Chrysler Airflow (1934)

Chrysler Airflow was a car well ahead of its time. It was one of the first cars shaped according to aerodynamics theory. Chrysler built the industry's first wind tunnel and consulted Orville Wright (the inventor of airplanes) for the design of Airflow. The result was a drag-free body which could take the car to 90 mph.

 The chassis layout was also a breakthrough. While contemporary cars had they engines mounted well behind the front axle and the rear passengers sat over the rear axle, the Airflow moved the engine forward by 20 inches so that all passengers sat within the wheelbase. This allowed a fastback-like tail which reduced turbulence and partial vacuum, hence achieving lower aerodynamic drag. Another benefit of this layout was improved ride quality, especially to the rear passengers. Needless to say, this design became standard many years later, but it was a breakthrough then.

Airflow was also one of the first cars to give up the conventional separate chassis with body on ladder frame. It adopted a spaceframe chassis, with rigid frames surrounding the fenders, doors openings and roof. Steel body panels were attached outside the frame. This offered rigidity and safety superior to contemporary body-on-frame chassis.

The powertrain was more conventional - an inline 8-cylnder engine with side valves, although aluminum pistons were used. The 3-speed manual gearbox was later joined by an overdrive to enhance its cruising refinement. The braking system was very advanced - while other cars employed cable-operated brakes, the Airflow had servo-assisted hydraulic brakes.

Nevertheless, the technologies did not bring the Chrysler sales success. In fact, it was very disappointing. Perhaps its wind tunnel-shaped design was so advanced, people could not accept it. They preferred conventional prominent grilles than the Chrysler's flowing "waterfall" grille. After only 4 years, Chrysler decided to withdraw the Airflow. However, its impact to the automotive world would never be forgotten.


Chrysler Airflow
Year of production
No. produced
30,000 units
Layout, Gearbox
Front-engined, Rwd, 3M
Inline-8, 2v/cyl
5301 cc
122 hp
Top speed
88 mph
0-60 mph
19.5 sec

Copyright© 1997-2009 by Mark Wan @ AutoZine