“Fashioned by Function” – The Revolutionary Chrysler Airflow

That aerodynamics are an integral part of automobile design today cannot be denied. Some complain that it makes all modern cars look alike, but that was not the case at all back in 1934. In fact, just the opposite was true. This film from Chrysler Corporation explained their new design in clear and simple terms. In it you can learn much of what the company discovered in the quest to build the new streamlined Airflow. At the same time, it clearly demonstrated to the public the refined approach of using design and aerodynamics instead of brute horsepower to move a car through the air.

By turning the body of a Plymouth sedan around and mounting it on the chassis backwards in 1933, Chrysler Engineering demonstrated that the wind resistance was reduced significantly and built on that for the introduction of the Airflow in 1934. Racing great Harry Hartz promptly followed that up with a 24 hour run at Bonneville in the new car where he set 72 class “B” records. After that performance, he next made a coast to coast economy run in a DeSoto Airflow averaging an outstanding 18.1 miles per gallon. You can watch films of both of the runs here. Thanks to Mac’s Motor City for introducing us to today’s video.

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5 Responses to “Fashioned by Function” – The Revolutionary Chrysler Airflow

  1. Tom M. says:

    I’ve always wondered: racing cars had been designed for aerodynamic qualities long before the Airflow.

    1928 Golden Arrow:

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/36/1929_Golden_Arrow.JPG

    What took passenger car designers so long to catch up?

    Tom M.

  2. Tom M. says:

    Gets more interesting when we look at other aerodynamic designs that never caught on. Aurel Persu’s 1924 “teardrop” car:

    http://www.autoevolution.com/news-image/persu-the-rain-drop-car-31151-3.html

    Not to mention Fuller’s Dymaxion car and Stout’s Scarab.

    With the exception of the T87 Tatra, maybe it’s the “looks interesting, but NIMG” factor (Not In My Garage).

    Tom M.

  3. David Schultz says:

    I owned a 1934 Chrysler CV Airflow for several years. It was an excellent driving automobile. The car was built with an overdrive, which further enhanced performance. One puzzler–with all its engineering innovations, it didn’t have independent front suspension; it had a solid axle. I regret selling the car and wish I had it today.

  4. Tony Costa says:

    In answer to the question Tom M. raises, production cars still
    needed lots of road clearance in the ’20′s. Road speeds were low,
    so wind resistance wasn’t a big deal for a trip to the market. Besides,
    the luggage capacity of the 1928 Golden Arrow is extremely limited.
    Even the race cars that were “streamlined”(Baker Electric “Torpedo
    Kid” 1904; the Stanley Steamer Fred Marriot did 127 MPH in 1906;
    and others) were not streamlined because their builders studied the
    problems of wind resistance scientifically; they were merely groping
    empirically toward an as yet unknown shape. Even in 1928, the fastest
    planes did not travel as fast as the fastest autos (1928 White Triplex,
    Ray Keech made 207.6 MPH). The Aerodynamic cars prior to ’34,
    6,000 lb. beauty queens that would have taxed any wind tunnel of the
    time…V16 Cad….V12 Pierce, were for show purposes. Jan. 1 1934
    changed that! Chrysler and Hupmobile release new cars, both
    designed in wind tunnels to scientifically cheat the wind. One was
    grating on the senses, as the engineers must have locked out the
    stylists during development and the other had the benefit of Raymond
    Lowey and another genius Amos Northup (Reo Royale, Graham Blue
    Streak 1st skirted fenders) to make it presentable(the Hupmobile).
    The public took their wallets and ran away from both cars. Progress be
    damned?

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