Josh Gates and the Raiders of the Lost Production Records

Clayboy

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So, obviously too much time on my hand, but I am tired of not having productions records for post 1967 cars and want to do my part.

Yes, you can actually e-mail Josh Gates - digitalgates@hotmail.com and @ joshuagates.com

Yes, maybe I made the story more sexy than it may well be, but hey, that’s Hollywood. If they can make a movie about the story behind the guy who invented intermittent wipers, why not an “Expedition Unknown” episode on these records?

Feel free to also reach out to Josh and say “yes, you should look into this.” Or share/reshare on social media - I quite social media a few years back, but that’s one way to generate interest.

Here’s the e-mail I sent to Josh:

Josh,

Please, help solve a mystery and find a lost treasure.

It’s a story about missing or lost automotive records related to the production of some of the most iconic and storied vehicles ever produced, to include cars from the height of the Muscle Car era.

From a span of history standpoint, it is recent. Many of those involved are alive and should be able to provide first or second-hand knowledge of events surrounding this mystery. The trail to the treasure is not under mounds of impenetrable dirt and rock or overgrown by the jungle, and literally could be in someone’s home or nearby building.

This story has it all – an iconic city, legendary automotive titans, business intrigue and dealings, stories and urban legends, a woman of mystery, riches, and human emotion.

Set in Detroit and framed within the context of the smallest of the “Big Three” automakers – Chrysler, its business and leaders such as Lee Iacocca Robert Eaton, and Robert Lutz. Over the years Chrysler has flirted with bankruptcy, merged with Daimler-Benz, partnered with Fiat, and is now known as Stellantis.

Like many businesses, Chrysler kept detailed production records. Even today, by simply requesting historical production records from the Stellantis archives you will receive information related to your vehicle, iconic or not. The archives have build records for cars from 1930 to 1967 but are missing records after 1968.

The period from 1968 to the early 70’s includes cars from the very heights of the performance and Muscle Car era. Why are these records missing?

Stories and urban legends abound. Such as, records after 1967 were never transferred to the archives. There are some who believe out of fear of being lost due to corporate upheaval, bankruptcy or mergers the records were spirited away for safekeeping. Another is, out of greed due to the significance of the cars of the period, they were purloined for profit. A popular urban legend is they were lost due to a fire in the company archives.

The person who could tell you about the company’s past attempts to find these records is a bit of a woman of mystery. She’s Danielle Szostak-Viers. She works at Stellantis historical records and has got to have one of the coolest jobs in the automotive industry.

Danielle is a mystery in that she’s known and popular to many Chrysler enthusiasts – also referred to as MOPAR fans, although she has likely never been seen by most of them. Danielle cheerfully provides these MOPAR fans with their records, pre-1967, once they are requested.

So, why are these records important to MOPAR fans? Well, there’s both a financial and emotional angle.

According to Hagerty, the insurers of classic and collector cars, around 43 million cars in the U.S. fit the definition of collector vehicle. That’s approximately 16% of all registered vehicles. The combined value of those 43 million cars represents an estimated $1 trillion in total insurable value. $2.2 billion is the total amount of sales from North American collector car auctions.

Put simply, a car with extensive records and documentation will usually sell quicker and for more money than another car without. Provenance equals profit.

More importantly, there are emotional reasons which have nothing to do with making money. It’s about the art and love of the history of the American automobile and these individual cars.

To MOPAR fans, these records bring history to life. It’s about the men and women who conceived, birthed, and built these iconic machines. It’s a link to those autoworkers on the production line who touched each piece of these cars.

Art is only art when it is shared with others. Like art, history is only history when it is shared. These missing records mean the visual and tactile beauty of these cars is incomplete because we don’t have the history, only a story of one.

Josh, can you help solve this MOPAR mystery and find these lost records?

#ExpeditionUnknown #JoshuaGates #JoshGates #Chryslerproductionrecord #buildsheet #broadcastsheet #MOPAR
 
I suspect there ARE some known records of production of E-body cars and maybe B-body cars. Reason? There have been known information as to, for example, how many 1970 'Cuda convertibles with 440s that got white billboard quarter panel decals. Somebody has those records and can/could determine that a particular car, with its option mix, can be a "1 of __" car. The Chrysler car hobby seems to be the home to more "1 of __" cars than others. Except perhaps Corvettes?

