The streamlined Airflow remains the best known (and most infamous) of all prewar Chryslers, a bold and ambitious engineering achievement that became a notorious commercial flop. This week, we look at the origins and fate of the 1934–1937 Chrysler Airflow and its 1934–1936 DeSoto sibling.
WALTER P. AND THE THREE MUSKETEERS
Even before his death in 1940, Walter Percy Chrysler was becoming a larger-than-life figure. The son of a railroad engineer from Kansas, Chrysler rose from a 5-cent-an-hour job as a machinist’s apprentice to the presidency of Buick before his 43rd birthday. In the early 1920s, he helped to resuscitate one failing automaker and transformed two others into a highly successful eponymous corporation. He was TIME‘s Man of the Year in 1929 and by 1931, his name adorned the world’s tallest building.
The early history of the Chrysler Corporation, however, is also the story of three other men: Fred M. Zeder, Owen R. Skelton, and Carl Breer. It was Zeder, Skelton, and Breer who designed the initial 1924 Chrysler Six for what was then the Maxwell Motor Corporation, and they went on to oversee Chrysler engineering until after World War II.
The eldest of the three, Carl Breer, was originally from Los Angeles, a graduate of Throop Polytechnic Institute (now Cal Tech) and Stanford University. In 1909, he’d joined an Allis-Chalmers apprenticeship program in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he met Fred Zeder, several years younger and newly graduated from the University of Michigan’s School of Engineering. The two became fast friends, and when Zeder became chief engineer of Studebaker’s Detroit automotive operations four years later, he cabled Breer to join him there. Around the same time, Zeder hired Owen Skelton, a young engineer from Ohio who had previously worked at Packard.
In 1920, after several successful years at Studebaker, Zeder, Skelton, and Breer learned that Walter Chrysler was interested in recruiting them for Willys-Overland, whose financial backers had recently hired him to turn the struggling company around. At Willys, the trio developed a new, modern six-cylinder engine and an entirely new car, which at one time was intended to carry the Chrysler name. While Willys-Overland’s ongoing financial weakness — and conflicts between Chrysler and founder John N. Willys — eventually stymied those plans, Chrysler was very impressed with the three young engineers, suggesting in December 1921 that the trio start their own consulting firm. He even secured them their first contract with the Maxwell Motor Company, of which Chrysler had recently become a director.
In August 1922, Zeder, Skelton, and Breer re-approached Chrysler, who had departed Willys six months earlier to focus his attention on Maxwell and the moribund Chalmers Motor Company. The trio again broached the idea of building a six-cylinder car under the Chrysler name, using an engine of their design. Walter Chrysler was very receptive, so Zeder, Skelton, and Breer Engineering Co. soon secured a contract with Maxwell. In June 1923, ZSB Engineering was absorbed by the recently merged Maxwell-Chalmers Motor Corporation and the trio took over all engineering operations, including the development and launch of the first B-Series Chrysler Six, introduced to the public in January 1924.
The Chrysler Six was a great success, allowing Walter Chrysler to organize the Chrysler Motor Corporation, incorporated in Delaware on June 6, 1925. Three weeks later, the Chrysler Corporation absorbed Maxwell and Zeder, Skelton, and Breer all became senior Chrysler executives.
As vice president of engineering, Fred Zeder was nominally senior to Skelton and Breer, who became Chrysler’s executive engineer and chief of research, respectively. In practice, any divisions between them were ones of focus and specialization rather than rank. The three were lifelong friends; for more than two decades, they even sent out joint Christmas cards. Breer, who had boarded with Fred Zeder’s family when he first moved to Detroit, later married one of Zeder’s sisters and named their first son Fred. Walter Chrysler likened the trio to Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, Alexandre Dumas’ Three Musketeers.
Chrysler’s relationship with his “Three Musketeers” was that of a confident and enthusiastic patron. In sharp contrast with Henry Ford, who tended to micromanage his technical staff, Chrysler had abiding faith in the expertise of his engineers. While he was often curious about their latest developments, he generally limited his involvement to the occasional word of encouragement. Moreover, even during the worst parts of the Depression, Chrysler’s research operations were largely exempted from corporate belt tightening.
It probably helped that none of the Three Musketeers was a wild-eyed dreamer. Chrysler introduced many significant engineering features during the trio’s long tenure (even the earliest 1924 cars had four-wheel hydraulic brakes, by no means the contemporary norm), but only one of their production car lines could be considered truly radical.
CONCEIVING THE AIRFLOW
According to Carl Breer’s often-repeated account, the original impetus for the Airflow came in 1927, when Breer and his wife were summering in Gratiot Beach, in Port Huron, Michigan. Seeing a passing flight of Army Air Corps pursuit planes on their way back to Selfridge Field (some 35 miles/55 km away) one evening, Breer began musing on the contrast between aircraft design and the primitive state of automotive aerodynamics. Breer himself was no stranger to aviation engineering. During World War I, while still a Studebaker employee, he had worked with O.E. Hunt and James Heaslip on the production engineering of the 12-cylinder Liberty engine used in many Allied aircraft.
Aerodynamic streamlining was not a new idea in automotive design even in 1927. In the early twenties, a number of aviation engineers had turned their attention to automobiles, particularly in Germany, where the Armistice had placed sharp restrictions on the postwar aircraft industry. At the 1921 Berlin Auto Show, for example, Austrian engineer Edmund Rumpler had displayed a prototype of his remarkable Tropfenwagen, a teardrop-shaped, mid-engined car with a single headlight and a 157 cu. in. (2,580 cc) W6 engine. Later wind tunnel tests revealed that the Tropfenwagen had a drag coefficient of only 0.27, highly respectable even today.
Rumpler didn’t find an automaker willing to put the car into mass production, but Benz et cie adapted his design and chassis for the Benz Tropfenwagen racer (developed by Willy Waub), which competed in Grand Prix events in 1923 and 1924. Rumpler persevered, eventually developing the short-lived Tropfen-Auto RU 4A106, launched in 1924. Powered by a 160 cu. in. (2,614 cc) four with 50 horsepower (37 kW), about 100 of the futuristic-looking cars were built before production ceased in 1925. Some ended up as taxicabs in Berlin, although their poor reliability and limited cargo space made them unpopular. Director Fritz Lang acquired a handful of Tropfen-Autos for his 1927 science fiction epic Metropolis; all were destroyed in the film.
