By on July 26, 2009

Archives are the foundation of historical research. Without access to primary material—be it documents, photographs, financial statements, engineering or test reports—historians lack the building blocks necessary to write the chronicles that inform our understanding of the past and illuminate the future. To their credit, America’s automakers have gone to great lengths and expense to preserve and protect the historical documents which chronicle and define their existence. Until recently. As Chrysler and GM plunged into bankruptcy, they turned their back on their own heritage and destroyed a priceless part of our collective past.

Chrysler was incorporated on June 6, 1925. Over the following decades, the automaker centralized and organized its archives, records dating back to the very beginnings of the American automobile industry. And then the company’s new owners decided history is bunk. Cerberus eliminated its archivist position. They stopped funding the documents’ maintenance. The company limited access to their archives and then stopped it altogether.

Worse was to follow.

With little notice and no planning, Cerberus literally abandoned the engineering library at the Chrysler Technical Center. The library was shuttered and the librarian laid off. And then the real crime: all the library’s books and materials were offered to anyone who could carry them away. I repeat: the documents were free for the taking. Within a week, a collection spanning decades was scattered to the winds; the books and other materials will never again be available in any coherent, comprehensive form.

The rest of Chrysler’s historical archives remain intact in a central location. Intense work by dedicated archivists has, over the years, provided organization and access to historians. Will FIAT consider these archives worth preserving? Do they even know they exist?

The situation at GM isn’t quite so dire—yet. While GM continues to fund a Heritage Center, the center has sold off hundreds of their historical vehicles. It’s a travesty that denies writers (and GM insiders) a hands-on link to the company’s best—and worst—work.

The location and status of GM’s paper archives is unclear. Historically, GM has allowed each division to keep or discard archival material as they pleased. Some, like Oldsmobile, transferred many of their key documents to an independent museum. Upon enquiry, it’s clear that many of the remaining GM divisions no longer know the location of their historical documents, much less how they are organized or how researchers can gain access.

Rumor has it that GM Research (at the GM Tech Center in Warren) has a library of technical papers dating back to its beginnings: a treasure trove of information about the development of the automobile. Who’s protecting this legacy? In fact, who owns it: Old GM or New?

These irreplaceable records must not be lost in the confusion of bankruptcy and reorganization. There are a number of potential homes for the material. The National Automotive History Collection in Detroit, the Benson Ford Archives, the archives at Kettering University, the Ransom E. Olds museum, or the University of Michigan, are all possibilities. There are others in and around Detroit.

It will take two things to make this happen: money and talent.

All of the archives and records could be transferred to a safe haven for under $2 million dollars. That’s roughly 0.04% of the latest check the feds cut GM to ensure the company’s “reinvention.” As the federal government has already underwritten the reorganization of GM and Chrysler, as Uncle Sam more or less owns these carmakers, underwriting the preservation of their archives is the least our elected representatives could do for our money.

Detroit has plenty of talent to make the rescue. The National Automotive History Collection, the Society of Automotive Historians, and countless other museums and libraries all have employees with the knowledge and the motivation to safely transport and secure the archives. With a little financial support from the federal government, and a little “empowerment” from the same place, teams of historians could ferret out the records within GM and protect them for future generations.

Ironically (given Henry Ford’s supposed view of history), Ford has shown us how it should be done. All of the company’s records have have been transferred to the Henry Ford [Museum] and to the Benson Ford Archives—and made accessible to researchers. Ford’s actions should be a blueprint for saving the rest of our automotive heritage.

Thanks to the $100 billion plus taxpayer Detroit bailout, Chrysler and GM’s historical records now belong to all of us. I urge you to e-mail your congressmen and senators, asking them to ensure that Chrysler and GM’s records are preserved in the public’s interest.

Few politicians, if any, are interested in automotive history. Witness President Obama’s absurd assertion that “America invented the automobile.” But all elected officials are interested in votes. Let them know you care. Let them know that the companies that failed to learn from history shouldn’t lose it for those who can.

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66 Comments on “Editorial: Chrysler Destroys Its Historical Archives; GM to Follow?...”


  • avatar
    P71_CrownVic

    That’s brilliant actually……..

    Then they can do the same thing that brought them to C11 and say that they had no idea that would happen.

  • avatar
    Neb

    It’s really sad to read that this is happening; archives require next to nothing to preserve properly. Still it doesn’t suprise me that Cerebus messed it up: you have to care about the future to think old records are worth preserving. I hope this story has a happy ending.

    (If they need funds for it, might I suggest that the automakers put out an artbook of auto ads from the 50s and 60s? Materials from the archive getting funds to save the archive would be a neat solution.)

