LETTER TO THE EDITOR

More on Sperlich and the minivan

To the Editor:

The story "The ultimate survivor" about Dodge (June 16) is wrong. Hal Sperlich did not bring the minivan idea to Chrysler in 1977.

It was being worked on by Chrysler’s advanced stylists and engineers in the early 1970s, but we could not sell the idea to John Riccardo, then Chrysler’s president. He said Chrysler didn’t have the money to tool another product entry, and he said that if the idea were any good Ford and General Motors would have one in their lineups.

Sperlich should get credit for improving the design. For example, he insisted on flush side glass, and he was instrumental in redesigning our “garageable van” (our term) concept for front-wheel drive.

Sperlich also sold the concept to Lee Iacocca. Iacocca was automotive savvy — he liked the concept and the design execution — and had the guts to say "let's do it." Iacocca probably had less money to work with than Riccardo.

Sperlich made it happen, but he didn’t bring the minivan idea to Chrysler. Without his involvement and Iacocca's support, however, it would not have happened.

BURT BOUWKAMP

Grand Rapids, Mich.

The writer is retired. He was Dodge's chief engineer from 1964 to 1968 and Chrysler's director of product planning from 1968 to 1975.

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