Widely criticized when it debuted in 1934 for its bold snub-nosed look, the Chrysler Airflow is now revered by historians as a quintessential representative of an entire movement in automotive styling, but it is not just a great body design — it also possesses a myriad of noteworthy engineering advances under its Art Deco façade.
A 1934 Airflow is the latest vehicle to go on display at the Detroit Historical Museum’s Automotive Showplace at the entrance of the America’s Motor City exhibit. You can see it through August of 2020.
Regularly considered one of the most influential automobile designs of the 1930s, this model launched “steamline” automobile design and signaled the end of the traditional “body on frame” design in favor of a “unit body” construction. Chrysler’s Airflow revolutionized practices in weight distribution and engine placement allowing riders to sit within the car’s frame rather than on top of it. This greatly improved comfort for rear sitting passengers. The Airflow was also the first American production car to be shaped in a wind tunnel, a practice now indispensable to the design process. The result was the streamlined look where the front-end more closely resembled modern locomotives rather than other automobiles of the period.
Completely restored by the Chrysler Corporation in 1952, this vehicle was donated to the Detroit Historical Museum in 1959, with 28,443 original miles on it. It recently underwent a cosmetic restoration with support from the MotorCities National Heritage Area. Learn more about the exhibit and the car on the Museum’s website.