Skip to main content

The Chrysler Airflow: Flop or Trend Setter?

By June 18, 2014February 6th, 2017Industry News/Trends

chrysler-airflow-internalEven though considered as the “smallest of the Big Three,” Chrysler has many impressive firsts under its belt. In the 1930s alone, Chrysler patented 20+ parts and systems that have directly affected car design today.

Below are just a dozen of the many engineering innovations in which Chrysler was first to market:

  • Overdrive
  • High compression engine
  • Bonderite painting process (removal of oil prior to body panel painting)
  • Replaceable oil filter (the only US automaker at the time to provide them as standard items)
  • Four-wheel drive hydraulic brakes (improvement upon the original Lockheed design)
  • Rubber engine mounts (to reduce vibration)
  • Adjustable front seats
  • Full range crankshaft impulse neutralizer and vibration damper — first used in 1928 and still in use today on all (or nearly all) cars
  • Built-in defroster vents
  • Powered convertible top
  • Electric windshield wipers

The Airflow model was the first car to use scientific weight distribution and synchronized front and rear springs for an anti-pitch ride. The body provided most of the structural strength. Amola steel was used. []

However, these advancements were tempered by the vehicle’s rushed assembly process. Mere months after design was complete, the Airflow was put into production. Due to its unique design and numerous of new components, assembly was rushed, expensive, and poorly executed. According to Fred Breer, son of Chrysler Engineer Carl Breer, the first 2,000 to 3,000 Airflows to leave the factory had major defects, including engines breaking loose from their mountings at 80 mph (130 km/h).[Wikipedia]


Left:1934 Chrysler Airflow [photo courtesy of]
Right: Ferdinand Porsche with his Volkswagen prototype [photo courtesy of]

Although the Chrysler Airflow will not be remembered for its staying power, it inspired many automotive pioneers. Its revolutionary body lines based – on the principles of air movement – was not lost on future vehicle design. The 1936 Toyota AA, 1935 Volvo Carioca, and reportedly the new Volkswagen Beetle, designed in 1938 by Ferdinand Porsche (yes, that Porsche) were all influenced by the Chrysler Airflow.