The Chrysler Airflow is a full-size car produced by Chrysler from 1934 to 1937. The Airflow was one of the first full-size American production car to use streamlining as a basis for building a sleeker automobile, one less susceptible to air resistance. Chrysler made a significant effort at a fundamental change in automotive design with the Chrysler Airflow, but it was ultimately a commercial failure.
Carl Breer, along with fellow Chrysler engineers Fred Zeder and Owen Skelton, began a series of wind tunnel tests, with the cooperation of Orville Wright, to study which forms were the most efficient shape created by nature that could suit an automobile. Chrysler built a wind tunnel at the Highland Park site, and tested at least 50 scale models by April 1930. Their engineers found that then-current two-box automobile design was so aerodynamically inefficient, that it was actually more efficient turned around backwards. Applying what they had learned about shape, the engineers also began looking into unibodyconstruction to achieve rigidity with less weight than could be achieved with the conventional separate frame and body. The strengthening was demonstrated in a publicity reel. The car thus represented a breakthrough in lightweight-yet-strong construction as well as increasing the power-to-drag ratio as the lighter, more streamlined body allowed air to flow around it instead of being caught against upright forms such as radiator grilles, headlights and windshields.
Traditional automobiles of the day were the typical two-box design, with about 65% of the weight over the rear wheels. When loaded with passengers, the weight distribution tended to become further imbalanced, rising to 75% or more over the rear wheels, resulting in unsafe handling characteristics on slippery roads. Spring rates in the rear of traditional vehicles were, therefore, necessarily higher, and passengers were subjected to a harsher ride.
Innovative weight distribution on the new Chrysler Airflow stemmed from the need for superior handling dynamics. The engine was moved forward over the front wheels compared with traditional automobiles of the time, and passengers were all moved forward so that rear seat passengers were seated within the wheelbase, rather than on top of the rear axle. The weight distribution had approximately 54% of the weight over the front wheels, which evened to near 50-50 with passengers, and resulted in more equal spring rates, better handling, and far superior ride quality.
For 1934, both Chrysler and its junior running mate, DeSoto, were scheduled to offer the Airflow. DeSoto was assigned to offer nothing but Airflows; Chrysler, however, hedged its bets and continued to offer a six-cylindervariant of its more mainstream 1933 model cars. The Airflow used a flathead I8 engine and was produced in both 2-door coupe and 4-door sedan variants.
Within six months of the Airflow's introduction, the vehicle was a sales disaster. Adding insult to injury, General Motors mounted an advertising campaign aimed at further discrediting the Airflows. Most automotive historians, though, agree that the Airflow was shunned in large part because buyers did not like its looks. The hood, waterfall grille, headlamps, and fenders were all merged into one continuous form that was interpreted as an "anonymous lump". While thoroughly modern, the public was slow to embrace the Airflow. At the depth of the Great Depression, the car seemed to be too advanced, too different for many consumers. While Airflows sold in respectable numbers in its first year, Chrysler's traditional sedans and coupes far outsold the Airflow by 2.5 to one, with first year Airflow sales at 10,839 units.
DeSoto fared far worse than Chrysler for 1934. Without any "standard" car to sell, DeSoto's sales numbers plunged. And while the Airflow design looked somewhat sleek on the Chrysler's longer wheelbase, the DeSoto appeared to be short and stubby.
While the Airflow may have signaled Chrysler's attempt to set itself apart from other manufacturers, the failure of the car in the marketplace caused the company to take a more conservative path with its future models. Until the debut of Virgil Exner's "Forward Look" cars of 1955, Chrysler's corporate styling was conservative and mainstream.
It is rumoured that Ferdinand Porsche imported an early Airflow coupe into Germany, and using this model for "inspiration", designed the first Volkswagen Beetle. The similarities between early Volkswagen Beetles and the Airflow coupes could be a testimony to this hypothesis. Regardless of any effect it may or may not have had with Dr. Porsche, the revolutionary benefits of the design were immediately evident to designers the world over. U.S. designers could not and did not ignore the benefits of all steel construction, aerodynamics and a rear seat forward of the rear axle. General Motors was quick to respond with all-steel " Turret Tops", and other manufacturers either followed suit or went out of business.
In other countries, where gasoline was more expensive and practical considerations were therefore more important than styling, the flattery-by-imitation was even more sincere. Volvo was one of the first to get a smaller copy of the Airflow into production. The Peugeot 202 would become a major sales success (to Chrysler's chagrin), and imitating the Airflow would be the secret of the success of a brand-new venture in the auto business called Toyota.
Time has been the Airflows best friend as they are now considered quite attractive by most observers, and the extremely rare coupe is on most collectors short list of "must have" cars.
OK enough about the revolutionary Airflow-lets talk about this car!
This very rare C-10 Chrysler Airflow Coupe is a very low mile example that exhibits many original features, although it has obviously been restored quite nicely. The car runs and drives exceptionally well and would make a great candidate for CCCA CARavans. The paint is quite nice, the brightwork in excellent condition, the interior is comfortable and attractive, and all the guages work. With some good engine bay restoration this car could well be suitable for the show circuit.
Chrysler Airflow Coupes are quite rare and desirable, often trading hands well into the 6 figures. This is a rare opportunity to get one of the most pivotal cars of all time affordably and improve it as you enjoy it.