I began my automotive career with Chevrolet in St. Louis, MO. Getting the job is another story for later.
I began work August 16, 1962, It was Thursday, because we were paid on the 15 th and end of the month, 24 times a year. So, I began at the beginning of a pay period.
I grew up in a rural setting spending most of my summer time on an uncle’s farm. I was and still am a somewhat natural mechanic with a insatiable appetite for what makes mechanical things work.
When I arrived at Chevrolet St. Louis, I was asked where I wanted to work. I really did not fully appreciate the difference between inspection and production so I said it did not matter as ever since I was in the 7th grade I just wanted to work for General Motors. I was told that they had a new department called Quality Control. I said “Sounds good to me.”
I began as a Quality Analyst, grade 5, with the responsibility for conducting an outgoing Quality Audit of finished Corvettes. Every day I supervised an inspector who checked finished Corvettes to a standard check list of perhaps 200 items. We assigned one demerit for defects that detracted from the appearance quality of the Corvette but most customers would not take the car to a dealer for repair, like a chip in the paint. We assigned 4 demerits for defects that detracted more severly from the quality of the Corvette that a customer would likely request repaired, like a large scratch or marked upholstery. Ten demerits were assigned to defects that prevented the function of the Corvette such as missing part like a wiper blade or a light bulb that was defective and it was likely that the customer would return to the dealer immediately. Twenty demerits were assigned to safety defects such as a loose mirror or a park brake out of adjustment and the customer would likewise return to the dealer immediately.
The results of the audit were reviewed with management daily and charts posted to show trends in quality. I quickly became intimately knowledgeable of the Corvette.
I learned more about car assembly in a few months than most people as I was afforded the opportunity to report audit findings across the entire plant management and to Chevrolet Central Office in Detroit.
I was approached by John Turek, Supervisor of the Body and Frame Group from Detroit Chevrolet Central Office in November of 1963 concerning a position there. About that same time Augie Slatinski of the Detroit Chevrolet Central Office Product Audit Group approached me for a position there. There is no better feeling than one of being wanted.
I chose the Body and Frame Group. In this position I traveled between Detroit, St. Louis and Ionia Michigan. The Mitchell Bentley Body Company was contracted to build half of the Corvette bodies beginning in December 1963. My job was to coordinate the quality of the Mitchell Bentley bodies, later A.O. Smith, with those produced in St. Louis.
This position exposed me to Detroit Chevrolet Central Office management and Chevrolet Engineering. I met Ed Gray, Director of Chevrolet Quality, Bill Mosher, Vice President of Chevrolet Manufacturing and Semon E. “Bunkie” Knudsen, Vice President of Chevrolet Division.
There were a lot of interesting events associated with the Corvette that I discuss in my book; “Corvette 1963 – 1967”.