  • avatar
    50merc

    The Barbarians are at the gates!

    Wait — never mind. They’re already inside and busily plundering the place.

    But don’t let Menno see this article. This sort of atrocity can give an automotive historian a stroke.

  • avatar
    Captain Tungsten

    Bob, sounds like you’ve seen the list of vehicles GM sold from the Heritage Center. Could you share that list, or link?

  • avatar
    Petra

    Loved the article, Mr. Elton. There are many forgotten but important victims in the recent carpocalypse, and I thank you for putting a face to one of them.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    A very enjoyable work Bob, thanks!

    One of the experiences that made my wife and I hook up in our younger days was her work at an automotive museum. I saw a beautiful array of automotive wonder that instantly put me in a happy mood regardless of what else was taking place that day. I even thought about becoming an orator at one of the museums once everything was said and done.

    These days that’s pretty much what I do. Except I use numbers instead of words and the inventory is a bit less valuable as a historical artifact.

  • avatar
    Dimsdale

    This is patently stupid. Destroying any archival material for the chump change it would take to preserve it is insanity.

    Everyone screamed when the museums in Baghdad were raided, or those ancient statues were destroyed by the Taliban in Afghanistan, but nobody speaks for this?

    Bill Gates: here is something to do with your billions.

  • avatar

    GENERAL MOTORS’ “HERITAGE COLLECTION” SALES LIST AS OF 12/20/08
    1955 Buick Century
    Bolero
    2001 Blackhawk
    G6 Rolex Pace
    2007 Corvette Indy Pace/copper
    2008 Corvette Indy Pace/black
    1918 Cadillac
    1995 Riveria Convertible
    1993 Allante Pace car
    1996 Presidential Limo
    1998 Popemobile
    1999 Eldorod
    Indy Pennzoil IRL #4 (yellow)
    Indy Pennzoil Panther Racing (yellow)
    2003 EXT – M
    2004 CTS Super V
    2004 SRX Hot Wheels
    2004 SRX SEMA
    2005 STS MCE Integration
    2006 DTS Appearance Pkg
    2007 Escalade Limo
    2007 Escalade SEMA
    2008 CTS Sport
    LMP #8
    1925 Chevrolet House Car (Blue/Black)
    1948 Chevy I-5 Vortech
    1960 Impala
    1972 Impala
    2004 M/C Rock&Roll Pace (blue/yellow)
    1987 Chevrolet Sprint Turbo Convertible
    1989 Corvette DR-1
    1989 Corvette Snake Skinner
    1989 Corvette Splash
    1989 Corvette ZR-1
    1989 Corvette ZR-1 (Dark Red)
    1989 Corvette ZR-2 Big Doggie
    1989 Tracker Boom Box
    1989 Zonker
    1990 Corvette Right Hand Steer
    1990 Corvette ZR-1 Active
    1991 Caprice Classic
    1991 Corvette Convertible
    1991 Syclone PPG Pace
    1991 Tracker Dirt
    1992 Corvette ZR-1 First Built (Red)
    1992 Impala SS 510
    1993 Camaro ZL-1 “572”
    1993 Corvette LT-1 Spyder
    1993 Typhoon
    1994 Corvette (Teal)
    1994 Impala SS 6 Speed
    1994 Impala Wagon
    1994 Tracker Kalahari
    1995 Monte Carlo Led Sled
    1995 Monte Carlo Pro Street
    1996 Camaro Brickyard Pace
    1997 Corvette Alpha Build
    1997 Corvette Beta Build
    1997 Corvette Tiger Shark
    2005 M/C Rock&Roll Pace (red)
    1997 Monte Carlo Intimidator
    1998 Camaro Drag
    1998 Corvette First Built
    1998 Corvette X-plorers
    1999 Corvette C5R Show Car
    1999 Corvette Shark
    1999 Silverado Tonka
    2000 Corvette Z06 Race
    2000 Monte Carlo Brickyard #3
    2000 Tahoe K5
    2001 Impala Low Rider
    2001 Monte Carlo Drag
    Silverado #17 GMAC Racetruck
    2001 Silverado Intimidator SS (Black)
    2006 Silverado Craftsman Pace Flex Fuel #2
    2002 Camaro Police
    2002 Cavalier 425 A/FX Drag
    2002 Monte Carlo Looney Tunes Pace
    2002 S-10 Little Red
    2003 Aveo Xtreme
    2003 Corvette Lemans Pace #3
    2003 Monte Carlo Rock & Roll Race
    2004 Aveo X-treme
    2004 Colorado SS Dark Cherry
    2004 Colorado Xtreme
    2004 Colorado Z-71 Vision
    2004 Corvette Indy Pace
    2004 Impala SS Project Vehicle
    2004 Malibu Maxx SS
    2004 Malibu Xtreme 2004
    2004 Monte Carlo Dale Earnhardt Jr.
    2004 Monte Carlo Tony Stewart
    2004 Silverado Speedway
    Solstice “Jazz” Transformer Movie Vehicle
    1969 Reggie Jackson Camaro (red)
    1990 Beretta Indy Pace
    2004 Escalade Pinnacle (black)