We don’t know exactly how much Breer knew about these and other contemporary experiments, but in any event, Chrysler Engineering’s practical knowledge of aerodynamics in 1927 was almost nil. That fall, Breer hired Bill Earnshaw, a Dayton, Ohio-based consulting engineer and personal friend of the Wright Brothers, to conduct preliminary aerodynamic research. In November, Orville Wright helped Earnshaw set up a small wind tunnel for testing purposes. Intrigued by Earnshaw’s results, Breer persuaded Walter Chrysler to authorize construction of a larger, in-house wind tunnel in September 1928. Aerodynamic work continued even after the stock market crash in the fall of 1929, and by 1931, Chrysler engineers had tested at least 50 scale models.
REPACKAGING THE PASSENGER CAR
It was hardly shocking when Chrysler’s early wind tunnel tests revealed that most late-twenties cars produced tremendous drag; considering the blunt radiator shells and flat, upright windshields of the day, it was inevitable. More surprising was the observation that many closed bodies were significantly slipperier in reverse than they were moving forward, in some cases by up to 30%.
As Breer’s team soon recognized, that curious fact was a byproduct of what was then conventional engine and suspension layout. Since most passenger cars still had solid axles front and rear, their engines were usually mounted behind the front axle, for what today we would call a front/mid-engine layout. The position of the engine pushed the passenger compartment well back in the chassis, particularly with bulky straight-eight engines. In most closed bodies, the cabin ended just forward of the rear bumper; the “trunkback” or “notchback” profile was still a few years in the future. The net result was a long, narrow nose and a wide, bulbous tail, exactly the opposite of the aerodynamically ideal teardrop shape. Breer concluded that significantly reducing drag would require a very different profile with a broad, smooth nose and a narrow, tapering tail.
One way to achieve that was to simply reverse the customary layout, putting the engine behind the passenger compartment, as Rumpler had done with the Tropfenwagen and Tropfen-Auto. Breer considered that possibility, but ultimately abandoned it, partly out of concern for the effects of a rear engine on handling and stability, partly because such a layout would have required too much new drivetrain hardware. Another possibility, tacking an extended tail cone onto a mostly conventional body, was aerodynamically effective, but neither very practical nor particularly attractive. However, without such addenda, a sharply sloping tail would take a big chunk out of rear passenger space unless the seating layout and packaging were significantly revised.
With that in mind, Breer and chief body engineer Oliver Clark set about rethinking the packaging of the typical passenger car. They started with six-cylinder sedans and coupes — what in production would become the DeSoto Airflow and the Canadian Chrysler CY — and laid out a seating arrangement that would allow the desired shape while keeping the wheelbase and overall length as short as possible. First, they widened the front seat to make it somewhat wider than the rear bench, the reverse of the usual practice. (Initial plans actually called for five-passenger seating, with three in front, two in back, but the Chrysler sales organization said no.)
The rear seat, meanwhile, was moved forward of the rear axle with the front seats, dashboard, and windshield shifted forward accordingly, not unlike Chrysler’s much later “cab-forward” LH cars. Those changes required the engine to be shifted about 20 inches (51 cm) forward, positioning it above the front axle rather than behind it. In production Airflows, the engine’s center of mass was slightly behind the axle and the engine was tilted downward about 5 degrees at the clutch side to minimize the height of the driveshaft tunnel.
Even with essentially stock engines and drivetrains, making these changes was complicated and expensive, and their actual value was debatable. Most American highways had speed limits of 45 mph (72 km/h) or less in those days, and streamlining provided little benefit at lower speeds. In Europe, where taxable horsepower rules favored smaller displacements, obtaining a respectable maximum speed with a tiny engine had some allure, but that was not a major concern in the U.S. market.
If better aerodynamics had been the only advantage of Breer and Clark’s repackaging job, we suspect that the Airflow might never have made it to production. However, Breer and his team found that the new layout paid unexpected dividends in a far more marketable area: ride quality.
BUILDING THE BOULEVARD RIDE
A smooth ride was not on the menu for most passenger cars of the late twenties and early thirties except perhaps for limousines, whose long wheelbases and prodigious sprung weight masked many sins. The gradual adoption of low-pressure tires and shock absorbers had helped a bit (the latter hadn’t even been offered on many cars of the twenties, including the original Chrysler Six), but solid axles, stiff semi-elliptical springs, and substantial unsprung weight still made for less than cloud-like comfort. On relatively smooth roads, the driver and front passenger didn’t fare too badly, but back seat passengers, perched above or behind the heavy rear axle, were not so fortunate.
Breer discovered that the packaging changes of the streamlining project did much to improve that sorry situation. First, for rear passengers, sitting within the wheelbase proved far more comfortable than sitting atop the axle. Second, moving the engine forward put about 55% of the car’s static weight on the front wheels, compared to perhaps 40-45% for conventional sedans of the era. With less weight on the tail, the rear springs could be substantially softer. By lengthening (and thus softening) the front springs to match, it was possible to avoid a pendulum effect while also reducing the overall frequency of the ride motions by about 25%, which, as Breer often noted, put it closer to a natural walking pace. Chrysler advertising christened it the “Floating Ride.”
Surprisingly, this was achieved without independent front suspension, although Chrysler was then developing a double-wishbone layout for Plymouth, Dodge, and conventionally engineered six-cylinder Chryslers. While the production Airflow’s tubular front beam axle might seem a retrograde step in an otherwise sophisticated car, Breer decided that IFS simply wasn’t necessary. It’s important to remember that a major rationale for Detroit’s adoption of independent suspension in this era was not better handling, but a smoother ride. The revised spring rates and altered weight distribution achieved that without the added cost, complexity, and maintenance headaches of early IFS systems.
BRIDGE AND TRUSS
Since the streamlined car was already laid out very differently than conventional models, Breer decided it was also a good candidate for new techniques in body construction.
Most passenger cars of the early thirties used body-on-frame construction with a heavy, rigid ladder-type frame. The body itself was usually steel or aluminum panels over a wooden framework, although all-steel bodies were becoming increasingly common. The Dodge Brothers had adopted them early on; Plymouth went all-steel in 1930, followed by Ford in 1932. For the streamlined Airflow, however, Breer and Clark opted for something far more advanced: a steel monocoque.
Like streamlining, monocoque construction dated back to the end of World War I. Although it was gaining popularity in aviation in the late twenties and early thirties, Italian engineer Vincenzo Lancia had applied for a patent on self-supporting automobile bodies in 1919, likely inspired by shipbuilding practice, and the first unit-bodied Lancia Lambda went into production in 1922. Thanks to its greater weight and space efficiency, monocoque construction gradually found favor in Europe, but American automakers remained wary. In 1931, for example, Joseph Ledwinka and William Mueller of the body supplier Budd had found no takers for their unit-bodied FWD prototype, although historian Michael Lamm believes their car was the inspiration for the unit-bodied Citroën 11CV “Traction Avant,” which debuted in early 1934; Budd developed the tooling for the Traction.
