Monday, June 5, 2017

Airflows, Large and Smaller

Chrysler Corporation's aerodynamically-influenced Airflow body design was a marketplace failure.  Despite that, it was highly influential in the American automobile industry.  References to Chrysler and DeSoto Airflows are here and here.

One new engineering feature was all-steel bodies (aside from a roof panel) built up from a frame structure attached to what amounted to a chassis.  To put it another way, Airflow bodies approached, but didn't qualify as, unitized construction that since then has become the norm.

At any rate, for launch year 1934 Chrysler produced Airflows in three basic body types (four-door sedans, two-door sedans, and coupes) and for the 4-door sedans, five different wheelbase lengths.  Wheelbases in ascending order are -- DeSoto: 115.5 in (2934 mm); Chrysler CU: 122.8 in (3119 mm); Chrysler Imperial CV: 128.0 in (3251 mm); Chrysler Custom Imperial CX: 137.5 in (3492 mm); and the Chrysler Custom Imperial CW: 146.5 in (3721 mm).

What we have, then, is a wheelbase range of 31 inches (787 mm) -- a huge difference for one line of cars.  Coupling that with the various body types, Chrysler Corporation launched a wide variety of Airflows.  Here are examples.


This is a 1934 CU Chrysler Airflow.  It can be considered the baseline model for comparisons.

The largest '34 Airflow was the CW Custom Imperial  8- passenger sedan that featured a curved windshield -- the first for an American production car.

All 1934 DeSotos were Airflows, Chrysler retaining conventional bodies for its 6-cylinder cars.  This is the four-door sedan.

Here is a two-door DeSoto sedan for 1934.

Then there were coupes.  The smallest, due to its short wheelbase was this 1934 DeSoto (Bonhams auction photo).

* * * *   Some Side Views  * * * *

1934 Chrysler CU, Bonhams photo.

Advertisement photo featuring a 1934 CW Custom Imperial.  The background is the Park Avenue entrance to the Waldorf-Astoria hotel.

An in-motion Bonhams auction photo of a '34 DeSoto Airflow Coupe.

A brochure page for the 1934 DeSoto Airflow Coupe.


emjayay said...

I didn't know about the curved Imperial windshield. It seems to have taken a long time to figure out mass production of curved glass, maybe particularly safety glass. Of the true postwar designs most windshields were still two flat panes of glass. GM cars had curved windshields but were still split. Lincoln Cosmos had a curved windshield but not other Ford products. 1951 Studebakers put in a creased one piece windshield in place of the former two-pane one, and you see it retrofitted to a lot of existing '47-'50's. Who wants a bar in the middle of your windshield?

GrouchoMarxist said...

Look at the road today: a 1992, say, Ford Crown Vic, looks right a home with the scene. Twenty five year old cars. In, say 1955, a 1930, even 1948 car looked ancient!

emjayay said...

Groucho is right. The 1949 Ford Shoebox really set the pattern for all sedans since. With a one piece curved windshield it would almost fit in today. In the fifties the pre/postwar cars looked very old fashioned, and they were, essentially a different design concept. Imagine a 1930 car in 1955. One in my neighborhood stood out like an ancient antique. My 1990 Pontiac Trans Sport still looks like the future and it's the same age.