Chrysler’s revolutionary Airflow is arguably one of the most important cars of the pre-war era. Designed by Carl Breer, Fred Zeder, and Owen Skelton, the talented young engineers enlisted the help of Orville Wright with their aerodynamic tests. The Airflow had its debut at the New York Auto Show in 1934. It featured radical, streamlined styling that was a dramatic departure from the norm, with its integral fenders and headlamps and art-deco inspired detailing. Beyond the styling, the Airflow featured unique beam and truss construction that was a precursor to the modern Unibody. The Airflow was lighter and stronger than a traditional wooden-framed body atop a steel chassis, while the aerodynamic styling and robust 8-cylinder engine allowed for excellent performance.
Despite all of its benefits, the Airflow’s groundbreaking style was perhaps a decade ahead of its time and buyers did not warm to the unconventional looks. Problems with the new style of construction also caused quality control issues, which didn’t help the Airflow’s reputation. With the hindsight of over 80 years however, we now appreciate how important the Airflow was in advancing automotive styling, aerodynamics, and construction techniques.