Chrysler’s approach, also developed in partnership with Budd, was not quite a monocoque. Commonly described as “bridge-and-truss” construction, it used stressed exterior panels welded to a cage-like steel structure that included the frame, the cowl and windshield frame as well as vertical members through the roof pillars and horizontal rails above the door openings. While the structure looked somewhat like a tubular space frame, it was not self-supporting, relying on the exterior panels for its torsional stiffness. The bridge-and-truss system was bulkier and heavier than true monocoque construction, but it simplified production, allowing the engine and running gear to be installed before the exterior panels were attached, much like a body-on-frame design.
When the Airflow was introduced, there were some ugly allegations that it was unsafe due to the supposed flimsiness of its metal framework, which dispensed with the customary wood bracing. It was true that the framework itself was not very rigid, but it wasn’t intended to be. When the sills and exterior panels were welded in place, the unitized structure was extremely strong. (Chrysler boasted that it had 40 times the torsional stiffness of a body-on-frame design.) Chrysler eventually laid the rumors to rest in dramatic fashion by demonstrating that the Airflow remained drivable even after being pushed off a 110-foot (33-meter) cliff. In the summer of 1934, the company also hired Barney Oldfield’s “Hell Drivers” racing team to perform hourly demonstrations of the Airflow’s resilience to rollovers in a sand pit at the Chicago World’s Fair.
The downside of that strength was added weight. Breer said that ideally, unitized construction would have saved up to 200 lb (90 kg) over a body-on-frame design, but as the development process continued and exterior design and trim were refined, the cars grew progressively heavier. The production Airflows weighed substantially more than the body-on-frame cars they replaced, in some cases by more than 250 lb (115 kg). Later models, with different grilles and stouter bumpers, would be heavier still.
THE TRIFON SPECIAL
The first true Airflow prototype was built in great secrecy in the summer of 1932. Powered by a DeSoto straight six, it had bridge-and-truss construction, a relocated engine, a repackaged interior layout, and Floating Ride suspension. It had no grille and carried no Chrysler badges or identification of any kind. When the company registered and licensed it with the state of Michigan for road testing, the prototype was identified as the 1932 Trifon Special, taking its name from test engineer Demitrion Trifon.
Because the company did not yet have its own proving grounds, Chrysler arranged to test the cars on land owned by two farmers outside Grayling, Michigan, north of Detroit. To avoid attracting attention, test crews did not drive the prototype on public roads and engineers and executives heading up to Grayling were asked to drive non-Chrysler vehicles.
The first Trifon was an awkward-looking beast with curious proportions: the work of engineers, not stylists. Even the production Airflows were developed with little input from either Chrysler’s fledgling in-house styling department or Briggs Mfg. Company, which provided much of Chrysler’s exterior design work in those days. Chrysler’s Art & Colour section, founded in 1928, still focused primarily on detailing, upholstery, and trim; its chief, Herbert V. Henderson, had previously been an interior designer. Both Henderson’s group and Briggs designers contributed to the nicely detailed Streamline Moderne interiors of the production cars, but their involvement in the exterior design was limited to details like the rear fender skirts. For better or worse, the Airflow’s shape was primarily the work of Carl Breer, Oliver Clark, and Chrysler’s body engineers.
Aesthetics aside, the Trifon Special drove quite well, with excellent ride quality even on bumpy country roads. After months of testing, Breer and his team finally invited Walter Chrysler himself up to Grayling for a test ride. Chrysler was extremely impressed and said he wanted to put the car into production. He was not daunted by its radical design; he thought it would serve as a new corporate flagship, demonstrating how far the Chrysler Corporation had come in ten years and setting a new direction for the future.
THE CHRYSLER AIRFLOW GOES INTO PRODUCTION
If it had been strictly up to the engineers, the Airflows probably wouldn’t have arrived until the 1935 model year, perhaps even later. However, the 10th anniversary of the first Chrysler was fast approaching and Walter Chrysler wanted to show off the new car at the New York Auto Show in January 1934.
Part of the urgency may have stemmed from reports of a secret GM prototype called the Albanita, which GM Engineering had begun testing at the corporate proving grounds in Milford, Michigan, in the spring of 1933. The Albanita was a streamlined, midsize sedan, slightly smaller than the Trifon Special and sporting several features later introduced on production Chevrolets, including an all-steel Turret Top and vent windows. The GM car rode an unusual backbone chassis and was powered by a Ford flathead V8.
Chrysler was almost certainly aware of the Albanita; GM engineer Ollie Schjolin, the project director, frequently had to chase away various auto industry observers prowling outside the Milford proving grounds. However, Chrysler may not have realized that the Albanita was only an engineering testbed that GM Engineering was using to evaluate the backbone frame and two different types of independent suspension. Some GM engineers believed that the Albanita prompted Chrysler to rush the Airflow into production, fearing that their thunder was about to be stolen.
Since they required entirely new tooling and equipment, the production Airflows were undoubtedly expensive to build, driving up their retail prices. Chrysler management decided to introduce the new models in the more-expensive DeSoto and Chrysler brands, although there were tentative plans to add Dodge and Plymouth versions later. Carl Breer and research chief Ken Lee also started work on a compact with front-wheel drive and an unusual 67 cu. in. (1,091 cc), five-cylinder radial engine, intended either for export markets or as a possible economy model for North America.
The smallest and cheapest U.S. Airflow would be the DeSoto Model SE, offered in four body styles, powered by a 242 cu. in. (3,958 cc) flathead six. A Chrysler Airflow Six, the CY, would be offered only in Canada, sharing its 115.5-inch (2,934mm) wheelbase and engine with the DeSoto; six-cylinder U.S. Chryslers would retain conventional styling and engineering. The smallest U.S.-market Chrysler Airflow, the CU Airflow Eight, would be offered in the same body styles as the DeSoto, but on a 122.8-inch (3,120mm) wheelbase with a 299 cu. in. (4,894 cc) straight eight.
Above that would be two Airflow Imperial Eight series, the CV and CX, riding either a 128-inch (3,251mm) or 137.5-inch (3,492 mm) wheelbase and using a stroked 324 cu. in. (5,301 cc) eight. At the top of the line would be the massive CW Airflow Imperial Custom Eight, riding a 146.5-inch (3,721mm) wheelbase and available as either an eight-passenger sedan or limousine, with or without blind quarter panels. To cope with their three-ton mass, all CWs would be powered by the big 385 cu. in. (6,306 cc) nine-bearing eight first introduced on the CG Imperial in 1931.
