The Chrysler Airflow will forever be known as a car ahead of its time. One of the first cars to have been designed with aerodynamics in mind, the shape and contours of the vehicle were just too much for most of the buying public and it was gone from the Chrysler line-up in just two years. What’s interesting to us is that the Airflow doesn’t get the same cruel historical treatment as the Edsel does but each were big financial drains for their respective companies. The Airflow was certainly more innovative than the Edsel was, so perhaps that is why it is portrayed as a less of a failure than the Edsel.
An interesting factoid about the car is that Orville Wright was one of the lead advisors in the development of the shape of the Airflow. His input was all on the aero-end, not the styling end. While designers were given the basic shape to work with (which, when viewed with modern eyes is nice) but did little to make it look any better knowing that they were very constrained with regard to any changes that would impact the aerodynamic performance of the car. Donned with an ornate waterfall grill, lots of rolling curves, and other accoutrements that pushed it from odd to gaudy and odd, Chrysler couldn’t give them away. Simply put, it was the Pontiac Aztek of the era.
In this Chrysler promotional film, you’ll see an Airflow hauling the mail at Bonneville, setting speed and endurance records and a second film of that very car being driven across the country for less than 35 bucks in fuel. Seriously!