My Car Quest

October 23, 2019

Ahead Of It’s Time – The Chrysler Airflow

by Mike –

In 1934 Chrysler made a significant change to traditional car styling with the introduction of the Imperial Airflow model. The Airflow was the first full size car designed with aerodynamics in mind.

Chrysler Airflow

1934 Chrysler Airflow – photo by Randy Stern

Carl Breer, a Chrysler engineer, became interested in shapes and how they effected the aerodynamics of a car and thus the performance.

Chrysler Airflow

Breer, and other Chrysler engineers Fred Zeder and Owen Skelton used a wind tunnel set up in Dayton, Ohio with the assistance of Orville Wright to study the effects of different shapes on the aerodynamic efficiency.

They discovered that conventional car designs were more streamlined running backwards rather than forward. In addition to the aerodynamics Breer and the team also relocated the rear passengers forward so they were in front of the rear axel rather than on top of it. This provided for a more comfortable ride and helped change the front to rear weight distribution to close to 50/50.

Chrysler Airflow

1935 Chrysler Airflow

These were all great ideas that eventually became standard in car designs. However, the American buying public did not like the style of the Airflow and Chrysler sold only a few thousand per year.

Chrysler Airflow

1935 Chrysler Airflow

Chrysler made body changes each year in an attempt to increase sales (you can see the difference in the grille design of the 1934 model and the 1935 model shown here) but by 1937 it was clear it was the end for the Airflow.

Chrysler Airflow

1935 Chrysler Airflow

Click on the images for a larger view.

Chrysler Airflow advertisement

Chrysler Airflow advertisement

Chrysler Airflow advertisement

Chrysler Airflow advertisement

My thanks to Imperial Club for the advertisements.

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Summary
Ahead Of It's Time - The Chrysler Airflow
Article Name
Ahead Of It's Time - The Chrysler Airflow
Description
The 1934 Chrysler Airflow incorporated many innovative design changes that eventually became standard features for all cars but unfortunately for Chrysler the Airflow was not a success.
Author

Comments

  1. The Airflow was so far ahead of its time compared to everything else on the road, that the public could not accept its radical styling. In addition, it was introduced a the height of the Great Depression, when nobody had money to purchase new cars, let alone unconventional ones. To make up for poor sales, Chrysler introduced more conventional cars to be sold along side the Airflow in the showrooms. I would contend, based on the incredibly poor sales numbers, that the Airflow line was a much bigger flop than the Edsel, 35 years later, but nobody really talks about this. Carl Breer talks about his heartbreaking disappointment with the Airflow in his excellent book, “Chrysler Corporation and Its Engineering Legacy”. Glenn in the Bronx, NY

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