Chrysler Airflow

Chrysler Airflow Series CU (1934 )

The Chrysler Airflow was an automobile, the Chrysler 1934-1937 produced. The Airflow was the first major American production car, which took advantage of the streamlined shape as the basis for a sleeker automobile, one that opposed less resistance to the wind. Chrysler Airflow made ​​with the first attempt at a fundamental design change, but this was ultimately one of the greatest failures in the history of automobiles.

Emergence of the Airflow project

The Chrysler Airflow arose from the interest of the Chrysler engineer Carl Breer on the impact of forms on the movement of a car in its environment. According to Chrysler, the idea Breer was born when he saw geese flying in V formation through the air. Another source says after Breer that he watched military planes during maneuvers, while others sources, the idea Breer's interest in airships and how their shape helps them to push himself through the air to write.

Breer began with his work colleagues Fred Zeder and Owen Skelton a series of wind tunnel experiments which he carried out with the help of Orville Wright, to determine which would be the natural forms created by the most suitable for an automobile. Chrysler built a wind tunnel at its plant in Highland Park ( Michigan) and tested until April 1930 at least 50 scale models. The engineers found that the then standard two -volume automobile was aerodynamically inefficient that even better values ​​were obtained when allowed to flow onto the back of the model! When the engineers were applying what they had learned about shapes in the wind, they also examined ways to build a car with a monocoque construction, on the one hand to create a stiffer body body and the other hand to reduce the weight and thus reduce the power to weight ratio, with the streamlined body, the air around led to, rather than that they would be caught in the upright forms, such as the grille, headlights or windshields.

Traditionally shaped automobiles that time had the typical two -volume form with about 65 % of the weight on the rear axle. A full passenger occupancy weight distribution has been unbalanced such that 75 % or more of total weight of layers on the rear wheels, resulting in unsafe driving performance on slippery roads. The spring rates on the rear wheels of these cars was necessarily much higher than at the front wheels, which the passengers gave a very uncomfortable ride.

An innovative suspension system in the new Chrysler Airflow had its basis in the need for better driving behavior. The engine has been shifted over traditional cars forwardly beyond the front and the seats have been moved forward so that the passenger sitting now between the axles, instead of to the rear axle. The total weight was thus around 54 % on the front, which is at full occupation of the cars improved to about 50%. This was balanced spring rates, better handling and greater ride comfort much consequence.

Beginnings and changes in airflow

Before the introduction of the Chrysler Airflow built a demonstration model with swapped axes, which allowed the car to go "backwards" by Detroit. This demonstration led almost to a panic, but gave the audience a hint that Chrysler was planning something really big. The car was like no other American production car this time.

The Airflow, which was strongly influenced by streamline design, was smooth and low compared to other cars on American roads. The grille was staggered forward and down and formed an arch, while others had an upright in the wind cooler. The headlights were incorporated directly into the body and solid fender covered a large part of the rear wheels.

Instead of a flat windshield had the Airflow one of two parts that formed both to the sides and up and down a V. The passengers sat in an all-steel body inside the vehicle frame instead of this. ( Many car manufacturers such as Ford and Chrysler even offered even then still bodies in composite construction, where steel plates were mounted on a wooden substructure, an). The front seats were wider than other cars and the rear seats sat lower in the vehicle. Overall, the car had a better power to weight ratio at the same time increased torsional rigidity.

The car was introduced months before production begins; production peaked in May 1934, 6,212 units, very late in the model year, so that hardly any merchant could be supplied with at least a single Chrysler Airflow. Production was not prepared for the difficulties had ready the new design, for example, many different welding processes. The first delivered Airflow had to contend with dire problems that are the result of faulty manufacturing were mainly. According to Fred Breer ( son of the designer Carl Breer ) had the first 2,000 - 3,000 airflow that the factory left many defects, such as motors, they broke away at speeds of 130 km / h from its anchorage.


1934 offered both Chrysler and operations currently located between Plymouth and Chrysler middle-class brand DeSoto Airflow to a. DeSoto should only offer the Airflow model, Chrysler, however, was taking no chances and offered an additional six-cylinder variant of its more conventional 1933er model to. The Airflow had a series of eight-cylinder engine with side- side valves and it was there as a 2- door coupe and 4-door sedan.