Most of the major stampings for Airflow bodies were made by Budd, although Chrysler itself manufactured the complex front clips, and the CW Imperials were built as semi-customs by the coachbuilder LeBaron, which Briggs had owned since 1927.
Despite the proliferation of wheelbases and body styles, all Airflows had a remarkable degree of commonality, surpassing even GM’s new A-B-C-D bodies. The Chrysler CU, for example, shared the same roof panel and rear clip as the short-wheelbase DeSoto and Chrysler CY, with welded-in extensions to the floorpan and side stampings ahead of the firewall to allow room for the longer straight-eight engines. The Imperials added more welded-in sections to create their longer wheelbases. All sedans shared the same rear clip, while all coupes shared their own tail section. Perhaps the most ingenious trick was the use of interchangeable doors, allowing Chrysler to create five different door configurations with only two sets of basic tooling. Such commonality helped to reduce production costs, offsetting some of the expense of unitized construction.
While their engines and three-speed gearboxes (synchronized in second and third gears) were largely conventional, the Airflows introduced an important new mechanical feature: an automatic overdrive. Invented by Rex Keller and manufactured by Borg-Warner’s Warner Gear division, the overdrive unit was essentially a two-speed rear axle. When engaged via a dashboard switch, a centrifugal governor shifted automatically into the axle’s 0.70 overdrive ratio whenever speeds exceeded 40 to 45 mph (64 to 72 km/h), shifting back if speed dropped below 25 mph (40 km/h). Unlike the Columbia unit popular for Fords and Lincolns a few years later, there was no automatic ‘kickdown’ to direct drive.
Carl Breer later admitted the overdrive was an afterthought, added when production Airflows proved to be significantly heavier and thirstier than originally intended. In 1934, the overdrive was combined with freewheeling, which automatically disengaged the clutch whenever the driver lifted completely off the throttle. (The freewheeling feature was dropped in 1935 — some U.S. states were beginning to outlaw it, concerned about its deleterious effect on engine braking — but Chrysler’s brochures listed it as standard on Imperials as late as 1936.)
PUNCHING A HOLE IN THE AIR, BUT NOT THE MARKET
While the Airflow entered pilot production by December 1933, ramp-up was very slow, and only about 60 cars had been built by early January. Nonetheless, the Airflow made its scheduled debut on the main stage of the New York Auto Show on January 6, after weeks of teaser advertisements in major magazines.
The Airflow made quite an impression even on jaded auto show regulars. Streamlined show cars were increasingly common in the early thirties — the spectacular Pierce Silver Arrow had debuted in 1933, and Buckminster Fuller’s wild three-wheel Dymaxion was parked out front at the 1934 show after Chrysler arranged to displace Fuller from the main stage. However, the Airflows were full-fledged production models, aimed (excepting the big Imperials) at the conservative middle-class market. Some show goers were entranced; others were simply appalled. When the independent Market Research Corp. of America asked visitors to name the best- and worst-looking cars in the show, the Airflow topped both lists. Like the “coming or going” postwar Studebakers and Ford’s Edsel, the Airflow became the butt of many jokes, although the DeSoto version won top honors at the Monte Carlo Concours d’Elegance in both 1934 and 1935.
While Chrysler sales reps left the New York show with thousands of advance orders, the company was initially able to fill only a handful of them. Airflow production didn’t really get up to speed until almost three months after the show, during which time many frustrated customers either opted for the cheaper, more orthodox-looking Chrysler CA and CB Sixes or took their business elsewhere.
Customers who did receive early-production Airflows were not necessarily any happier. The Airflow’s design was basically sound, but its manufacture involved many new assembly techniques, and teething problems were inevitable. In his memoir, Carl Breer downplayed those issues, but his son Fred later recalled Breer reading the many angry letters from disgruntled owners and Chrysler dealers about the many failings of the early production cars. Most of those problems were addressed quickly enough, but they did nothing for the new car’s reputation, nor did rumors about the Airflow’s lack of structural integrity.
For those willing to wait — and to embrace its controversial looks — the Airflow offered excellent performance. Even the six-cylinder DeSoto was capable of around 85 mph (136 km/h), not bad for a 3,600 lb (1,630 kg) car with only 100 gross horsepower (75 kW). With the optional overdrive, racing driver Harry Hartz averaged a commendable 21.4 mpg (11 L/100 km) in an AAA-supervised run from New York to San Francisco. The eight-cylinder Chrysler CU, meanwhile, could reach 60 mph (97 km/h) in a bit over 20 seconds, lively for the time, with a top speed of over 90 mph (145 km/h). A CV Imperial coupe, also driven by Hartz, set more than 70 production car speed records at Bonneville in mid-1934, hitting 95.7 mph (154.1 km/h) in the flying mile and then averaging over 18 mpg (12.9 L/100 km) between Los Angeles and New York City. All these were excellent figures for any full-size mid-thirties automobile.
Such speed and economy came at no sacrifice in comfort. Although outward visibility left something to be desired, Airflows were quite roomy. Even the front seats could seat three abreast where conventional Chryslers of the period were a little tight even for two. With their ample weight and slow steering, no Airflow was particularly nimble, but they handled with composure and their reasonably tight turning circle aided low-speed maneuverability. As advertised, the Airflow’s “Floating Ride” was superb, rivaling even some IFS-equipped contemporaries.
Unfortunately, even when Airflows finally became available in quantity that spring, sales were well below expectations. Aside from the styling, the major sticking point was the prices, which started some 20–25% higher than the conventionally engineered models the Airflows replaced. The DeSoto Model SE Airflow, for instance, cost up to $330 more than the 1933 Model SD, making it roughly the same price as the eight-cylinder Model CF that DeSoto had dropped two years earlier due to lack of demand. The Chrysler CU Airflow Eight, at $1,345, was more expensive than most 1933 CQ Imperials. The U.S. economy was better in 1934 than it had been in 1932, but not that much better.
The Airflow’s lackluster sales provoked sharp divisions among Chrysler management. The sales organization, then headed by Joseph W. Frazer (later of Willys-Overland and Kaiser-Frazer fame), blamed the weak business on the Airflow’s quirky looks and wanted to see it replaced, or at least supplemented, by conventional models. Even some of the engineering staff agreed. Carl Breer naturally defended the Airflow, as did Walter Chrysler, who called it the car of the future, resisting efforts by DeSoto and Chrysler managers to kill it.
On May 24, the Airflow’s woes were compounded by a new problem: a pending lawsuit file by the Jaray Streamline Corporation of America, charging Chrysler with patent infringement.
