1934 Chrysler Custom Imperial CX Airflow 4-Door Sedan
Original cost: $1,245.00 (In 1934: Average household income, $1,600.00; average home cost $5,970.00; gallon of gas, 15 cents)
On loan from: Speedway Motors Museum of American Speed, Lincoln, NE
Number made: 7,226
Engine, etc.: 299 cu. in., 122 hp; flathead straight 8; 123.5” wheelbase
The Chrysler Airflow was ahead of its time in using streamlining for less air resistance. Chrysler Engineer Carl Breer was responsible for the concept of the Airflow. He was curious as to how form affected movement and his concept began while watching geese fly in a “V” pattern and by watching military planes practice maneuvers. Wind-tunnel testing assisted by aviation expert Orville Wright who was called in as a consultant resulted in engineering innovations that allowed air to flow around the car rather than being stopped by the radiator and windshield. The design was the basis for all modern cars. Cars produced at the time were so aerodynamically ineffective that it was actually more efficient to drive them backwards.
The new design moved the engine forward over the front axle, placing passengers in front of the rear axle, and used a welded unitized body instead of traditional carriage body bolted to a chassis.
In a publicity stunt, Chrysler reversed the axles and steering gear in one car which allowed it to be driven “backwards” throughout Detroit. Though the car created near panic, the stunt worked. People learned Chrysler planned a car unlike any American production car at the time.
The design, however, was so far ahead of its time that sales suffered. It looked very different from other cars of the time and wasn’t what customers wanted. The waterfall grille was so unusual and controversial to the point that later models were given more conventional grills. Front fenders covered the tires and fender skirts in the rear smoothed air flow toward the back. The windshield was slanted from side to side as well as top to bottom. It had a full steel body instead of partial wood framing then common.
The interior was roomy and comfortable with ample room for passengers who enjoyed a much smoother ride since they were no longer seated on top of the rear axle.
Because of the unique and expensive new design, the car required a variety of welding techniques. Early models had numerous problems including breaking loose from their mountings at 80 mph.
In 1935 Chrysler modified the body to bring it more in line with public taste. A new model, the Airstream was introduced and proved very popular. Production of the Airflow dropped to below 8,000 which was about four Airstreams made for every Airflow. By 1936, only 6,275 Airflows were made compared to 52,000 Airstreams. The final year for Airflows was 1937 when only one model was offered.
http://oldcarbrochures.com/static/NA/Chrysler_and_Imperial/1934_Chrysler/1934_Chrysler_NY_Auto_Show%20_andout/dirindex.html (Original Chrysler New York Auto Show handout)