The problem was that when those future-desirables were being built, a C-body was "just a car", so little care was taken to archive those records. I suspect somebody kept track of the "_K" genuine police cars, as they were lower-production and easier to keep track of. On the other hand, the rarity of a 440 Newport might have been interesting, it was nowhere ground-breaking or important to the hobby.

As auction prices of B and E-body Mopars have increased to the $40K to $200K range for a good B/RB car, C-bodies are still affordable, as are A-body cars. Of course, most HEMI cars are now "investment grade" rather than otherwise.

When I got one of the early copies of "The Standard Book of Chrysler", one of the first things I looked at was production figures. Compared to some other brands, it seemed that Chrysler's numbers were a bit sloppy by comparison. BUT I was also able to determine that I had three lower-production Chryslers in my possession. Our '66 Newport Town Sedan, my '70 Monaco Brougham DH43 with the 383 4bbl "N" motor, and my '80 Newport 360 2bbl. In those three cars, it is the model and/or equipment mix with makes them "more rare" than their normal models. Hiding in plain, open sight!

Good luck in your project.
CBODY67
 
those numbers are in the option & accessory reports done after each model year production ended.
That may be true, but Stellantis AKA Chrysler AKA Chrysler Group AKA Daimler Chrysler AKA FCA doesn’t have those records. If you know who does, please let me know.
 
those numbers are in the option & accessory reports done after each model year production ended.
Yes, those figures WERE in such reports AND in their procurement records, but where are those records now? That is the issue.

Like any production facility, they need "file cabinet drawer" space and clean things out every so often as a normal matter of course. When that happens, it's "dumpster time" and unless somebody moves to retrieve those things from the dumpster, history is "history". Why the 1968 and later files were not archived somewhere is also a question of interest.

Plus, the main interest in saving such things were focused on the B/E-body cars, I believe, rather than mundane C-body cars.

Enjoy!
CBODY67
 
LOL. Thank you.

Sort of a contemporary Indiana Jones. @joshuagates.

And if you don’t know who Indiana Jones is, you will have to look him up.
 
@Clayboy, very articulate and well written letter, but who is Josh Gates??
I like Josh Gates. He’s an archeologist/adventurer with a show on the Discovery Channel called Expedition Unknown. You know, one of those shows that they set out looking for answers and by the end of the show they’re really not much closer to finding those answers but they interest me and he’s pretty funny.
 
That may be true, but Stellantis AKA Chrysler AKA Chrysler Group AKA Daimler Chrysler AKA FCA doesn’t have those records. If you know who does, please let me know.

Several guys have them or varying years of them. Some times copies come up on e bay.
A lot of effort money and time would need to be put forth to correlate all the numbers.

I know my numbers, I'm good.
 
LOL. Thank you.

Sort of a contemporary Indiana Jones. @joshuagates.

And if you don’t know who Indiana Jones is, you will have to look him up.
Very funny. Hard to be a contemporary with a fictional character from the 1930's, but whatever. I thought this was a real outreach with a former Chrysler exec. Those missing documents are probably at the bottom of a local landfill. Best bet is to grab a shovel and start digging.
 
Yes, those figures WERE in such reports AND in their procurement records, but where are those records now?

What if they still exist but you couldn't read them?

Screenshot 2024-05-15 at 10.42.08 PM.png
 
Reminds me of the one Twilight Zone episode. The last man on earth one. All he wanted to do was read books without being interrupted. When he ends up the last man on earth and surrounded by books , he breaks his glasses.
 
That's NASA's problem. They have all these computer tapes of the old space missions but nothing to play them on!

Darrell Davis went through the Chrysler Historical microfilm records so he could put together his source books. When I received mine from Darrell I went through and found that they built 7 exactly like my car. But that doesn't make it anything special. '63 Sport Fury hardtop, 11:1, Torqueflite, black, copper and black interior, radio, heater, wheel covers, white walls, non-tint glass and no seat belts! I can play Corvette owner and Marti Report too!

The '59 Sport Suburban I learned to drive on, on the other hand, WAS a special car. Red and white like the wagon brochure cover car, 9 passenger, Golden Commando 395, 361, 305 HP, 395 FT LBS of torque, TorqueFlite, 3.31 Suregrip, power steering, power brakes with the bellows, power windows, power tailgate window with the rear passenger switch, MirrorMatic daynight mirror, inside adjustable rear view mirror, Sport Fury steering wheel, air leveling system, clock and doggy dish wheel covers. Who Spec'd THAT one?
 
