I know that I am supposed to write about the greasy side of the RV, down under. But I am going to ask that you bear with an old guy this week with my ramblin’s. I am retiring this week, at age 75. I have been in the automobile business in one form or another since 1946. Yep, age 12 washing cars, sweeping floors, cleaning tools, tending the gas pumps (17.9 cents a gallon) at the family garage. By 1957 I was teaching auto stuff, first for a major auto maker and then by 1962 in High School auto shop. In the following decades I moved to the university level teaching the technical side, then back to the corporate world teaching and back to high schools auto shop. However I have never worked a day in my life. Someone told me when I was a very young man do what you love and you will never work a day in your life, and it is true.
As this for me has turned into a time of reflection, I think that statement was driven home watching the entire news world comment on the life of Tim Russert, who died this week. He is a man who radiated to those around him that he loved his profession.
I am retiring from being 60 years associated with cars trucks and buses, and oh yes RV’s as well. That is over half the total existence of the automobile industry. And what a ride it has been. When I first started in the shop we had several customers still driving crank start cars. The second world war had just ended and the automotive fleet in the US was the biggest pile of over ready for the scrap yard junk ever seen. New cars were delivered to a hungry market that had a few bucks of war time overtime from working in the ship yards and home coming GI’s with money saved that they did not spend while fighting.
In late 1945 the cars started rolling off the assembly lines were dressed up 1942 models. One new company, Kaiser Fraser set the style for the world to follow, a slab sided sedan with no fender outlines. It gave a wider body with more interior room. The industry flirted with the RV market but did not really get serious until the late 50’s and early 60’s. It was in that era that we began to see some serious engineering changes. in the auto and truck designs. Air brakes, power steering, automatic transmissions (first used by Oldsmobile in 38 and 39),
It was these advances that would filter down through the later chassis designs that would put the RV in the hands of the average driver. In the days before power everything driving a truck was an Olympic sport like weight lifting. My first 3/4 GMC pick up with a camper on the back was, compared to today, an ill riding, poor handling, noisy critter with a cramped cab. But we made several long trips and survived. After that came a parade of rigs in our drive way to the present DP.
Dodge was the first manufacturer that took RV seriously and they pretty much owned the market until the federal government made the company give up the heavy chassis line and the rear wheel drive cars to guarantee the loans that Iaccoca needed to pull the company out of the red. It might be noted here that no federal funds were ever used to bail out Chrysler under Lee, only the promise that if the company did not make it that the feds would shore up the banks. The interesting part of the Chrysler story is that Iaccoca paid off all the loans well in advance of the due date.
After Chrysler was pushed from the market the others saw profit and jumped in. And that was good because look at some of the options that we now have. Trucks that ride like cars. Big rigs that outhandle sports cars of fifty years ago. And computer control management of every working part of the machine.
For someone whose life has been keeping track of the innovations and improvements it has been a great ride. Someone asked the other day, now that I am retiring, what I was going to do with my technical library, some of which are books that I wrote. I think that my answer floored her. I said that I was going to add to it, can’t stop learning new things.
Thanks for the indulgence and next week I’ll be back under where I have been told that I belong.