On this day in auto history - August 18th

Wed 18th Aug 2021

It was on this day in 1940 that legendary American car manufacturing tycoon Walter P. Chrysler passed away at the age of 65.

Born in Kansas, Chrysler learnt his trade as a mechanic before perfecting his craft working for several Western railroad companies. He was so fascinated by the early automobiles that he quickly took apart the first car he ever bought to understand how it worked. He then promptly put it back together again.

Chrysler accepted an offer to become manager of the Buick plant in Michigan for just $6,000 a year in 1911 but - after helping boost annual profits to $50 million - he was installed as president in 1916 and became one of the best paid executives in the world with a package which included him receiving $500,000 a year in General Motors stock.

Chrysler left GM to rescue ailing manufacturer Willys-Overland on a staggering salary of $1 million per year, before acquiring a controlling interest in the struggling Maxwell Motor Company which he duly phased out and absorbed into his new firm, the Chrysler Corporation, in 1925.

Over the next few years, Chrysler had launched the Plymouth and DeSoto marques whilst purchasing Dodge for a mammoth $170 million.

With his eponymous company riding high, Chrysler was named Time magazine’s 'Man of The Year' for 1928 and made worldwide headlines in 1930 when financing the construction of the Chrysler Building in Manhattan which, at over 1,000 feet, was briefly the world’s tallest building until surpassed the following year by the Empire State Building.

Chrysler eventually stepped down from the day-to-day running of Chrysler in 1936 at a time when it was regarded as one of the “big three” automakers in the world alongside Ford and GM.