Within six months after the introduction of Airflow for sale disaster began to grow. General Motors launched an advertising campaign that would discredit the Airflow. Most experts in automotive history, but confirm that the Airflow was largely unsuccessful because they did not like his looks. Hood, "waterfall" grille, headlight and fender were merged into one continuous form that was perceived as " unidentifiable lump ". Although the airflow through and through was modern, people got used to it slowly. At the height of the Great Depression of the car many customers seemed too advanced and too different from anything previously familiar. Although the Airflow in the first year of production sold quite well, he was surpassed by Chrysler's traditional coupes and sedans by far. On 4 Airflow models were 10 other models and in the first year Airflow 10,839 were sold.

In 1934 DeSoto things were far worse than at Chrysler. Without the "Standard" model sales fell through the floor. And while the Airflow design at Chrysler longer looked relatively balanced, the DeSoto appeared rather short and dumpy.

It held also rumors that the " new-fangled " body was unsure of what was mostly wrong. In a promotional film shown in cinemas often an empty Airflow was pushed off a cliff in Pennsylvania and crashed about 30 m from; when he was put back on its wheels, he could, though dented, but still clearly visible, continue


Disappointed with the lack of customer interest in Chrysler responded with body changes and designed the front of the vehicle more in accordance with the public taste. The most important change in 1935 was a slightly tapered grille of the copy replaced the " waterfall " of 1934.

Chrysler also introduced a standard model with all-steel body, which was offered as a Chrysler Airstream, or DeSoto Airstream. The Airstream has been popular and has sold much better than the Airflow.

The production figures for the Chrysler Airflow fell below 8,000 units in 1935; on an Airflow came about four Airstream.


1936 lost the Airflow its curved back, because a boot has been used. The grille has also been emphasized more. Only an Airflow model, the 4-door Imperial sedan (C -10), broke the 1,000 - border and was made ​​4,259 times. Otherwise, the number of Airflow dropped to 6,275 units, while the Airstream this year sold over 52,000 times. 1936 was the last year in which the top model was made by Chrysler Imperial Airflow as.


In its last year of production, there were Airflow from a single model, a 2 - or 4 -door sedan. A total of 4,600 units were produced this year up to the attitude of the model. This year was an Airflow sedan to the official car of the President of the Philippines, Manuel Quezon. The historic car was restored in 1978 and is on display in Quezon City.


Design elements of the airflow are taken from some other brands. Probably the first on the market was probably the Volvo PV36 introduced in 1935. Among the best known and longest -built part of the "02" series from Peugeot with the types 202, 302 and 402 Introduced as 302 and 402 in 1936, the last version was built in 1938 of nachgeschoben 202-1949. Also 1936 was introduced in Japan, the Toyoda AA. The precursor of the Toyota based on an also held in the Airflow style prototype of 1935, the A1. Other versions were built in small numbers until the 1940s.

Chrysler's attempt to settle with the airflow from other automakers failed to clear. The lack of market success ensured that the company struck a more conservative way for future models and the designers were even stronger than previously controlled by the technicians suspicious. The were also brilliant designs of chief designer Raymond Dietrich victim. Until the presentation of Virgil Exner's "Forward Look" 1955 Chrysler styling was conservative and conventional.

It is said that Ferdinand Porsche early Airflow Coupe brought to Germany and used it as inspiration for his Volkswagen. Unmistakable similarities between the two vehicles suggest this theory.

Today, most cars are made ​​with the help of the wind tunnel and aerodynamic car like the Ford Thunderbird and the Ford Taurus are selling very well.

Model Cars

Although the airflow is not as often as the model car appeared, such as the cord or the Duesenberg, there are still many die-cast models of it; a pre-war model was 2006 eBay for 5.000, - sold U.S. $, ie approximately at the price, which the new model cost at the time. From the company Brooklin Models a now out of print white metal model (No. 7) of the Airflow Sedan appeared in 1934 at a scale of 1:43. A die-cast model of an Airflow Sedan 1936 1:32 by Signature may be still available.