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The world was in the midst of a deep economic depression in 1934 and most automakers were content just selling automobiles. Not Chrysler though, they would take a huge risk a produce one of the most innovative automobiles of its time. Aerodynamic in form, the Airflow was a glimpse of the future. Not only did the Airflow lead the way in terms of aerodynamics, it was the first mass-market car in the world to use the “modern” architecture that has now become standard. The passengers comfortably rode in a roomy interior between the axles. Power was supplied to the rear wheels by a front mounted in-line eight engine, pushing the Airflow into higher than normal speeds while maintaining good economy. The Airflow had many revolutionary ideas, like the placement of a portion of the engine ahead of the front axle, which allowed moving the passenger compartment forward. Instead of the simple ladder frames used in that period, the Airflow used a, space-frame, what today would be known as a unibody construction. The Airflow’s frame ran up the fender line, across and encircling the door openings, which made for a very rigid car.
1937 was the last gasp for the Airflow, known now simply as the Airflow Eight, essentially the previous year’s Imperial C10, riding the same 128-inch wheelbase and retaining its 323.5 cid engine. Only coupe and sedan body styles were fielded in 1937. The front-end received another makeover in ’37, a more gently rounded and raked nose and reworked hood louvers. The one main mechanical change was the adoption of a Bendix-built vacuum power brake system. There were only 4,600 C17 Airflows produced in 1937, 4,370 sedans and 230 coupes, both listed for $1,610.
As modern as the Airflow was, it wasn’t accepted by the buying public and the car was only in production for four years. It should be noted that the Chrysler’s embracement of new technology and design concepts used in the Airflow opened the rest of the auto industry to these ideas. Without the Airflow there may never have been Lincoln Zephyrs, “Bath Tub” Nash’s, and other streamlined designs of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s.