Chrysler Airflow, post-1929 bet

Chrysler Airflow, post-1929 bet


After the 1929 crisis, American manufacturers faced a recession that reduced production from 2.5 million cars in 1930 to 1.5 million two years later. They then become aware of the limits of the aggressive defense strategy, which includes reducing the size and strength of their models. And decide, for some, to significantly renew their methods.

The Chrysler Airflow, which appeared in 1934 at the New York Auto Show, is undoubtedly the most obvious expression of this change in direction. The most obvious break is aesthetic. Although the cars looked like square boxes and convertibles, the Airflow does a clean job. There is no vertical grille or a long horizontal hood, but a series of curves, as well as a large “sliding” radiator grill and headlights integrated into the bodywork. These options, refined during wind tunnel tests – which are very rare at the time – caused a sensation. Chrysler had not invented everything. The brand had sensed the spirit of the times and understood the importance of the Animating trend, a method that favors fluidity and balanced shapes with the aim of improving the performance of the space. Chrysler’s bow bears a striking resemblance to that of the new engines of the 1930s, and its silhouette, inspired by aeronautics, evokes the profile of the DC-3. The result is a reduction in energy consumption and, in general, fewer parts to assemble during manufacturing.

So far, so soon…

Airflow is also designed using the independent bodywork principle that gives greater latitude in terms of design and enhances the vehicle’s rigidity, and therefore safety on board. It is one of the first cars to focus on the protection of its passengers. Chrysler also installs the mechanics partially in front of the wheels and the bench seat, just in front of the rear axle, to free up space while improving comfort. The center of gravity is the ceiling and the distribution of weight is better balanced.

Received with genuine enthusiasm, the Chrysler Airflow was an illusion, but sales were disappointing. Run by Walter Chrysler (the former Buick boss had created his own brand in 1924) who relied on disruptive options, its designers went too far, too early. This style ahead of its time is not a designer’s car, but an engineer’s car, and its passive approach is the opposite of the consumer mentality. Although the outcome of the conflict is still evident, weakening the public is counter-productive. Appeared in 1936, the Lincoln Zephyr, also inspired by the Refinement movement but based on conventional engineering, won the day. In France, the Peugeot 402 of 1935, recognizable by its clustered headlights behind the radiator grille, adopted the same style called “Fuseau Sochaux” with some success.

The Depression of 1929 actually buried the Ford T by pushing the car to free itself from the call of consumption. Mysterious pioneers, Chrysler Airflow made a school by announcing the pursuit of aerodynamic performance and, also, the desire for more aesthetic distinction between brands and models. Thanks to him, curves will win. Until the uncontrolled growth of the “glorious thirties” crowned the triumph of sharp corners and pointed fins of models from the 1950s to the 1970s.

Conflicts in retro