    Holden Race Car #22 (red)
    2000 STS Saftey
    2007 Yukon “CSI Vegas” (used in filming of show)
    2003 Rendezvous CXL
    1998 Rivera (teal)
    2005 Colorado CC Z71
    2005 Corvette Atlantic
    2005 Corvette Pacific
    2005 Equinox Xtreme
    2004 Suburban Quadsteer
    2006 HHR Official Tailgate Crew
    2006 HHR Open Air
    2006 HHR Panel
    2006 HHR Panel Tuner
    2006 HHR Xplorer Scout
    2006 HHR Yearone
    1995 Aurora (red)
    2007 Avalanche Z-71 Plus
    2007 Corvette Z06 First Built (Red)
    2007 HHR SS Panel Motor City (Flat Gray)
    2007 Silverado “Big Red”
    2007 Silverado CC Rally Sport
    2007 Silverado Country Music
    2007 Silverado E85 Handy Man
    1985 Calais “MSU”
    2007 Silverado OCC
    2007 Silverado Roadside
    2007 SilveradoZ71 Orange
    2007 Suburban HD Diesel
    2007 Suburban Major League Baseball (Blue)
    2007 Tahoe Foose
    2007 Tahoe US Ski Team
    Camaro Trans Am 2 seater
    C/K 1500 Supertruck Chevy 2 Seat
    Camaro GTZ
    Camaro LT5
    Corvette C5 Display Chassis
    Corvette Purple Smash
    Corvette Racing Boat
    Corvette Trailer
    Corvette ZR1 Rolling Chassis
    HHR Floral
    Holden Race Car (Red)
    Kappa Chassis
    S-10 Drag
    S-10 Off Road Truck
    S-10 Race Truck (Red)
    S-10 Stadium Truck
    2003 Centieme Concept
    1916 GMC Stake Truck
    1917 GMC Trailer
    1948 GMC Firetruck
    1978 GMC Suburban (Brown/Cream)
    2003 Rollback
    2004 Canyon Kayak
    2004 Envoy Race Truck
    2004 Envoy Water Sports
    2007 Sierra All Terrain Crew
    2007 Sierra HD Denali
    Caprice “Fire & Rescue”
    2007 Sierra Texas Edition
    2007 Yukon Denali Jay-Z (Blue)
    2007 Yukon XL Big Max
    2007 Yukon All Terrain
    2003 Hummer Spring Special
    2005 Hummer Dirt Sport
    2005 Hummer H2 Slant Back
    2006 H3 street
    2006 HHR Spring Special (Cappucino Frost)
    2007 H2 Safari
    2008 H3R SEMA
    1994 Corvette HO
    Corvette ZR 1 Snake Skinner
    1904 Olds Touring Runabout
    1923 Olds
    1931 Olds Chassis
    1940 Olds Blue
    1949 Olds (Green)
    1954 Olds Ninety Eight
    1960 Olds 88 (White)
    1970 Cutlass SX
    1970 Olds 442 W30
    1977 Olds Delta 88 Indy Pace
    1995 Cutlass Darth Vadar
    1995 Cutlass Mobil Net Race
    1998 Intrigue 1998 (Blue)
    1999 Intrigue 442
    1999 Silhouette OSV #2
    2001 Bravada Indy Pace
    2002 Intrigue Last 2002
    Aurora Exxon Race GTS (Gold/White)
    Aurora IRL Race Car Cut-Away #5
    Aurora IRL Race Car Cut-Away #5
    1985 Peugeot 205 Turbo (Gray)
    1985 Peugeot 205 Turbo Active (Gray)
    1926 Pontiac
    1926 Pontiac (Gray/Black)
    1968 Pontiac Cataline (White)
    1969 Pontiac GTO (Green)
    1969 Pontiac GTO Judge (Orange/Yellow)
    1980 Pontiac Grand Am Pickup
    1994 Firebird Lingenfelter 383
    1999 Grand Am SCT
    2003 Sunfire X-plores (Yellow)
    2006 Solstice DTP (Orange)
    1967 GTO XXX Hardtop
    1984 Fiero GT 2+2
    1986 Firebird Trans Am Kamback
    1987 Fiero GT Convertible
    1991 Firebird Trans Am Twin Turbo
    1993 Firebird IMSA Race car
    1994 Firebird Firmula V8
    1994 Firebird Trans Am 25th Ann.
    1998 Firebird Trans Am Gold Rush
    1998 Firebird Trans Am X-plorers
    1998 Grand Prix M&M Pace
    2000 Bonneville Salt Flats
    2000 Firebird Rytek Project
    2000 Firebird Trans Am Darth Vader
    CTS-VR Race Replica (black)
    2001 Aztek First Built (Black)
    2001 Aztek Pace #1 (Red)
    2001 Aztek SRV
    2002 Firebird Trans Am Daytona Pace #2
    2003 Grand AM Autocross
    2003 Vibe Autocross Sema
    2003 Vibe FX
    2004 Grand Prix GXP SEMA
    2004 GTO 1st built
    2005 Firedbird Trans Am Collectors Ed.
    2005 GTO SEMA
    2006 Solstice Red Bull Drifter
    2006 Solstice Weekend Racer
    Fiero Goodwrench Race
    Grand Am #85 race car
    Grand Prix (show car)
    GTO Drag Performance Parts
    Firebird Mobil Race Car
    1991 Saturn 4 Door 1991 (White)
    1995 Saturn 1 Millionth
    1999 Saturn 2 Millionth
    2004 Ion Red Line
    2004 Ion Red Line
    2004 Ion Red Line
    2004 Saturn Vue Spring Special
    2004 Vue Red Line Street Play
    Saturn Lola Race Car
    1999 Grand Prix GT (red)
    Regal Cielo Open Air
    2001 Regal GNX
    2002 Rendezvous Inca Trail (grey)
    2002 Rendezvous Tour Edition SC
    GTP Ultrlite (teal)
    900 Pikes Peak
    Malibu Friday Night Cruiser

