Not their finest hour: Chrysler Airflow

Celebrating the greatest cock-ups in automotive history. This week we look at Chrysler Airflow
By Imran Malik, Features Writer
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January 15, 2017
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Even if you think you’ve built a good car, it can still tank if the market isn’t ready for it. Timing is key and when Chrysler Corporation was just a fledgling little newcomer in the automotive industry back in the Thirties, it found this out the hard way as its new and ever-so advanced 1934 Airflow flopped, spectacularly. The fact that the engine was prone to falling out might have had something to do with it, too...

It appeared to have everything going for it to make it a success. Released at the height of the Great Depression — a time when Americans were pining for change — it featured an aerodynamic body, a perfect 50-50 weight distribution, loads of interior space (placing the eight-cylinder motor over the front axle created considerable passenger room while the seats were an industry-leading 50in across) and as its uni-body construction was all steel (most cars used wood in their construction back then...) it offered almost modern safety. However, it lacked one crucial element — support from the car-buying public. It was too sleek, too different, too far ahead of the times and so buyers looked the other way and continued opting for boxier models. And, when earlier Airflows suffered the ignominy of their motors literally dropping out of the engine compartments due to the radical construction techniques they employed, which failed to hold them in place, the damage was well and truly done. Chrysler went back to the drawing board and green lit far more conservative cars for the next two decades, which fared rather better — but the funny thing is that many of the Airflow’s innovations that originally frightened people for being too advanced, became industry standards years later...

So, what’s the lesson here? Well, it’s to ensure the timing is right before launching a new car — and er, making sure the engine is bolted on nice and tight...