THE JARAY PATENT
Engineer Paul Jaray (born Pál Járay) had a great deal in common with Edmund Rumpler. Like Rumpler, Jaray was Jewish, originally from Austria (although his family was Hungarian), but spent his early career in the fledgling German aviation industry, joining Luftschiffbau Zeppelin GmbH (Zeppelin Airship Works Ltd.) in 1912. Although Jaray eventually became Zeppelin’s chief designer, business was slow after the war, and Zeppelin allowed him to pursue a sideline: applying aerodynamic principles to passenger cars.
Jaray’s first car, built in 1921, was the Ley T6, a tiny streamliner with a skeletal frame, not unlike the Airflow’s bridge-and-truss system. The T6’s drag coefficient was only 0.28, allowing the little car to reach a top speed of 62 mph (100 km/h) with only 20 hp (15 kW). Based on those experiments, Jaray applied for a patent in August 1922 on automobiles with streamlined bodies. It covered essentially any car whose aerodynamic form comprised one partial teardrop shape (the greenhouse) atop another (the body itself).
In 1923, Jaray left Zeppelin and moved to Zurich, Switzerland, where he and a business partner founded the consulting firm Stromlinen Karosserie Gessellschaft (roughly, “Streamlined Body Co.”). After his initial patent was issued in June 1927, Jaray licensed it to a number of automakers: initially German firms like Apollo and Maybach, later the Czech firm Tatra, where Jaray’s concepts became the basis of the remarkable Tatra T77 and T77a. The latter, launched in 1935, had a drag coefficient of only 0.21, better than any modern production car.
In 1932, Jaray established the Jaray Streamline Corporation of America, based in New York. Although the company developed a number of prototypes in hopes of interesting Detroit automakers (one based on a Chrysler Imperial chassis), they only managed to sell one license, to the coachbuilder Rollston.
Chrysler Engineering had at least some knowledge of Jaray’s work (Owen Skelton had received a copy of one of Jaray’s articles in March 1933 from the Society of Automotive Engineers’ Lowell Brown), but it’s unclear if they were aware of his 1927 patent. Chrysler was prepared to take the matter to court, but eventually opted not to, on the advice of an independent aerodynamics consultant the company had hired as a prospective expert witness. In June 1935, Chrysler settled with Jaray out of court, agreeing to license the Jaray patent for $5,000 plus a small royalty on Airflows exported to Europe.
The Jaray Streamline Corp. pursued similar action against Pierce-Arrow (over the Silver Arrow) and several other companies, but with the Depression killing smaller automakers left and right, the suits netted very little financial return. Jaray finally gave up and dissolved his U.S. firm, although he continued to work and lecture in Europe at least into the 1960s. He died in 1974.
AIRFLOW AND AIRSTREAM
Despite Walter Chrysler’s faith in the Airflow concept, sales remained sluggish for the rest of 1934. Total DeSoto production was 13,940, down a disheartening 31% from 1933. We’ve seen at least four different totals for the Chrysler Airflows, but the most commonly quoted figure is 11,292, fewer than 200 of which were the big CX and CW Imperials. Given the Airflow’s likely production costs — which, to our knowledge, Chrysler has never released — that can’t have been a profitable proposition. Fortunately, the strength of the other divisions, particularly Plymouth, kept the company out of the red; in fact, Chrysler posted a $9.5 million profit for the 1934 calendar year.
To placate their sales organization and unhappy dealers, DeSoto and Chrysler added new conventional models for 1935, dubbed Airstream. Sometimes credited to Raymond Dietrich (whom Walter Chrysler had hired in 1932), the Airstreams were actually designed by Phil Wright of Briggs, who had previously designed the 1933 Silver Arrow for Pierce-Arrow. Wright’s designs were done on spec; Briggs chief Ralph Roberts assembled them into an attractive bound volume, which he presented to Carl Breer. Breer’s own account suggests a certain bitterness toward the Briggs proposal, but it arrived at an opportune moment and Chrysler agreed to put the designs into production with almost no changes. The Airstreams had some streamlined design cues, but other than the corporation’s new independent front suspension system, they were largely conventional in both concept and engineering.
The 1935 Airflows, introduced at the same time, sported a mild facelift, including reshaped hoods, sturdier bumpers, and new grilles based on those of the Airstreams. Although industrial designer Norman Bel Geddes, a Chrysler consultant in this period, had offered a proposal for future Airflows, Chrysler apparently used very little of it. The facelifts were primarily the work of Ray Dietrich, some of his first Chrysler designs to each production. Dietrich would also do the facelifts for the 1936 and 1937 models.
At the beginning of the year, most Airflows carried even higher prices than in 1934. The new Model SG DeSotos were up a painful $200 across the line. That proved to be a serious miscalculation, and by mid-year, price cuts left the base Chrysler Airflow Eight (now called C-1 rather than CU) a full $100 cheaper than the previous year’s cars. Nonetheless, the Airflows remained significantly more expensive than their Airstream cousins, with a predictable effect on sales.
Carl Breer and other defenders maintained that the Airflow was simply ahead of its time, and it soon appeared they were correct. At the Chicago World’s Fair in the summer of 1934, Briggs showed off a mockup of a sleek, rear-engined prototype developed by John Tjaarda, which was already in development as the Lincoln Zephyr. A few months after the Briggs car appeared, Bendix unveiled the one-off SWC, a streamlined, front-wheel-drive fastback sedan intended to show off the full range of Bendix automotive products. The SWC looked a great deal like the Airflow; its designer, William Ortwig, later said the resemblance was coincidental, but the Bendix car did use an off-the-shelf 1934 DeSoto grille and headlights.
All of those were concept cars, but in the spring of 1935, Volvo launched its streamlined PV36 Carioca, followed that October by the aerodynamic Peugeot 402. Both the Peugeot and the Carioca looked broadly similar to the Airflow, although they were smaller and had conventional body-on-frame construction. While Volvo corporate historian Claes Rydholm denies that the PV36, designed by former Hupp engineer Ivan Örnberg, was based on the Airflow, author Vincent Curcio says Peugeot actually licensed the Chrysler design for the 402. We were unable to confirm that assertion, but it seems unlikely, although Peugeot was certainly aware of the Airflow (and the Bendix SWC, which was demonstrated to Peugeot engineers in the fall of 1934). Some sources indicate that Peugeot did license the Jaray patent for the 402 and its derivatives, which seems more plausible; we have no information about whether Volvo did so or not. Toyota’s first automobile, the 1936 Toyoda Model AA, was definitely Airflow-inspired.
Although the Airflow no longer looked quite so unusual, sales continued to sink. Thanks to the Airstream and the popular all-new ’35 Plymouths — now featuring Airflow-style Floating Ride — Chrysler posted a record $35 million profit for 1935, but Airflow production fell to only 7,751 Chryslers and 6,797 DeSotos.