  • avatar
    supremebrougham

    What an absolute shame. Why on earth didn’t they at least have it all taken over to the Walter P. Museum??? That’s a nice building, there’s plenty of room there. Honestly, this whole mess gets more sickening by the day…

  • avatar
    HEATHROI

    The Barbarians are at the gates

    thats very unfair to the barbarians, who wanted everything intact (for themselves)

    This is like those Dickhead romans who would burn priceless limestone statuary into fertilizer or knock bits of stone out of, say the Coliseum to build a fence to keep pigs in.

    Actually no those IDIOTS at GM and Chrysler are even worse than that because at least dark age peasants could offer that excuse that they were trying to scratch out a living.

  • avatar
    ruckover

    The world is a poorer place because of these actions. Damn them for it.

  • avatar

    Sadly, the National Automotive History Collection is not as accessible to the general public as it could be. While housed in the Skillman branch of the Detroit Public Library, you must pay a $10/day or $100/yr fee to use its collection. Still, it’s one of the world’s premier collections of automotive literature.

    Another local Detroit collection of note is the Meyer Prentis collection at Temple Beth El. Prentis was GM’s longtime treasurer and comptroller and worked closely with Alfred P. Sloan. Prentis’ papers were donated to the Beth El library.

    As for Chrysler’s engineering library, that’s a shame, but hopefully the books will be appreciated and used by the engineers and others who took them.

    Speaking of automotive heritage, is anyone familiar with Flight Thru Instruments, a WWII era training book whose graphics were done by Harley Earl’s GM styling studios.

    To bad the software here doesn’t allow images in comments.

  • avatar
    Strippo

    To bad the software here doesn’t allow images in comments.

    Heaven forbid. You mean well, but TTAC would end up looking like MySpace in no time.

  • avatar

    My guess is that the cars that GM didn’t sell off from the Heritage Collection are much more valuable than the ones they sold. Yeah, some of the ‘Vettes were rare, and the Buick Blackhawk was very collectible, but I doubt few crown jewels sold.

    Remember, too, how Washington bureaucrats at NHTSA, tried to hold up the sale of one of a kind non-street legal cars at the later Palm Beach auction, because they were worried that people would try to title them for the street. Of course that would destroy their value, but you can’t expect bureaucrats to know what they are trying to regulate, can you?

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Hmmmm… I’m wondering what the two Peugeots would go for…

  • avatar
    relton

    The Walter P.Chrysler Museum is now a 501C3 entity. It has to raise funds and operate on its own, without a connection to Chrysler, or FIAT. That’s the good news.

    The bad news is that almost all of the cars in the museum remain the property of Chrysler, or FIAT, or whoever. When the news about how much money GM made by selling their cars, what do you suppose will happen?