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Automatic level control, back then? On a non-prestige brand? Good heavens!

CBODY67
 
I have explained this so many times before I refused to write it all out again. Somebody needs to find the old post and stick it here too. A whole lot of nonsense in some of the posts above.

No fire. No flood. Not "Lost" in the sense they were misplaced.

I've had several chats with Brandt Rosenbusch about what he could do to get much of the missing information recreated but the internal politics of Chrysler are preventing that from happening.
 
I have explained this so many times before I refused to write it all out again. Somebody needs to find the old post and stick it here too. A whole lot of nonsense in some of the posts above.

No fire. No flood. Not "Lost" in the sense they were misplaced.

I've had several chats with Brandt Rosenbusch about what he could do to get much of the missing information recreated but the internal politics of Chrysler are preventing that from happening.
From this thread, last page. Is this worth the cost of being a 1 or 2 ever built??????

This is my last post on this topic. I've had enough.

I haven't been in Historical in at least 20 years, so I have no idea what's there now, but I know what was there then.

Historical "should" have the following:

1. Production reports which indicate production, i.e. cars BUILT by engineering model code and body style. At least to 1934 and possibly earlier.

2. Option & Accessory Reports. These are what most people consider "production" although they actually indicate the number of cars SOLD in a particular market. The number SOLD and the NUMBER BUILT car be anywhere from 100% accurate to mid 80% accurate. Historical has or had this information in detail from 1967 on, and in a cruder non model, non body style specific layout to 1960. As I've said before, and this is the last time, this is the installation rate of individual options. About the only combining of options relates to engine & transmission. Historical should or did have this information for the U.S. market. They never had Canadian information or export information (well, I think they have a very little bit of it). Never tracked were cars built for engineering, sold through a U.S. military PX and possibly some other obscure subset market outlets.

3. Shipping invoices. There are/were hundreds upon hundreds of reels of microfilm of shipping invoices or IBM cards for cars sold in the U.S. These went from nearly the dawn of time up into the early 1960s. After that up through early 1967 model year the actual paper copies of the invoices were stored in an area with several hundred four drawer filing cabinets. The shipping invoices listed any optional equipment installed on the car, identified the dealer the car was shipped to, and what was considered to be the official "build" date of the car. Throughout much of the 1967 model year all the way through the 1971 model year, a moronic supervisor working in the building historical and these paper records occupied, took it upon himself to throw out these invoices under the guise of "They're more than 7 years old, we aren't required by law to keep them any more." ( I don't make this **** up.) Once someone realized what he was doing, he was stopped. At least some of the invoices `could' have been reprinted because I learned that at least the master tape from Hamtramck Assembly for the 1970 model year still existed (that's a whole 'nother story), but no one wanted to step up and take the hit on their departmental budget to undertake such a major task.

In the case of your letter, you obviously got a canned response from someone working in Historical who was only regurgitating what they'd been told and either didn't have the will or the skill to find out anything to the contrary.

Polara71 has given us the very short version of this same answer. Historical either doesn't have or doesn't know they have the material listed above. I don't know which. Does someone else have the information?
 
Thanks for digging that up John. Couldn't have said it better myself. Oh wait, I DID say it!!!!!!!!!!!

People who post stuff like "This ' 71 'Cuda in banana yellow is one of TWO built with a 340 and a 4speed are COMPLETELY full of ****! Chrysler didn't track cars by colour and powertrain. Never did. Ever. Maybe somebody's FOUND to yellow 340-4spd cars. But that sure as hell doesn't mean there were ONLY two. And also keep in mind that if the yellow 340-4spd information is actually "true" it's HIGHLY probably that it only pertains to cars sold in the US. Not cars in Canada. Not cars sold in export.

Having said that, I've seen a number of "letters" supposedly from someone at Chrysler/Stellantis telling guys with LX cars that their's is one of however many with the options on their car. The name at the bottom of these letters is illegible and there's no letterhead, so until I see something more verifiable, I'm calling BS on these too. Being ABLE to provide this level of information is very likely well within the capability of Stellantis' computer center, but whether or not there's the will and someone to take a hit on their budget - (it ALWAYS comes down to $$$$$$), don't look for this to happen any time soon.
 
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