12 cars that were ahead of their time


In the 1930s, it seemed like no one in the auto industry had ever heard the words “aerodynamic” or “efficiency,” but Chrysler sought to put a stop to that. In 1934 they unveiled the Airflow, the first car designed using wind tunnel testing. It also used monocoque frame construction, a rarity at the time (via Hemmings).

Chrysler proved its bonafide performance at Bonneville, where the car clocked over 95 miles per hour in a standing mile. Power was initially provided by a 4.9-liter inline-eight engine developing 122 horsepower. Three- and four-speed transmissions were available, along with coupe and sedan body styles (via How Stuff Works).

The Airflow had many 1930s styling marks, but stretched and pinched in various ways to eliminate drag. The public and the press were initially won over by its unique appearance, but when it came time to buy the car, business slowed. Like so many cars in this room, the Airflow was just too weird for its own good.

Chrysler attempted to improve the design over the next few years, revising the grille and headlights. However, sales continued to slow, and the Airflow was canceled after the 1937 model year, with fewer than 30,000 total sales. Chrysler will eventually be vindicated, as aerodynamic efficiency has become one of the most important facets of modern automotive design. In January 2022, Chrysler also paid homage to the Airflow by putting its name on a new concept electric vehicle.


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