    The museum is not connected with the archives. Chrysler retains all of those, in a separate location.

    Bob

  • avatar

    Wow, I still had a few lingering doubts as to whether or not Cerberus was Evil.

    Thanks for clearing them up! :P

  • avatar
    Billy Bobb 2

    Mr. Elton, thank you.

  • avatar
    lw

    After all the comedy, drama and action have ended, we will be left only with tragedy.

    How long until we have a generation of kids that has never heard of GM or Chrysler?

  • avatar
    willbodine

    Peugeots?

  • avatar
    BuzzDog

    @lw: How long until we have a generation of kids that has never heard of GM or Chrysler?

    I know, I know…and for those that think you’re exaggerating, be sure to remind them of how many 20-somethings today that have no idea what a Studebaker is.

  • avatar
    folkdancer

    Yes, there are 2 Peugeots on the list.

    My guess is that someone at GM heard there were cars in France with hydroneumatic suspension and in an attempt to understand what that was they bought the 2 Peugeots not realizing that it was Citroen that used hydroneumatic suspension:-)

  • avatar

    Heck most of my peers (I’m 26) don’t know what AMC was until they meet myself! AMC lost most of its paperwork to personal collections (which now I feel safer than if Chrysler still had it). While some is lost to history, typicaly papers like this find their way into good hands and with dedication the history can come to paper. All is not lost, but these days it seems being an orphan isn’t so bad when all the other kids are being beat with a stick!

  • avatar
    riko

    They could sell 3 Azteks? I would say they were lucky except that is exactly the kind of car they should save— to see exactly how wrong they could go.

  • avatar
    PeteMoran

    P71_CrownVic essentially beat me to it, but I was going to say that there’s no point in preserving history unless they LEARN from it.

    The only thing GM/Chrysler could learn is that they thought they ruled the world and now they’re finished…..

    That said, the rescued archives will be the basis of the future academic bestseller What NOT To Do In Business.

  • avatar
    relton

    GM bought the Peugeots because of their turbocharger control technology. I knew one of the people on that project. They have little or no historical value.

    Some of the other cars, however, do. Especially the older ones, like the 26 Pontiac and the 04 Cad.

    Studebaker maintained meticulous archives, and those of Packard as well, until tjhey left the car business. When they did, the whole lot was given to the city of South Bend. Now they are part of the Studebaker museum complex in South Bend. It is a great museum, well worth a visit.

    Bob

  • avatar
    gromit

    At least Chrysler gave their records away. Their erstwhile British partner Rootes wasn’t so lucky. A huge amount of archive material was still housed in one of the factories when the demolition charges went off.

    The rest was donated to museums.

  • avatar
    windswords

    At this point, what does it matter if the archives, engineering or otherwise are saved? We know all we need to know about these companies and why they failed. Why would we want to keep the past engineering papers of a third rate auto company preserved when the foregn engineering is so superior anyway? Mercedes, yea, that’s information we should preserve. We can’t lose BMW 3 Series engineering papers, C&D would go apoplectic(sp?). And we have to perserve the papers on the VW Bug’s air cooled engine and the Civic’s CVCC. And let’s hold Tata’s feet to the fire. We can’t let all the engineering and development papers for the Nano disappear. That car will be the most important car of the 21st century. Boy, the future is looking bright!

  • avatar
    relton

    Actually GM and Chrysler were engineering leaders for the world for many decades. Who do you think invented air bags, catalytic convertoers, automatic transmissions, power steering and hydraulic valve adjusters, just to name a few? The Chrysler Airflow shown in the picture above was the first car to understand and adopt the conjugate centers of percussion in suspension design, greatly improving ride and handling. All cars use this principle today.

    More importantly, these archives are the history of the people who built this industry. That’s what’s worth saving.

    Bob

  • avatar
    commando1

    Heritage is an asset at which the bean counters have never been able to attach an actual $ sign to, therfore, as far as they are concerned, it’s not numbers that they can play with to justify their existence in the corporation.
    Marketting tries to get a free ride off of heritage when all else fails in justifying their existance in the corporation.
    Design…ditto.
    So, when everyone at corporate is running scared to save their own hides, heritage becomes the village idiot who was fun to have around when martinis at lunch were the norm, but has become a burden when now trying to appear sober and productive all day, not just in the morning.

    The documentation being sold, trashed, lost, stolen,and given away while Nero is fiddling, borders on illegal. At the minimum, immoral.

    Go to ANY car forum on the web, read any car mag devoted to the classic car hobby, and you find thousands, if not more, doing research and looking for data, information, and lost technical details. It’s these people who immerse themselves in the heritage of vehicles that keep the nameplates alive and in the light.

