The Chrysler Airflow is an Art Deco blast from the Great Depression. As its name suggests, this car’s biggest claim to fame is an aerodynamic body.
Slippery shapes are taken for granted today with automakers pushing to reduce the aerodynamic drag of their vehicles to improve fuel efficiency. Every new car sold today has been specially massaged to slice through the wind, but that wasn’t the case back in the ’30s.
Unlike its contemporary competition, the Airflow’s shape was actually proven in the wind tunnel. Chrysler wasn’t necessarily the first to do this, but at the time it was seriously innovative for a mass-produced passenger car.
Beyond aero, the Airflow was pioneering in other ways as well. Its structure was built out of tubular steel, which made it light and strong. The engine was positioned directly over the front axle, a move that helped increase interior spaciousness. It also came standard with hydraulic brakes, which were safer than their mechanical counterparts, and it delivered a velvety-smooth ride for its time. Chrysler had “cab-forward design” long before it started pushing the idea with its LH cars in the 1990s.
Airflows were sold under the Chrysler, De Soto and Imperial brands but sadly the whole idea was a commercial failure. They were expensive and the buying public wasn’t fond of the futuristic design.
Airflows rolled onto the market in 1934 but the party was over by ‘37, a painfully short run for such a distinctive and innovative auto.