1964: Giovanni Savonuzzi with the only Chrysler Turbine Car not painted bronze. The car was prepared for use in the movie “The Lively Set” starring James Darren and Pamela Tiffin. The photo was taken at his home in Franklin, Michigan. Photo courtesy Alberta Savonuzzi.
A Memoir by Robert F. Pauley
For over 25 years I worked in Chrysler’s Research Design Department and spent many years on the gas turbine program. I started at Chrysler in June 1953 as a chassis-engine designer and later was promoted to Design Supervisor for powerplant research. What follows are some remembrances of the time I spent on the Chrysler turbine program with the Italian engineer and designer Giovanni Savonuzzi. Initially we worked on the third floor of the Engineering Building in Chrysler’s Headquarters in Highland Park, a suburb of Detroit In June 1956 the entire turbine engineering group was transferred to a leased building on Greenfield Road in Detroit about eight miles from Highland Park. The building was devoted to the gas turbine program. It was there that my short but memorable relationship with Savonuzzi took place.
I first met Savonuzzi under rather unusual circumstances. It was in the summer of 1958 and at the time I was working in the Greenfield Road Plant. One day my boss called me into his office and said that he had an assignment for me but that I was not to tell anyone about it. He said that there was an Italian engineer named Savonuzzi in Highland Park who needed some drafting/design work done and that I should go there and see what he wanted. “Wow,” I said, “…you mean THE Giovanni Savonuzzi?” John was taken aback and asked “How do you know about him – they told me it was a secret?” John was not a “car guy” so I had to explain to him that I had read all about Mr. Savonuzzi’s car designs and accomplishments in Road & Track magazine and other car publications. John said “I never heard of him.” And that ended the conversation.
I drove to Highland Park with great anticipation and went up to the sixth floor of the Engineering Building as instructed. At that time the sixth floor was not being used and the corridors were empty. I found the unmarked door and entered into what appeared to have been the waiting room for some big-shot executive many years ago before World War II. The receptionist appeared to have no other job except to guard the door behind her, but when I told her who I was she stepped aside and announced that “Mr. Pauley is here.” The inner room was quite large with dark mahogany walls. There was a small desk, a couple of chairs and a drawing board covered with drawings and styling sketches but not much else. In the middle of the room was a work platform with a large clay model of an exciting-looking car on top of the pedestal.