Ken Nowak

Just like Viper VM01, Ken was born in Highland Park, Michigan.  He started building AMT model cars, then fixing and customizing bicycles in grade school.  His upside-down frame, high seat bike made him famous around the east side of Detroit, even as he took down the side door awning with his head on his first ride down the driveway.  He dragged home a wide block 318 on his American Flyer wagon just to see what was inside.  The wagon wheels did not survive. Later, there was a ’29 Ford coupe body shell, a ’23 T-Bucket assembled in his basement, and a 1969 340 Dart Swinger.  In 1972, Ken started with Chrysler Engineering in Highland Park, and began hand assembling prototype vehicles in the Experimental Build-Up room.

Married in 1980, he is father to Andrea and Bryan, and proud “Pepa” to his two grandchildren, Harrison and Elizabeth

With night school classes at U of D, Lawrence Tech, and EMU, Ken finished his B.S. in ’85 while racing the SCCA National Pro Rally series and crewing for Team Shelby in the North American Endurance Cup.  Straightening, bumping, and painting those Showroom Stock Shelby Charger endurance cars is where he earned his shop name “Bondo”.

Ken moved through Chassis Mock-up and Body Shop assignments and into a supervisory position in the Skilled Trades Shops system.  With intimate access to Metal, Wood, Plastic, Trim, and Paint Shops, and an office in the Chrysler Engineering Garage, Ken was able to assemble a dedicated team of craftsmen, and build the Viper White Mule, VMO1 in record time. At that early stage, Ken’s team had only preliminary chassis design, and no body design at all.  His racing timetable mindset, product knowledge, negotiating skills, and access to the company parts bins kept the build on track.  There were Viper hats and donuts involved.  His American Express card and some creative materials procurement kept the Skilled Trades shops working overtime. They were excited to show off their talent and make it happen.

That mule car, now called VM01, was driven by Bob Lutz and Roy Sjoberg within hours of completion.  After hours. In the dark. On a cold December night.  It is now part of the Chrysler Historical Collection.

Ken handled a lion’s share of special vehicle builds through Gen III, including the SRT/10 Rams, Indy 500 Pace Cars, and the Le Mans GTS/R FIA cars.  Ken retired in 2008 and enjoys rally cars, hot rods, his Gen III Viper, power boating, and raising funds for Michigan Special Olympics.