GOING WITH THE WIND
The Airflows were facelifted again for 1936, with revised grilles and all-steel roofs. Sedans now had integral trunks with internal spare-tire storage. The interiors were also revised, eliminating some of the previous Streamline Moderne touches, like the chromed seat rails.
Reflecting the slow sales, the model lineup was simplified, as well, eliminating the business coupes and the Town Sedans, with their blind quarter panels. The big CW Airflow Custom Imperial was no longer listed, although about 10 were built as special orders.
Prices of both the basic Chrysler C-9 Airflow Eight and DeSoto Model S2 “Airflow II” were up as much as $150 for 1936, which put them in a very awkward market position. The six-cylinder DeSoto cost as much as a Packard One Twenty, which had a straight eight, 20 more horsepower (15 kW more), and the snob appeal of the Packard name. The Chrysler Airflow, meanwhile, competed directly with the new Lincoln Zephyr, which had a V-12 engine, a superior power-to-weight ratio, and styling that had been much better received. Interestingly, most 1936 Chrysler Airflow buyers opted for the pricier C-10 Imperial. Starting at $1,475, the C-10 was more expensive than the Zephyr, but noticeably larger and considerably more powerful.
While Lincoln sold around 15,000 Zephyrs and Packard more than 55,000 One Twenties in 1936, Airflow production amounted to only 6,285 Chryslers and 5,000 DeSotos. It was the sole black mark in what was otherwise a spectacular year for Chrysler: Plymouth sales topped half a million units and even Chrysler sold nearly 60,000 cars, thanks mainly to the handsomely facelifted 1936 Airstreams. Chrysler’s total production surpassed Ford’s for the first time and the corporation posted a net profit of $62.1 million, enough to repay the last of the debt Chrysler had assumed when it acquired Dodge in 1928.
The dismal sales of the Airflow II were apparently the last straw for DeSoto president Byron Foy, and the DeSoto Airflow disappeared after 1936. The writing was on the wall for the Chrysler version as well, but it returned for one final encore, offered only in a single series. Since the C-10 Imperial had been 1936’s best seller, the 1937 C-17 Airflow was essentially a repeat of that model, fitted with new trim and yet another new hood and grille, similar to those of Chrysler’s conventionally styled cars. However, the C-17 was no longer listed as an Imperial. For 1937, Chrysler had applied the Imperial name to all of its non-Airflow eight-cylinder cars, probably as a belated response to the Packard One Twenty. There was now a separate, conventionally styled Custom Imperial, although at least two CW Custom Imperials were updated with 1937 Airflow grilles, hoods, and bumpers. One was for Philippines president Manuel Quezón, while the other was built for Edward Bowes, host of the popular CBS radio show Major Bowes Amateur Hour, of which Chrysler had recently become the sponsor.
Sales of the C-17 were very similar to the previous year’s C-10 Airflow Imperial: exactly 4,600 units, 95% of which were four-door sedans. The last was built in October 1937, bringing the final tally of Airflow production to 55,655 cars (or fewer, depending on which 1934 figures you believe).
With that, the Airflow was dead, although Carl Breer’s group continued to use earlier models for aerodynamic research through at least 1941. The radial-engined, FWD mini-Airflow never got off the ground despite extensive development work and road testing. Chrysler tried to find a foreign licensee for the design in 1938, but with war brewing in Europe, they were unsuccessful. At least one of the two prototypes was eventually scrapped.
Conventional wisdom holds that the Airflow failed commercially because it was too advanced — that American buyers were simply not ready for functionally (as opposed to cosmetically) streamlined cars. However, even if we discount the popularity of the Peugeot 402 and its smaller 302 and 202 derivatives, the problem with that theory is the Lincoln Zephyr. The Zephyr’s exterior design and bridge-and-truss construction were just as radical as the Airflow’s, it certainly wasn’t any cheaper, and it had a variety of significant flaws. Nonetheless, it sold around 133,000 units between 1938 and 1942, and spawned the first Lincoln Continental. Clearly, buyers in that price range were not wholly opposed to aerodynamic design.
One could argue that the Airflow paved the way for the Zephyr — arriving 17 months after the Airflow’s debut, the Zephyr was far less shocking than it might otherwise have been. On the other hand, the Zephyr demonstrated that an aerodynamic car did not necessarily have to be an ungraceful one. A nicely restyled, all-new Airflow, using the 128-inch (3,251mm) wheelbase of the C-10/C-17, might have done quite well as a Zephyr rival, although whether such a car would have sold well enough to justify its tooling costs is another matter.
Even if the Airflow had been as pretty as a Pierce Silver Arrow, its price would have made for an uphill battle in the middle-class market. The Airflow had definite strengths, but asking Depression-era buyers to pay a 25% premium for those advantages was a stretch. The high prices, of course, had less to do with its controversial aerodynamic styling than with its bridge-and-truss unitized construction, which was expensive to manufacture despite shortcuts like the interchangeable doors.
Chrysler could have offered a similarly aerodynamic shape with body-on-frame construction, as Peugeot did with the 402, and the Airflow’s Floating Ride certainly could have been applied to more conventionally engineered cars, as both Chrysler and its rivals soon did. However, Walter Chrysler was determined to make the Airflow a technological tour de force, which pushed its costs and prices beyond what the market was prepared to absorb.
We presume Chrysler understood the risks, but he taken bold gambles before and they had often paid off handsomely for him. When he acquired the Dodge Brothers company in 1928, for example, some observers had been incredulous because Dodge was so much bigger than Chrysler, but the deal proved to be a great success, significantly expanding Chrysler’s dealer network and production capacity for a very modest capital investment. If the Airflow had been a hit, it would have left rivals scrambling to catch up, giving Chrysler a commanding commercial advantage.
Many of the Airflow’s advances did eventually become common practice, but its dismal sales spoiled the corporation’s appetite for novelty for more than a decade. Had Walter Chrysler remained at the helm, that might not have been the case, but Chrysler ceded the presidency to K.T. Keller in 1935. Although Chrysler remained chairman, his direct involvement was greatly limited after he suffered a severe stroke in May 1938. Keller was far more conservative than Chrysler, and in any case the Airflow had left division managers extremely wary of anything too radical or too new. It was not until the fifties that the Chrysler Corporation began to reclaim its reputation for sophisticated engineering, and even then (with some notable exceptions, like the limited-production Dodge Charger Daytona and Plymouth Road Runner Superbird) the company tended to shy away from conspicuously aerodynamic designs well into the 1990s.
