2019 Shannons Melbourne Summer Classic Auction
Lot
39

1934 Chrysler Airflow CU 'Eight' 4dr Sedan

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Specifications

Engine 299ci in-line eight
Gearbox Three-speed manual/overdrive
Body Work Sedan
Colour Sultana Sand
Interior Tan
Trim Leather
Wheels Steel with hubcaps
Brakes Drum/drum

Vehicle Report

Description

One of the most revolutionary and influential American cars of the 1930s, Chrysler's Airflow was unveiled at the 1934 New York Auto Show and is regarded as being the first mass-produced streamlined car. The Airflow's aerodynamic shape was the result of extensive studies carried out in the wind tunnel by the company's engineers under the direction of Carl Breer, who was charged with developing new ideas by Walter P Chrysler. Adopting a 'cab-forward' design, with the engine positioned above the front axle to maximise interior space, the Airflow's construction was equally ingenious, consisting of a steel tube frame with steel panels welded on, an aircraft-inspired technique predating unitary construction by some years. By keeping the car's mass within the wheelbase the Airflow's passengers enjoyed a superior ride and the interior compartment had far room inside than any of its contemporaries. Other notable design features included a boot accessible from inside the car and flush-mounted headlamps. Described as 'The beauty of nature itself' by Chrysler's marketing gurus, the streamlined Airflow was sold in four different versions in 1934, starting with the CU series, the longer wheelbase Imperial CV and CX and the limited production Imperial CW, the latter the largest cars yet built by the Chrysler Corporation, with a huge 137.5-inch wheelbase. Powered by a 298.7ci straight eight, the CU Airflow rode on a 123-inch wheelbase and was the most popular model in 1934, with sales totalling 7226 cars. The press were initially enthusiastic about the Airflow, with Harper's Bazaar stating the styling “took your breath away” but for the American public it's styling was simply too radical and Chrysler persevered only until 1937 before dropping the model altogether. Each year Chrysler's designers watered down the original styling in an attempt to increase sales, adopting a more conventional grille design in 1935, but ironically the original, most radical design of 1934 is the Airflow most sought after by collectors today. Featured in some of the finest automobile museums and collections around the world and invariably included in any history of automotive design, the Chrysler Airflow may not have been commercially successful but it's legacy lives on in the aerodynamic designs that followed.
 

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