Chrysler Brand Celebrates 90 Years of Style, Engineering Innovation and Groundbreaking Products
Jo-Carolyn Goode | 9/28/2015, 2:08 p.m.
Chrysler Six, Airflow, Imperial, New Yorker, 300 and Town & Country are just some of the nameplates that mark the rich history of the Chrysler brand.
2015 marks the 90th anniversary of Chrysler, which was founded on June 6, 1925 by Walter P. Chrysler. Chrysler represents more than a brand – it symbolizes the people behind the products, and the influence of its founder can still be felt today.
Walter P. Chrysler built a company and a brand that wasn’t afraid to push the limits and think outside of the box. In 1925, when he realized his dream of creating his own company, he dedicated the company’s efforts to excellence in engineering, while building affordable, luxurious cars at a price consumers could afford. That tradition continues today.
Through the last 90 years, Chrysler vehicles were known for innovative engineering, groundbreaking style and “looking more expensive than they were,” the forerunner to affordable luxury.
1920s – The first Chrysler branded vehicle was born as part of Maxwell Motors: the Chrysler Six. Walter P. Chrysler was Chairman of Maxwell Motors prior to establishing Chrysler Corporation in June, 1925. Priced at $1,565, the light, powerful vehicle had a groundbreaking L-head six-cylinder engine, and four-wheel hydraulic brakes, an uncommon feature in the 1920s. Additional Chrysler Six features included tubular front axles, full pressure lubrication, aluminum pistons, replaceable oil and air filters, shock absorbers and indirect interior lighting.
1925-1930 – Early Chrysler vehicles provided style and power, but were also affordable, which contributed to the brand’s rapid success. Early models were named after their top speed: the Chrysler 58 had a top speed of 58 miles per hour (mph); a Chrysler 72 could go a max 72 mph and so on.
In 1926 Chrysler introduced a more powerful and costly Imperial model, giving Chrysler a response to Cadillac, Packard and Peerless. The Imperials offered prestige as a top-of-the-line Chrysler. Chrysler production in the late 1920s focused on both four- and six-cylinder powered vehicles.
1930s – The 1930s brought the Great Depression in the United States and technology took hold in the automotive industry. Chrysler survived the Great Depression with stylish, economically priced cars and its reputation for practical, advanced engineering. Beginning in 1931, Chrysler introduced a number of engineering feats. Chrysler took “Floating Power,” a two-point mounting system strategically placed so the engine’s natural rocking axis would intersect with its center of gravity, keeping the engine’s natural vibration from reaching the frame and body, and improved it with rubber engine mounts, which further reduced engine vibration in the body. By the 1932 model year, all Chrysler models featured Floating Power. Industry firsts also featured on Chrysler products in the 1930s included a downdraft carburetor, automatic spark control and rustproofed, welded steel bodies.
The most groundbreaking vehicle from the 1930s was the Chrysler Airflow. Carl Breer was inspired by a squadron of Army Air Corps planes flying overhead in the late ‘20s. Pushing the boundaries of design, aircraft design principles were used for the development of the vehicle, along with inspiration from pilot Orville Wright, with whom Breer consulted. Chrysler constructed a wind tunnel at their Highland Park, Michigan headquarters during the development of the Airflow. As the design team developed early prototypes they learned about aerodynamics as they worked. They built at least 10 full-size semi-streamliners during development. Wind tunnel testing inspired the modified teardrop shape. The body sported a short, curved nose with faired-in headlamps, and the engine sat 20 inches farther back than was normal for the time.