Walter P. Chrysler died on August 18, 1940, but the Three Musketeers remained with the company for another decade. Carl Breer was the first to retire, stepping down as head of research in 1949, but he remained a consultant and board member until 1953. Owen Skelton retired in 1951, although he too sat on the board of directors for a few more years. Fred Zeder never retired; he remained vice president of engineering and vice chairman until he died in 1951. His younger brother James, who had joined the company back in 1924, later became Chrysler’s chief engineer.
Given all the things Walter Chrysler and the Three Musketeers accomplished during the corporation’s first 15 years, it’s ironic that their best-known car is one of their few serious missteps. On the other hand, there are far worse things to be remembered for than a daring, ambitious, forward-thinking failure like the Airflow.
Special thanks are due to George Camp, Pat McLaughlin, Ronnie Schreiber of Cars in Depth, and Richard Spiegelman for the use of their photos and Danielle Szostak-Viers of the Chrysler Historical Collection (now FCA US LLC – Historical Services) for her assistance with historical images and information.
NOTES ON SOURCES
Our sources on the Airflow included “1938 Dodge RX 70 (Airflow Design Series): Legendary Rarities,” Dodge Legends Exhibit Vehicle Overview, Chrysler Heritage (no date, chryslerheritage.iconicweb. com, accessed 29 May 2011); The Airflow Club of America, The Airflow Club of America Quick Reference Guide, airflowclub. connect2websites. com, accessed 15 May 2011; the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide, “1934-1937 Chrysler/DeSoto Airflow” (18 October 2007, HowStuffWorks.com, auto.howstuffworks. com/ 1934-1937-chrysler-desoto-airflow.htm, accessed 14 May 2011); the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide, Encyclopedia of American Cars: Over 65 Years of Automotive History (Lincolnwood, IL: Publications International, 1996); Jim Benjaminson, “Chrysler at the 1934 Chicago World’s Fair,” Plymouth Bulletin, reprinted with permission at Allpar, www.allpar. com, accessed 28 May 2011; Carl Breer and Anthony J. Yanik, The Birth of Chrysler Corporation and Its Engineering Legacy, Second Edition (Warrendale, PA: Society of Automotive Engineers, Inc., 1960, 1995); Dr. David George Briant, “Chrysler Corporation’s Pulsating Years: 1926-1938” (25 December 2008, WPC Club, Inc, www.chryslerclub. org/ walterp .html, accessed 12 May 2011); Arch Brown, “Chrysler’s Magnificent Mistake: 1934 Airflow ‘CU,'” Cars & Parts, August 1992, pp. 22-26; Arch Brown, “SIA comparisonReport: Battle of the Streamliners: Chrysler Airflow vs. Lincoln Zephyr,” Special Interest Autos #120 (November-December 1990), reprinted in The Hemmings Book of Lincolns (Hemmings Motor News Collector-Car Books), ed. Terry Ehrich (Bennington, VT: Hemmings Motor News, 2002), pp. 12-20, and The Hemmings Book of Pre-War Chryslers: driveReports from Special Interest Autos magazine, ed. Richard A. Lentinello (Bennington, VT: Hemmings Motor News, 2002), pp. 60-67; Don Butler, “Adventures in Airflow, Part II” Cars & Parts January 1981, pp. 20-29; “Chrysler Airflow- aero-modded (Part-1)” (12 June 2010, Ecomodder.com, ecomodder. com/ forum/ showthread.php/ chrysler-airflow-aero-modded- part-1-a-13538.html, accessed 24 May 2011); “De Soto Airflow Series SE 1934 United States” (no date, Classic Carbase, www.classiccarbase. com, accessed 23 May 2011); Craig Fitzgerald, “Winds of Change,” Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car Vol. 4, No. 12 (August 2009), p. 8; Vincent Curcio, Chrysler: The Life and Times of an Automotive Genius (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001); James M. Flammang and the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide, Chrysler Chronicle: An Illustrated History of Chrysler – DeSoto – Dodge – Eagle – Imperial – Jeep – Plymouth (Lincolnwood, IL: Publications International Ltd., 1998); Dave Holls and Michael Lamm, A Century of Automotive Style: 100 Years of American Car Design (Stockton, CA: Lamm-Morada Publishing Co. Inc., 1997); Charles K. Hyde, Riding the Roller Coaster: A History of the Chrysler Corporation (Great Lakes Books) (Chicago, IL: Wayne State University Press, 2003); Howard S. Irwin, “The History of the Airflow Car,” Scientific American August 1977 (Vol. 237, No. 2), pp. 95-106; Michael Lamm, “Magnificent Turkey,” Special Interest Autos #16, April-May 1973, reprinted in The Hemmings Book of Pre-War Chryslers, pp. 34-41, and “Airflow Prototypes” in pp. 18–20 of the original issue; Frank Marcus, “Mythbusted! At long last, science answers the question: Do the 1959 Chevy’s gullwing fins produce lift?” Motor Trend Classic #7 (September-October 2006), pp. 52-57; Richard Millman (“Bill-W”) on a thread posted on the Antique Auto Club of America forum 18 December 2009 to 20 June 2010, forums.aaca. org/ f147/ 1934-chrysler-desoto-airflow-door- same-273970.html, accessed 20 May 2011; “Mopar’s Star Cars: Were these two FWD, five-cylinder experimentals Chrysler’s answer to GM’s X-Cars?” Special Interest Autos #10 (April-May 1972), reprinted in Hemmings Classic Car #80 (May 2011), pp. 50-54; Gerald Perschbacher, “Walter Chrysler defended the Airflow in 1935,” Old Cars Weekly 22 April 2004, p. 12; Joel Prescott, “Like an Airplane on Wheels,” Car Collector July 1993, pp. 6-11; “Three Musketeers – ZSB” (2009, Walter P. Chrysler Museum, wpchryslermuseum. org, accessed 26 May 2011); Bruce R. Thomas, “Trifon Special: Birth of a Classic,” originally published in TORQUE (the publication of the Classic Car Club of America – Michigan Region) and reprinted with permission in Antique Automobile September-October 1971, nn (3 pages); Dr. David Zatz, et al, “Chronological history of Chrysler Corporation, Dodge, and Plymouth” (no date, Allpar, www.allpar. com, accessed 12 May 2011); a 1934 Chrysler dealer briefing on the new Imperial Custom line (Chrysler Bulletin No. 899), 24 May 1934, excerpted in WPC News Vol. 28, No. 7 (March 1997). Additional details came from the Online Imperial Club website (www.imperialclub. com, last accessed 29 May 2011). Some production figures were supplied by Danielle Szostak-Viers of the Chrysler Historical Collection (now FCA US LLC – Historical Services) in emails to the author 13 May and 16 May 2011.
