pins and needles worrying that they would figure out his secret scheme and as Chrysler was once again standing on its feet Lee Iacocca departed, Otto took some amazing credit for finding Chrysler historic cars and archives in the most amazing places, exactly where it put them almost a decade ago!! In the late 80's Chrysler now stable was more than excited about preserving the newly discovered historic collection and the idea of tracking down more important pieces of Chrysler History was welcomed with the idea of building a museum. For about 10 years the collection was maintained in a secret building somewhere near Detroit never open to the public and over the years vehicles added of significant historic value and concept vehicles from the auto shows were added. Otto's son Brandt joined Chrysler in 1989 and took over as manager of historic services and then the curator of the newly opened Walter P Chrysler museum in 1999. The secret building still existed as storage for rotating exhibits for the museum,my speculation was that it was incorporated into the new museums sub basements and behind the walls and larger freight elevators. Chances are it is somewhere within the complex of the tech center and corporate offices?
I visited the WPC museum August of 2012 with friends and it was magnificent, we had plenty of time and wandered for hours, happy we made is an understatement because they closed to the public January 2013!!!!!!!!! The reason is financial, but they say the collection will be maintained and available as event space I guess. My thoughts are if you are still heating and maintaining the building using a staff of volunteers why not reduce the hours to a few days a week or in conjunction with large local events like Woodward dream cruise? My fear is FIAT just does not care and convince me all you want the NEW Dart, its not a MOPAR - its a FIAT. I lived through the Renault/AMC/Jeep days first hand and it was awful. Renault Medalions and the lovely Eagle Premier/ Dodge Monaco. They arrived as Renaults and we were told to hide the cars and put the Eagle emblems in place of Renault!
You pick the Dart you want?
Following my theme Otto was a hero, sometimes you have to do the wrong thing for the right reason! I hope Chrysler/Fiat ot whatever the heck they will be called next year does not let the Walter P. Chrysler museum die along with the spirit of WPC himself not to mention Mr. Otto Rosenbusch! THANK YOU OTTO at least you saw the best of this all and not see the end result of your vision and hard work!