    Tragically, for all the benefits of free enterprise, corporations that are managed suits that are concerned about getting promoted every 11 months would sell their mothers gold teeth if it meant personal short term financial success. And their mother’s gold teeth ranks far, far higher than a blueprint of 1966 Plymouth Fury headlight surround.

    What’s in it for me, today, right now!!!

  • avatar
    BDB

    Ironically (given Henry Ford’s view of history)

    This is a widely misunderstood quote. He wasn’t saying, in the full context, that all history is bunk. Merely that how it is taught at the high school level is bunk, which you can make a pretty damn good case for. And I say this as a historian (well, that at least the piece of sheepskin on the wall says I am).

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Tragic.

  • avatar

    BDB

    Point taken. My bad. Text amended.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    Once again, Ford looks like the smarter company.

  • avatar
    Polishdon

    Is there any proof this has actually happend or is this a unconfirmed report ?

  • avatar
    Airhen

    Tragic! Hopefully the documents from the Chrysler Technical Center went into hands of guys that care, protect and research the files.

    Now fortunately about the Chrysler owned classics at the Walter P. Museum, with the economy as it is, it is no time to be selling classics. Don’t do it!

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    I thought gm and Chrysler made nothing but junk. Why is junk worth preserving?

  • avatar
    Jeff Puthuff

    Quasi, those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

  • avatar
    Martin Schwoerer

    Wonderful piece, Bob. Just wonderful.

  • avatar
    GS650G

    THe Northridge earthquake caused a sprinkler line break at JBL’s headquarters in their warehouse and most of the reference examples (and a lot of documents)were ruined in the process. A company with a 70 year heritage in the sound business that had examples of every system built, JBL ended up trashing most of the ruined cabinets.

    At least it was not done deliberately or maliciously out of cost cutting.

    Sometimes when one company inhales another the history gets tossed out with the garbage. It’s only through the efforts of employees that anything remains.

  • avatar
    Kevin Kluttz

    1969 GTO “The Judge”. The one best thing Pontiac and GM ever did.

  • avatar
    skor

    “I don’t know much about history, and I wouldn’t give a nickel for all the history in the world. It means nothing to me. History is more or less bunk. It’s tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that is worth a tinker’s damn is the history we make today.”

    –Henry Ford, Interview in Chicago Tribune (25 May 1916)

  • avatar
    BDB

    “[History is Bunk] are three famous words, but it is not certain whether Henry Ford actually uttered them. He always maintained he had been misquoted…cross questioned on the subject, he did agree that “bunk” accurately described his own estimate of history as presented by the typical school textbook”.

    From Ford–The Men and the Machine, pp. 238-239

    Ford was quite the preservationist in his actions, so it is reasonable to conclude this is what he actually meant.

  • avatar
    derm81

    Well, being pretty familiar with corporate librarianship in Detroit (since that is what I do) I can cite numerous examples where local collections were turned over to libraries. Of course, no one really knows the true amount of archival material Chrysler has…or had. I am sure that it was organized and cataloged at one time. However, IF the collection were to be given to a library, part of it would need to be deaccessioned for the sake of space. Space in the library and archival profession is usually at a premium.

    In many cases, a collection is a living breathing thing that needs to be cared for and maintained. Historical documents need to be placed in proper storage facilities with the appropriate levels of lighting and temperature/humidity. You can’t just toss papers and artifacts on a shelf and shut the door. It will come back and bite you in the ass down the road…you may think it will not, but it will.

    I don’t know if the Detroit Public Library could handle that large of a collection since the DPL Burton Collection seems to take up an awful lot of space already. I am not sure if the Skillman branch has that much more space. A good example would be how Albert Kahn Architectural Firm donated their historical collection of blueprints and photos to the Bentley Collection. There, at one of the best universities in the land, you can bet your ass it will be cared for. However, these collections take money and manpower to maintain.

    Like I said before, the Benson Ford Research Center is probably one of the most state of the art archival facilities in the world. It puts most government facilities as well as just about every other corporate archive to shame. Of course, it cost millions but again, this is an example of Ford thinking ahead of the curve.

