(To open Part 1 click here)
Until Walter P. Chrysler passed away
By 1936, Chrysler had passed the mark of 1 million vehicles sold since its foundation. In the same year, the engineers were testing a new type of car based on Walter P. Chrysler’s idea of a “practical inexpensive car”. It would use front wheel drive and have a 5 cylinder radial engine. The idea would eventually be put aside and the tests would not be used as references.
The iconic Airflow ended production in 1937. In the same year, Chrysler pioneered the use of wood panels in car exteriors. People would value the craftsmanship and have a strong emotional connection with the widely used material (wood). Wood panels were mostly applied in cars for the countryside, like the Town and Country series introduced in 1941.
In 1938, an unexpected recession during the American Great depression made the manufacturers cut production in half.
In 1939, Chrysler made relevant engineering progress specially with the introduction of a “Fuel drive” liquid clutch. It also started using the “Superfinish” – an anti-wear chassis protection finish. In terms of relevant exterior changes, the main change was that headlights were moved into the fenders.
New focus: Concept cars and Styling
Walter P. Chrysler died in 1940 at the age of 65.
The economy recovery helped boost vehicle production. At the beginning of the 1940s, Chrysler Corp. started focusing on two things like never before: concept cars and styling. Two relevant concept cars in the beginning of the decade were the Newport and the Thunderbolt. Also known as the “push-button” car, the Thunderbolt featured innovative electrically operated windows and deck lid and push-button doors.
The Town and Country and the World War 2
In 1941, just before the USA military intervention in WW2, Chrysler introduced its first Station Wagon – a Town and Country. It originated the more recent very successful Chrysler family vans. The concept around the Station Wagon was that it should be a family get-away car, It should counter the existing boxy trucks and it should represent the connection between the urban and the rural areas. People were starting to travel longer distances because they were starting to live more in the suburbs. The car would be a good practical solution since the necessity of carrying more people/goods was expanding.
At the same time, the government needed military equipment urgently because of the WW2. Chrysler had accepted defense contracts and built a tank arsenal. Most of civilian vehicle production was suspended between 1942 and 1945.
Between 1946 and 1948, the material shortage caused by the war affected production negatively. Nevertheless, in that period, Chrysler introduced new models and new features including new Town and Country models (no wagons) conceived by David A. Wallace (president of Chrysler division). New features included new types of oil filters, back up lights and a parking brake warning light.
In 1949, the first Station Wagon with three seat rows (9 passengers) was launched.
The 1950s were definitely changing times. After the end of WW2, in a clime of prosperity, people were in the mood to spend and Chrysler was in the mood to innovate.
Chrysler had a new president: L. L. Colbert. It kept a conservative styling approach in the first years. Other brands were successfully selling newly styled cars and Chrysler had to keep up. So, in the middle of the decade, Chrysler’s image changed dramatically.
In 1951, Chrysler developed its first hemispheric-head (HEMI) V8 engine which was extremely efficient. In the same year, Chrysler also introduced full-time power steering.
Chrysler’s image started changing upon its collaboration with Ghia, an Italian automobile design firm. The partnership lasted 18 years and resulted in many cars. Two of the initial developed concept cars were the 1952 K-310 and the 1953 D’Elegance Ghia.
The “second family car” trend was starting to emerge. As a consequence, a line of concept cars called “His and Hers” was designed (by Virgil Exner, design director). La Contesse explored the feminine theme. Le Comte explored the masculine theme. In the same year, 1954, Chrysler developed a new engine that finally put them ahead in the “horsepower race”. It had a 4 barrel carburetor and produced 235hp which made it the most powerful engine on the market.
In 1955 one of the first “muscle cars” was launched: the C-300.
(To be continued on Part 3)
1. Dammann, George (1974). Seventy Years of Chrysler. Sarasota: Crestline Publishing Company. Comments: Very detailed source.
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1. Chrysler Group LLC. (2011). Chrysler Iconic Cars from the Chrysler 6 to the 300. Available: http://www.chryslerhistory.com/IconicVehicles/Content.aspx?topic=Iconic-Vehicles. Last accessed 22th Oct 2013. Comments: Video by Chrysler Company
2. Chrysler Group LLC. (2011). Design Supremacy: Chrysler-Ghia Series of the 1950s. Available: http://www.chryslerhistory.com/Style/Content.aspx?topic=Design-Supremacy. Last accessed 31tst Oct 2013. Comments: Video by Chrysler Company
3. Chrysler Group LLC. (2012). Chrysler Group Historical Review . Available: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SHRnf00aH0Q. Last accessed 22th Oct 2013. Comments: “Description: Chrysler Group’s Manager of Historical Services Brandt Rosenbusch gives us a look back over the history of Chrysler, including highlighting just some of our “segment busters” and what Mr. Chrysler would think of today’s company. Video conducted at the Walter P. Chrysler Museum, Auburn Hills, Mich”
4. Chrysler Group LLC. (2012). Chrysler History: 1940s. Available: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QNrx0URBYWk. Last accessed 31st Oct 2013. Comments: ”Description: In 1996, a Chrysler historical series was put together for the Chrysler Employee Network, with a review of the company’s history through the 1940s. The Chrysler Chronicles has not been updated since but it’s still a valuable look-back at our wealth of automotive heritage and innovation.”
5. Chrysler Group LLC. (2012). Chrysler History: 1950s. Available: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uxNRvTn0L90. Last accessed 31st Oct 2013. Comments: “Description: In 1996, a Chrysler historical series was put together for the Chrysler Employee Network, with a review of the company’s history through the 1950s. The Chrysler Chronicles has not been updated since but it’s still a valuable look-back at our wealth of automotive heritage and innovation.”
Tiago Cardoso SId 4792451