1934 Chrysler Airflow
1937 Chrysler Airflow Sedan
1937 Chrysler Airflow Coupe
1937 Chrysler Airflow Coupe Interior
Chrysler Airflow Designer - Carl Breer
Images: Chrysler Corporation; aldenjewell’s photostream
1934 Chrysler/Desoto Airflow
The Chrysler Airflow model was produced by Chrysler from 1934 to 1937. The Airflow was the first full-size American production car to use streamlining as a basis for building a sleeker automobile, one less susceptible to air resistance. Unfortunately, this new and radical design represented one of the most serious miscalculations in automotive history.
Carl Breer, Chief engineer for Chrysler, began a series of wind tunnel tests, with the cooperation of Orville Wright, to study which forms were the most efficient shape created by nature that could suit an automobile. Breer wind-tunnel tested at least 50 scale models by April 1930. The engineers found that then-current two-box automobile design was so aerodynamically inefficient, that it was actually more efficient turned around backwards. Applying what they had learned about shape, the engineers also began looking into ways that a car could be built using monocoque construction to strengthen the car, reduce its overall weight, and increase the power-to-weight ratio as the lighter, more streamlined body allowed air to flow around it instead of being caught through upright forms, such as radiator grilles, headlights and windshields.
For 1934, both Chrysler and its junior running mate, DeSoto, were scheduled to offer the Airflow. DeSoto was assigned to offer nothing but Airflows; Chrysler, however, hedged its bets and continued to offer a six-cylinder variant of its more mainstream 1933 model cars. The Airflow used a flathead I8 engine and was produced in both 2-door coupe and 4-door sedan variants.
Within six months following the introduction of the Airflow, the vehicle was already a sales disaster. Adding insult to injury, General Motors mounted an advertising campaign aimed at further discrediting the Airflows. Most automotive historians, though, agree that the Airflow was shunned in large part because buyers did not like its looks. The hood, waterfall grille, headlamps and fenders were all merged into one continuous form that was interpreted as an "anonymous lump". While thoroughly modern, the public was slow to embrace the Airflow. At the depth of the Great Depression, the car seemed to be too advanced, too different for many consumers. While Airflows sold in respectable numbers in its first year, Chrysler’s traditional sedans and coupes far outsold the Airflow by a ratio of 2.5 to one, with first year Airflow sales at 10,839 units.
The Airflow's "worst"-ness derives from its spectacularly bad timing. Twenty years later, the car's many design and engineering innovations — the aerodynamic singlet-style fuselage, steel-spaceframe construction, near 50-50 front-rear weight distribution and light weight — would have been celebrated. As it was, in 1934, the car's dramatic streamliner styling antagonized Americans on some deep level, almost as if it were designed by Bolsheviks. It didn't help that a few early Airflows had major, engine-falling-out-type problems that stemmed from the radical construction techniques required. Chrysler, and the even more hapless Desoto, tried to devolve the Airflow stylistically, giving it more conventional grill and raising the trunk into a kind of bustle (some later models were named Airstream), but the damage was done. Sales were abysmal. It wouldn't be the last time American car buyers looked at the future and said, "no thanks."
В 1930 г. главный стилист фирмы Сhrysler Рей Дитрих (Ray Dietrich) возглавил работу своей дизайнерской студии по созданию автомобиля с романтическим именем Airflow — «Воздушный поток». Это был тот редкий случай, когда американский стайлинг выступал как бы заодно с функциональным дизайном. Автомобиль отличали пониженная рама и смещенный вперед двигатель, который позволил разместить задних пассажиров в более комфортной зоне — перед задней осью. Оригинальным получился и силуэт двухобъемного кузова, который впервые в мировой практике получил передний свес. Кроме того, традиционный корпус радиатора был заменен вертикальными прорезями на покатом «носу». В Америке Airflow потерпел фиаско, в Европе же Fiat, Peugeot и Volvo использовали найденные Дитрихом мотивы в композиции своих предвоенных автомобилей, а японская Toyota его просто напрямую скопировала.
Source: www.jaylenosgarage.com; The 50 Worst Cars of All Time - www.time.com; «Планета США» - Н.Розанов, Журнал «АВТОМОБИЛИ», 3-2000