    I will say, however, that once these items are gone, they are gone forever.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    The gent who hired me into my present company, 17 years ago, was at that time, a recently retired chassis engineering manager from Chrysler …

    He told me when Chrysler became the New Chrysler, he was promoted to replace the department manager who had left the company (circumstances unknown), and he had two tasks, fire 50% of the department, and to “clean house” …

    As they were throwing out all the historical documents (he even mentioned Maxwell drawings and prints) into the dumpster, somebody asked if the stuff wasn’t valuable …

    To which he replied, We are the New Chrysler Corp., That, in the dumpster, is the Old Chrysler Corp…

    Just goes to show you, that some people have no historical perspective… at that time, throwing away 60 years of history, to make room for a company that failed in half the time…

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    Speaking of selling classics …

    A friend of the family, long-retired former Chrysler engineering supervisor (and Turbine car engineer) … told me that Jay Leno bought his Turbine car from Chrysler (after the great scrapping of Turbine Cars, of those that did not go to museums, Chrysler supposedly retained 3 vehicles, as well as a set of spare body and chassis parts and turbine aggregates … if the friend is correct, Chrysler now has only 2 Turbine Cars in its collection.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    Jeff,

    “And now my friend, the first rule of Italian driving . . . *yanks off mirror and tosses it aside*. . . what’s behind me is not important.”

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    Mr. Elton,

    Thanks for the article. I wasn’t aware this was going on. Damn shame.

  • avatar
    50merc

    Steven Lang : Hmmmm… I’m wondering what the two Peugeots would go for…

    Some (I don’t know how many) of GM’s culls from the Heritage Collection wound up at the Jackson-Barrett auction in Scottsdale this year. I didn’t spot any Peugots in the list of consignments.

  • avatar
    DoctorH

    A few minor corrections to the recent conversations. The Bentley Library at the University of Michigan only “cherry-picked” some of Kahn’s records, less than 2% of the collection. They took the drawings of Kahn buildings at U of M and “select” auto plant drawings, like the Ford Highland Park Plant, Packard, etc.

    Most of the AMC records, which included records from Hudson and Nash, did NOT fall into private hands. They are at the Chrysler Archives, where I spent two years looking at them. Many photographs, most of them duplicates, were stolen by a PR staff member. Some were damaged as a result of flooding at the AMC Plymouth Road office building.

    The historical engineering books in the Chrysler Technical Library were never moved to Auburn Hills. They were tossed out some fifteen years ago. Most of those books can still be found today at Wayne State’s Science Library and at the Detroit Public Library. I doubt very much that Chrysler would have thrown out engineering drawings when they closed the Technical Library, which I believe was mainly books and technical journals.

    DoctorH

  • avatar
    Mullholland

    All these actions set a bad precedent.
    But by my count, only 25 vehicles off of the list were built after 1970, generally thought to be the golden era of GM. I guess these represent many of the mediocre efforts that led to the recent unpleasantness.
    Like someone else suggested, old GM management selling off all of the incriminating evidence.

  • avatar
    vintagecars

    I looked at many of the GM Heritage cars at B-J (and incidentally the Peugeots were not among them) and most of them had little historical significance. Some were show vehicles done to appeal to small niche audiences (e.g., a Geo Tracker done up like a boom box, an Olds done up in UofM colors or movie car fakes (the GTO Judge for one.)) Others were unimportant examples of production cars or one of several examples that GM owned. There were a few gems, particularly obscure race cars and some fabled Corvettes, but little that really had much meaning for GM history.
    For the most part they went to collectors who appreciate the cars or the aura of GM history attached to them. They found good homes.
    This was a continuing process which GM started several years ago with B-J, not related to the meltdown or Chapter XI.
    Sale to collectors is vastly preferable to the alternative (being crushed into a 3′ square cube.)

  • avatar

    vintagecars

    Historical significance doesn’t necessarily mean rare. In fact, it can be just the opposite.

    Also, remember that a collection has a collective personality, especially for research and/or engineering experience.

  • avatar
    ravello

    This is funny. you bash Fiat she that was the first foreign car that was made in good U S A But the American workers made a good car into junk. Now you all are bashing Fiat. Give them a chance. You will be surprice by the number of engine that other manufactures are using specially diesel ( Fiat engine )By the way the factory was in N Y up state N Y and Ferrari Is beating your German/english/franch/and wathever for many good years and they build the all recing car

  • avatar
    Jeff Puthuff

    Quasimondo,

    Touché.

  • avatar
    Lug Nuts

    The tragedy and sheer stupidity in all of this is that car and history buffs would probably have paid millions for this material had a public auction been held. No doubt a good deal of the material would have been invaluable to the antique auto restoration biz.

  • avatar
    pnegyesi

    Couple of remarks:

    – DoctorH: when you checked the AMC/Hudson/Nash records, did you find any reference to a guy, named Istvan Fekete? He was supposed to be a chief engineer at Hudson. For years I am trying to put together his biography, but I only have fragments.

