1937 Chrysler Airflow: An Underrated Masterpiece

1937 Chrysler Airflow: An Underrated Masterpiece

Engine Inline 8-cylinderHorsepower130 hp at 3400 rpmTorque339 Nm at 1600 rpmWeight1782 kgDrive TypeRWDEngine LocationLongitudinal frontTransmission3-speed manualFront brakeHydraulic drumRear brakeHydraulic drum

The most influential car of the 1930s, the prototype for many iconic cars, the 1934-1937 Airflows almost ended up as a disaster for the Chrysler empire.

Source: Bid.Cars

The Great Depression was survived due to the very successful Dodge and Plymouth brands created in the late 20s shortly after the start of the economic crisis. In the mid-thirties, the design-leading model shook Chrysler’s empire hard, arriving just a little too early. It paved the way for competitors – such as the Lincoln Zephyr, and the “airstream” in general, but turned into a failure itself.

The origins

Source: Wallpaper Flare

The model was released in honor of the 10th anniversary of the Chrysler empire, which in 1924 quickly became one of the top four, and then the top three companies in the industry. And how else to celebrate the anniversary, if not by creating a revolutionary new car? The main sensation of the New York Auto Show in 1934 was the world’s first monocoque model with good aerodynamics – Chrysler Airflow. The authors of the machine were engineers Fred Zeder, Carl Breer, and Owen Skelton, who were nicknamed the “Three Musketeers” for their great teamwork. As it was usually done in the automotive industry, half of the decisions were based on aviation. The model was the quintessence of engineering: a load-bearing all-metal body, a silhouette worked out in a wind tunnel, an engine above the front axle, automatic overdrive in the transmission, compact propeller shaft crosses on needle bearings, tubular seat frame, “alligator” hood, recessed into the headlight trim… The model, or rather the most expensive of its designs, was the first in the industry to use a curved windshield, which was so difficult to build and install that four out of five copies burst.

The Origins

Source: Drive2

The inspiration for this project was Carl Breer, one of the “Three Musketeers” of the great Chrysler. According to company legend, Breer once watched a flock of geese in flight. But as they approached, he realized that it was not geese, but a squadron of military aircraft on maneuvers. It was one of those enlightening moments. Breer realized that wind resistance created serious obstacles for cars. He applied the aerodynamic principle of minimizing wind resistance to a passenger car, resulting in the birth of the Airflow model. It was a breakthrough, especially for passenger cars of those years, since by that time some of the best cars were capable of reaching speeds of up to 80, some 90 miles per hour.

1937 model year

Source: besthqwallpapers

In the final year of production of this futuristic car, the number of produced cars was reduced to a single Airflow Eight model. The machine was produced in trim levels of a two-door coupe and a four-door sedan. In the last year, a total of 4600 machines were produced, or rather 4603. The last three were intended for Milton Hershey (the founder of the chocolate company of the same name), Philippine President Manuel Quezon, and radio host Edward Bowes. Minor changes to the model year included flat instrument panels with recessed controls, padded door handles, and padding on the front seat backs. The body of the vehicle was built around steel beams in the form of a cage, to which the panels were welded. The design of the car had a tightly integrated body and frame structure, which significantly increased the rigidity of the chassis. In general, the iconic machine maker emphasized the strength of the model. During one of the 1937 model demonstrations, it was even thrown off a 110-foot-high cliff. Falling, it landed on the wheels below, after which was thrown back by its strength. However, Chrysler suffered losses since launching Airflow. Buyers simply disliked the unusual design of the novelty. They simply did not want to acquire a car that looked so different from the ordinary look. Chrysler Corporation even made a film – a kind of user guide to explain to customers the benefits of the new design in simple language and using simple terms. Unfortunately, this did not help much – 1937 was the last model year: Chrysler Airflow lasted only three years on the assembly line (1934-1937). Soon the car was forgotten. American buyers were not ready to accept the unfamiliar streamlined shapes that did not become common until ten years later. A progressive, revolutionary idea that appeared ahead of time, did not receive support from buyers, and failed. 

Did you know?

The first Toyota Crown

Source: Toyota UK Magazine

Toyota began its automotive business in 1937 with a large sedan, making it an outwardly simplified copy of the American Chrysler Airflow.  This iconic American car was also copied by Volvo, even though it did not become successful in the States.

For more interesting car stories visit our Car Library section.

1937 Chrysler Airflow: An Underrated Masterpiece

Engine Inline 8-cylinderHorsepower130 hp at 3400 rpmTorque339 Nm at 1600 rpmWeight1782 kgDrive TypeRWDEngine LocationLongitudinal frontTransmission3-speed manualFront brakeHydraulic drumRear brakeHydraulic drum

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