Burt Bouwkamp passed away on October 26, 2022. He was the second born of five children of William and Beatrice Bouwkamp. Burt was born in 1926 in Grand Rapids and graduated from Union High School in 1944. Two weeks later, he entered the U.S. Navy V-12 Program to be trained as a naval officer. He attended the University of Notre Dame, Indiana State Teachers College, and the University of Illinois where he graduated in Naval Science and was commissioned as an Ensign in the United State Naval Reserve in June 1947. In February 1948 he graduated from Illinois with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering. He was awarded membership in several honor societies: Bronze Tablet, Tau Beta Pi, and Pi Tau Sigma. After graduation he joined Standard Oil of Indiana as an Inspection Engineer at the Whiting, Indiana, refinery. After one year at Standard Oil, Burt applied and was selected by Chrysler Corporation for their advanced degree automotive engineering program. He joined Chrysler in February 1949 and graduated from the Chrysler Institute of Engineering in 1951 with a Master’s Degree in Automotive Engineering. Burt met Mary Ellen (“Emme”) Clark of Rockford, Illinois, at the University of Illinois in 1946. They married in November of 1948 and had four sons: Bruce, Steve, Bob and John. Burt retired after 38 years at Chrysler Corporation-30 years in the Detroit area, 4 years (1975-1979) in England, and 4 years (1983-1987) in Japan. Emme and Burt enjoyed their overseas assignments. Three job assignments at Chrysler gave Burt the most satisfaction: 1. In 1960 he was in charge of a program to establish a new speed record at the NASCAR Daytona Beach Speed Trials with six Chrysler 300F’s. All six cars exceeded 140 MPH and all six cars broke the previous flying mile record set by professional driver Tim Flock in a 1956 Chrysler 300B. 2. As Chief Engineer of Dodge from 1964 to 1968, Burt was responsible for the planning and development of the Dodge Charger model. From 1966 to 1974, over 700,000 Dodge Charger models were built. 3. As Director of European Product Development from 1975 to 1979, Burt was in charge of the planning, design and development of the Chrysler Europe Horizon model. The automotive press selected it to be European Car of the Year in 1978. Chrysler USA management liked the design and decided to build it in the USA where the product was named Plymouth Horizon and Dodge Omni. The Horizon/Omni was recognized as “Motor Trend Magazine’s” Car of the Year in 1979. Over the next 10 years, more than three million Horizon/Omni were built. After retiring from Chrysler in 1987, Burt returned to his hometown of Grand Rapids and worked one year as a consulting engineer for Prince Corporation in Holland and one year for HI-LEX Corporation in Battle Creek. From 1990 to 2014, Emme and Burt split their years between a Grand Rapids home, a Mecosta cottage, and a home in Melbourne, Florida. Burt’s interest during retirement were golfing, fishing and travel. In 2014 they moved to Porter Hills Village in Grand Rapids. Burt is survived by his wife Mary Ellen, his sons, Bruce (Cathleen) of Leawood, Kansas, Stephen (Jennifer) of N. Venice, Florida, Robert (Cheryl) of Stanwood, Michigan, and John (MaryEllen) of Hudsonville, Michigan, 10 grandchildren, and 18 great-grandchildren. Burt was preceded in death by his parents, his siblings, and a granddaughter. A Memorial Service will be held on November 12, 2022, 11:00 am, at Porter Hills Village, The Meeting House, 3600 E Fulton Street, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49546. Contributions in honor of Burt, can be made to National Kidney Foundation of Michigan, 1169 Oak Valley Dr., Ann Arbor, MI 48108.
Posted online on October 28, 2022
Published in The Detroit News, Detroit Free Press