    – I’ve done research at the Benson Ford Research Center. It is a fantastic and vast archive. It holds the Henry Austin Clark Jr papers, so it’s got to be my favorite. But to be historically accurate: the Ford Motor Company threw away important papers over the last few decades. Namely, the correspondence between dealers and FoMoCo. Having said that I found lots of photos and documents on the Hungarian activities of Ford :)

    – I’ve also done research at the GM Archive in 2005 and had a chat with Greg Wallace, who described in great detail his struggle to save some of the GM historical papers. It seems GM didn’t have a clue on who’s got what – which records should be kept, which records should be destroyed. According to him, it was an uphill struggle and I believe the situation became even worse since then.

  • avatar
    pnegyesi

    Oh, and one more thing. You can count your lucky stars that at least you’ve still got a lots of historical stuff available.

    If you’d look at the situation of historical materials available on vehicles made in Hungary, you would cry.

  • avatar
    DoctorH

    -pnegysi:

    Unfortunately, there was nothing specific about Fekete in the Hudson materials at the Chrylser archives. I know of his work on the Super-Six engine and the Essex, but I learned of this from sources like Conde. You may want to do a patent search under Fekete’s name (most people give his first name of Stephen or Steven). Sometimes Hudson allowed its engineers to take out patents under their own name, but then required them to transfer the patent to the company.

    DoctorH

  • avatar
    NickR

    Does this mean Galen Govier is going to go out of business?

    Pity, I wonder if somewhere in there the real truth about the second ’71 HemiCuda convertible shipped to Canada was buried.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    To think of some of those cars being sold is downright depressing. While some may be preserved, what is to stop someone with cash but no brains from buying one and “customizing” it into irrelevance? They will say its their car and they can do with it as they wish. I have to counter that we are stewards of such items and have an obligation to preserve them for other people just like us in the future. Preservation does not mean that they can’t be used, but modification, no.

    My folks sold a home built in 1910 and we had restored the imported fireplace mantle that was an antique in 1910. Exquisite carved walnut, detailed beautifully. The new owners painted it high gloss green. I wish I had broken in after the sale and stolen it to preserve it.

  • avatar
    Michael Rose

    This is quite distressing. While I was at GM I tried to convince the powers that be to deed the archive to the Automotive History Collection, Henry Ford Museum, the Reuther Collection or some other appropriate professional archive. The goal was to preserve this important historical collection and make it available to scholars and others. This proposal died but the archive did hire trained professionals and has been run in a much more responsive fashion in the last few years. Not sure what its status is but it is clearly a collection that needs to be preserved.

  • avatar
    markolson

    Robert.Walter, Jay does have one of the turbine cars that were in the Archives, he had it delivered on the 16th of June this year. That is car #991242 or just 42 as most of the staff knew it as. It was the car that had been out at the Proving grounds for many years. The other two were in storage at the archives and the one we see most often now was on the Tower (car #47) as that has the best paint job. The other car #30 was stored at the end of the program when the other 46 cars were scrapped – that was 1967 or early 1968 – Jay Leno was only about 19 years old when they were scrapped. No turbine cars have been scrapped since then – thankfully.

  • avatar
    paddy

    Mr Elton,

    Did you check your “facts” with anyone?? Did you speak with the man in charge at Chrysler? There IS still a man in charge you know, and he has a phone. A journalist would at the very least pick up a phone to check facts.

    This quote was taken from a Mopar oriented website.
    NO, I did not check, for I am not a journalist, but I wonder if you could comment on this quote please.

    “The attached article is incorrect. The archives are in wonderful shape. The Engineering Library was closed. It was closed well after I had removed any historical information and added them to the archives and after our Records Retention group also review the material. The remaining material, reference books, periodical, trade journals etc… were given to employees. It was done in a logical and professional manner. The unfortunate part is that I have done nothing for the last 24 hours but respond to this issue. We are writing a “corporate” response to the blogger and hope to have something to him shortly.

    Brandt Rosenbusch”

    Mr Rosenbusch works for the Walter P. Chrysler Museum.

  • avatar
    Michael Rose

    Glad to hear that Brandt is still working with the archives. He was a great help to me when I was working on shows for the History Channel. He and his father (and others) were instrumental in saving the films, photos, documents and vehicles that tell the Chrysler story. I hope he has time some day to write about the efforts to find and save all of this material. Hats off to Brandt — one of the unsung heroes of automotive history.

  • avatar
    tetzi123

    Hello,

    I want to access archives of US automobile manufacturers for my current project on motor transport in India. Can anybody here inform us if there have been developments over the last year regarding GM’s historical records? What a shame if they don’t exist any more! I would be very grateful for information regarding GM and any other relevant US manufacturer.

    Regards
    Stefan


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