Looking Forward - 10,000 Lakes Region of the WPC Club
Chrysler Heritage 1920s to 1950s
1920-1924: Walter P. teamed up with three ex-Studebaker engineers (Fred Zeder, Owen Skelton and Carl Breer) to design a revolutionary new car. They defined what the products of the new Chrysler brand would be – affordable luxury vehicles known for innovative top-flight engineering.
1924: The Chrysler 6, priced at $1,565, featured two significant innovations – the engine was a lightweight, powerful 6-cylinder, and the brakes were 4-wheel hydraulic. The car also featured aluminum pistons, replaceable oil and air filters, tubular front axles and shock absorbers.
1930-1935: Within a decade, Chrysler was known as the “engineering company”. Its early automotive firsts included Floating Power (a method of mounting the engine to avoid vibration), downdraft carburetors and one-piece curved windshields.
1930s: Chrysler entered a higher level of competition with the richly appointed Imperial series – custom-built body from LeBaron or Briggs, 145-inch wheelbase chassis, 125 horsepower engine and a price tag of $3,145. A typical Imperial of the 1930s rivaled a Duesenberg in style but cost only 1/3 as much. In 1934 the aerodynamic, unibody Airflow (Carl Breer's brainchild) was introduced – it was the first car to undergo wind tunnel testing.
1946-1954: Changing times at Chrysler came with the 1951 debut of the hemispheric-head V8 engine. This engine combined better combustion, higher compression and lower heat loss to create a much more powerful engine. Close behind was the introduction of the fully automatic Powerflite transmission.
1954: Chrysler commissioned a gas turbine engine program. A Plymouth Belvedere was fitted with a turbine engine that contained 20% fewer parts and was 200 lbs. lighter than a conventional piston engine. In 1956, Chrysler engineer George Huebner drove another Plymouth from New York City to Los Angeles in 4 days with no problems. This success led Chrysler to double the size of its turbine program.
1955-1962: The Virgil Exner revival of Chrysler's leadership in product design with the sleek “Forward Look”, which transformed the product line overnight. The 1955 Chrysler 300 with Hemi-power, was the flagship of the new look. It was arguably the first muscle car.
1957: The Chrysler 300C was equipped with a standard 392 cubic-inch, 357 horsepower Hemi engine, two 4-barrel carburetors, a high-output camshaft, a Torsion-Aire suspension and the new Torqueflite transmission. It was the fastest, most powerful production car built in the U.S. and it earned the nickname “Beautiful Brute”.
The Chrysler Corporation's forward-thinking engineering in these early decades made it the company to beat – and nobody did.