Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Chrysler Airflow Car

Inspired by the streamlining being applied in the aircraft industry to the DC-3 and China Clipper, in the railroad industry to Pullman Company's M-10,000 diesel locomotive and Henry Dreyfuss' 20th Century Limited, in 1927 Chrysler engineer Carl Breer applied the same principles to car design.  His team even had input from Orville Wright, who recommend wind tunnel testing their models.  After some 50 experimental designs, the eventual result was the Airflow, offered in both the DeSoto and Chrysler names beginning in 1934. People either loved it or hated it, and mostly they hated it.  It was a huge sales flop, which could have ended Chrysler had the company not continued to offer its regular fare to the public. Nevertheless, it went on to inspire GM's "fastback" design seven years later, as well as Ferdinand Porche's Volkswagen.  The Airflow was discontinued in 1937.

R. Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion, first shown at Chicago's 1933/34 World's Fair, was another ultimately unsuccessful example of automotive streamlining.

Another interesting aspect to the Airflow design involved Breer's analysis of the gait at which the human body seemed most comfortable--80 to 100 steps per minute.  He concluded that the up-and-down movement of the car should be kept within the same range by adjusting the springing.

Taken from Howard S. Irwin, The History of the Airflow Car. Scientific American, August 1977.

I've uploaded the short article here.

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