Remembering Burt Bouwkamp, Chrysler Engineer 19491987

Burt Bouwkamp, passed away October 26, 2022 at age 95. Two weeks after graduating high school he entered the US Navys V-12 Program to be trained as a naval officer. He attended the U of Notre Dame, Indiana State Teachers College and the U of Illinois, where he graduated in Naval Science and was commissioned as an Ensign in the US Naval Reserve in June 1947. In February 1948 he graduated from the U of Illinois with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. He was awarded membership in several honor societies: Bronze Tablet, Tau Beta Pi, Pi Tau Sigma. He then joined Standard Oil of Indiana as an Inspection Engineer at the Whiting, IN refinery. A year later, Burt applied and was selected by Chrysler Corp. for its advanced degree automotive engineering program. He joined Chrysler in February 1949 and graduated from the Chrysler Institute of Engineering in 1951 with a Masters Degree in Automotive Engineering. Burt retired after 38 years at Chrysler Corp. 30 years in the Detroit area, 4 years (1975-1979) in England and 4 years (1983-1987) in Japan. His interests during retirement were golfing (18 handicap), fishing and travel. Burt and his wife Emme had 4 sons, 10 grandchildren and 18 great grandchildren.

Some other interesting tidbits, shared at the Memorial Service celebrating Burt

  • Burt was a Boy Scout Leader for 4 years, and one of his sons attained Eagle Scout under his tutelage

  • Though he didnt plan on it, Burt was recruited by a friend of his to sit for the entrance exam to be accepted into the Chrysler Institute of Engineering. Not only did he successfully complete the exam, he scored higher than all the other applicants who sat for the exam with him.

  • Burt prepared a book entitled Memorable Moments at Chrysler (1949-1987). See the attached photographed copy, that we saw the Memorial Service.

  • Burt also prepared a book entitled The Chrysler 300 on the Sands at Daytona Beach 1955 through 1961 that some 300 Club members have in their libraries. No additional copies are available, but the contents of this book are substantially that presented in this link: Chrysler 300 Letter Cars: Racing at Daytona Beach, 1955-1961 | Allpar Forums

  • Of course, we remember Burt with his onsite success with the 6 Pont-a-Mousson 4-speed Short Ram 300-F coupes, each running the Flying Mile at over 140 mph, with record-setter Gregg Ziegler running its 2-way average of 144.9 mph. This February 1960 Speed Weeks success began in early 1959 when Bob Rodger assigned Burt to lead this effort.

  • We heard the story of Burt and a fellow Chrysler engineer testing a ram 413 on a dyno down at Daytona during 1960 Speed Weeks. They didnt bother hooking up hoses to the exhausts when they fired up the motor. Within 45 seconds the room filled with carbon monoxide, Burt felt like he was going to pass out, grabbed his fellow engineer and they ran out of the room. That was the last time they didnt hook up those exhaust hoses.

  • Along those same lines, Burt had lost most all his hearing in his later years. With all the engine testing he had experienced, in the dyno rooms with no mufflers hooked up, his Family members chuckled that he could barely hear them.

  • As Chief Engineer-Dodge Cars, 1964-1968, Burt was against the production of the 1966-1967 Charger and unhappy with its appearance, but was overruled by Chrysler executives who insisted Dodge had to have a fastback to compete against the Mustang 2+2, introduced in 1965.

  • Also at the Dodge Division, Burt signed off on all engineering and design elements of the 1968 Charger. He successfully pushed to move the fuel filler cap to the top of the left rear fender. Burt owned his B8 Green 68 383 TorqueFlite Charger for years, before selling it to his son John.

  • Burt designed the small whales eye side marker lights found on the forward and rear sides of all 1968 Chrysler Corp. cars round ones on Plymouths and Dodges, square ones on Chryslers and Imperials. Turns out Chrysler higher-ups disliked these and had rectangular reflectors added to the 1969 models. Since this change came so late in the production ramp-up cycle, it was too late to provide lighting for them.

  • Burts sons mentioned that he was most proud of his oversight of Chryslers C2 Project the Horizon/Omni World Car produced 1977-1989, selling 4 million cars. Burt relocated to England, was Director of European Product Development 1975-1979, had to retrain his brain to think in Metric terms and worked to develop this car line both US and European versions appearing identical but having different front and rear suspensions, drivetrains, dashboards and more.