Information on Chrysler’s non-Airflow cars of this period came from Jim Benjaminson, “New from the ground up: Plymouth for 1935 and 1936,” Plymouth Bulletin, and “Now for the Second Million: Plymouth cars of 1934,” Plymouth Bulletin, reprinted with permission on Allpar, www.allpar. com, accessed 21–22 May 2011; Terry Boyce, “1937 Chrysler Imperial: American Art Deco,” Special Interest Autos #84 (November-December 1984), reprinted in The Hemmings Book of Pre-War Chryslers, pp. 74-81; Arch Brown and Bud Juneau, “1935 Chrysler Airstream: Ray Dietrich to the Rescue,” Special Interest Autos #168 (November-December 1998), The Hemmings Book of Pre-War Chryslers, pp. 42-48, 57-59; Arch Brown, “1935 Plymouth: ‘A New Picture of Car Value,'” Special Interest Autos #172 (July-August 1999), reprinted in The Hemmings Book of Plymouths: driveReports from Hemmings Special Interest Autos magazine, ed. Terry Ehrich(Bennington, VT: Hemmings Motor News, 2002), pp. 4-21; Jeffrey I. Godshall, “1938 Chrysler Imperial: Chrysler’s Last Convertible Sedan,” Special Interest Autos #132 (November-December 1992), reprinted in The Hemmings Book of Pre-War Chryslers, pp. 82-91; Michael Lamm, “1931 Chrysler 6,” Special Interest Autos #40 (May-July 1977), reprinted in The Hemmings Book of Pre-War Chryslers, pp. 20-25; and Ross MacLean, “drive report: A 1936 Chrysler Airstream,” Special Interest Autos #4 (March-April 1971), reprinted in The Hemmings Book of Pre-War Chryslers, pp. 68-73.
Additional information on other early streamliners came from “1924 Rumpler Tropfen-Auto RU 4A 106 in ‘Metropolis, 1926” (30 May 2006 to 10 February 2008, IMCDb.org, accessed 18 May 2011); “1932 Bergholt Streamline at the Concours d’Elegance of America at Meadow Brook” (2010, ConceptCarz.com, www.conceptcarz. com, accessed 26 May 2011); “Albanita!” Special Interest Autos #15 (February-March 1973), pp. 50-53; the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide, “1923-1931 Lancia Lambda” (2007, HowStuffWorks.com, auto.howstuffworks. com/ 1923-1931-lancia-lambda.htm, accessed 21 May 2011), and the “1935-1942 Peugeot 402” (no date, HowStuffWorks.com, auto.howstuffworks. com/ 1935-1940-peugeot-402.htm, accessed 22 May 2011); “Benz Tropfenwagen” (no date, Grand Prix History, www.grandprixhistory. org/trop.htm, accessed 10 October 2020); “Founding Fathers of the Automotive Industry: Paul Jaray” (n.d., Unique Cars and Parts, www. uniquecarsandparts. com.au, accessed 14 May 2011); Kevin Guthrie, “The Benz Tropfenwagen and Alfa Romeo 512: Rear Engined Grand Prix Cars” (30 October 2008, Suite101.com – Auto Racing, www.suite101. com, accessed 18 May 2011); Neal Jacquot, “Volvo 1935 Carioca not a Copy of the Airflow!” Airflow Newsletter, Airflow Club of America, Vol. 49, No. 6 (June 2010), pp. 3-4, which refers to an article by Volvo corporate historian Claes Rydholm in Rolling Magazine: the publication of the Volvo Club of America, March-April 2010, pp. 18-23; Paul Jaray, “Motor Car,” U.S. Patent No. 1,631,269, applied 19 August 1922, issued 7 June 1927; David LaChance, “The Internationalist,” Hemmings Classic Car October 2008; Michael Lamm, “1939 Lincoln Zephyr,” Special Interest Autos #6 (July-August 1971), reprinted in The Hemmings Book of Lincolns, pp. 22-27; Michael Lamm, “Two Look-Alikes: Ford & Citroën,” Special Interest Autos #9 (January-March 1972), reprinted in The Hemmings Book of Prewar Fords: driveReports from Special Interest Autos magazine, ed. Terry Ehrich (Bennington, VT: Hemmings Motor News, 2001), pp. 44-51; Vincenzo Lancia, “Automobile,” United States Patent No. 1,372,148, applied 21 November 1919, issued 22 March 1921; Pete Leatherwood, “Mr. Bendix and His Car” [podcast] (27 March 2006, Studebaker National Museum, studebakermuseum.blogspot. com/ 2006/ 03/ mr-bendix-and-his-car.html, accessed 27 May 2011); Alex Oagana, “The Origins of Streamline Design in Cars” (5 January 2009, Autoevolution.com, www.autoevolution. com, accessed 23 May 2011); “Rumpler, Edmund” (7 August 2005, The Androom Archives, www.xs4all. nl/ ~androom/ biography/ p012525.htm, accessed 18 May 2011); Guillaume de Syon, “The Teardrop That Fell From the Sky: Paul Jaray and Automotive Aerodynamics,” ITEA Journal No. 29(1), March 2008, pp. 14-16; Toyota Motor Corporation, 75 Years of Toyota, “Vehicle Lineage: Toyoda Model AA Sedan (1st),” 2012, www.toyota-global. com, accessed 15 September 2014; “Volvo PV36 Carioca (1935)” (no date, NetCarShow.com, www.netcarshow. com; accessed 28 May 2011); and the Wikipedia® entries for the Peugeot 402 (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peugeot_402, accessed 22 May 2011), Edmund Rumpler (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edmund_Rumpler, accessed 18 May 2011), the Rumpler Tropfenwagen (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rumpler_Tropfenwagen, accessed 18 May 2011), and the Tatra 77 (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tatra_77, accessed 14 May 2011). Thanks to Pat McLaughlin for bringing the Bendix SWC and Bergholt Streamline to our attention.
Some history of the Chrysler Building came from Kenneth L. Massey, “History of Walter P. Chrysler and the Chrysler Building” (no date, Allpar, allpar. com, accessed 11 May 2011).
- Counting to Twelve: The Curious Story of Packard’s Twin Six and Twelve
- King of the Highway, Part 1: The Cadillac V-16
- King of the Highway, Part 2: The Cadillac V-12
- Like the Wind: The Lincoln Zephyr and Continental
- Take Me to Your Style Leader: The 1938–1942 Cadillac Sixty Special
- Queen of the Road: The Citroën Traction Avant
- One Hundred from Zero: The 1936–1942 Buick Century
- The Ford Flathead V8 and the Fall of Henry Ford
- The People’s Packard: The Packard One-Twenty and How NOT to Build a Brand