The Other Highlander and David A. Wallace

We picked up this seldom-seen Highlander emblem the other day, and despite the name, it has nothing to do with Toyota. The lower part of the emblem reads “New Yorker, ” and that gives away its origins as a Chrysler product. Introduced in 1940, Chrysler also referred to the Highlander as the “Scottie,” and described it as “another notable contribution to advanced, original and swanky automobile styling.”

The Highlander featured Scotch tartan plaid upholstery on the pleated seat cushions and seat backs and matching moleskin leather on door panels, armrests and other trim. This 1940 advertisement gives you an idea what that combination looks like:

The Highlander was the creation of Chrysler president David A. Wallace who, like Walter P. Chrysler himself, was born in rural Kansas. While Chrysler hailed from Ellis, Wallace was born in Castleton in 1887. A 1940 story about Wallace in the Detroit Free Press included an interview with Wallace’s first employer, the owner of the hardware store in Castleton. Wallace worked seven hours a day at the store and also lived with the owner’s family. The owner remembered Wallace as a hard worker who pitched in to help with all the farm chores without being asked.

The similarities with Walter P. Chrysler continued as Wallace’s next step was going to work for the railroad. After that, he gathered more experience in automobile manufacturing and mining before manufacturing tractors for Hart-Parr. When the war started, Wallace served in the motor transport service of the Army where he was ultimately promoted to captain. As a matter of fact, Wallace was promoted everywhere he went, a testament to his skills and work ethic. After the war he went to work for John Deere where he started as a mechanic and was promoted to superintendent. This is when he came to the attention of the Chrysler Corporation. Wallace went to work for Chrysler in 1929 as a staff master mechanic and was quickly promoted to vice-president of Chrysler’s manufacturing division. He was made president of that division in 1937 and held that position until his retirement in 1953.

Wallace’s extensive experience in manufacturing served him well, and he developed a method of superfinishing bearing surfaces so that defects were no more than two-millionth of an inch. The talented Mr. Wallace held around 70 patents in all. He must have also harbored an affection for his Scottish ancestry, and so it only seems right to end this post with a quote from another Wallace, specifically Malcolm Wallace from the movie Braveheart.

“I know you can fight. But it’s our wits that make us men.”

David Wallace clearly had plenty of those.

The Highlander was brought back post-war; this picture is taken from the 1953 Chrysler brochure.

More about Walter P. Chrysler: Revisiting Walter P. Chrysler’s Boyhood in Ellis, Kansas