Showing posts with label Chrysler. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chrysler. Show all posts

Chrysler Turboflite

Chrysler Turboflite 1960s American classic concept car

The Turboflite had radical written all over it. Chrysler's goal was to put a gas-turbine-powered car in the showrooms of America. Certainly, the system had been seen before - in land speed record cars! Chrysler wanted to make it widely available. Albeit, detuned a tad! The R&D work was already done. In '54, Chrysler installed a gas-turbine engine in a Plymouth. The car was driven from NY to LA - by Head of Research George Huebner. 50 or so variations on the Plymouth theme had been built. Not to mention, numerous new motors. In '61, the test schedule was complete. Chrysler unveiled its latest gas-turbine creation. It was dubbed the Turboflite.

Maury Baldwin designed the new dream car. He did not pull any stylistic punches. Most notably - and that was saying something - it was fitted with an aerofoil. Not just any old aerofoil, though. This one pivoted - to help with braking. At the front, open wheels and a pointy nose smacked of street-rods. Baldwin had not held back on the chrome. The Turboflite's interior was similarly striking. Space-age seats looked suitably enticing. Electro-luminescent lighting added a relaxed ambience. Even climbing into the cabin was fun. Opening the doors automatically raised the cockpit canopy, for ease of access.

The Turboflite's gas-turbine motor was code-named CR2A. Chrysler claimed it weighed half as much as their standard V8. After all, it was made up of just 60 - rather than 300 - moving parts. Chrysler knew it worked. A Dodge truck put it through its paces, prior to the Turboflite's launch. Ghia were recruited to coachbuild the car. The Italian masters were given the most exacting of briefs. Chrysler were serious about this one - so, every last detail mattered. In due course, Ghia built bodies for the Chrysler Turbine - the production version of the Turboflite prototype. But while it was ultimately, then, a means to an end, the Chrysler Turboflite's exuberance made it more than a mere staging-post!

Chrysler K-310

Chrysler K-310 1950s American classic concept car

The K-310 was a Chrysler/Ghia collaboration. It was facilitated by Fiat. The firm had approached Chrysler - with a view to the American giant helping streamline its manufacturing process. Chrysler immediately spotted a symbiotic relationship. They could benefit from Italian craftsmanship. Subsequently, Ghia and Pininfarina - two of the great automotive design houses - built and submitted bodywork to Chrysler. Ghia got the gig. Their brief had been the Plymouth XX-500 saloon. Whilst slightly underwhelmed by the mock-up's looks, Chrysler were in awe of Ghia's coachbuilding skills. They liked the price, too!

Over to Virgil Exner - Chrysler chief designer. He was tasked with penning a prototype. Exner came up with the K-310. Drafts and scale models of the new car were dispatched to Turin - home to Ghia HQ. In due course, Chrysler were sent back a fully-fledged roadster. The invoice was just $20,000. Kaufman Keller was pleased. He was Chrysler's president - and the man who put the 'K' in K-310. Ghia had brought to glittering life, Exner's sculpted lines and low profile design. The car was laden with exotic features. Most notably, the enlarged wheels were highlighted by whitewall tyres - and generously-sized arches. The front-end was adorned by a diminutive 'egg-crate' grille. At the back, the shape of the spare wheel embellished a moulded boot lid.

Innovative as the K-310 was visually, in one respect, at least, Chrysler's song remained the same. To wit, the booming baritone from the car's V8 engine. Indeed, it could be heard all around Auburn Hills, Michigan - Chrysler's home town. With '51's K-310 concept car, Virgil Exner went out on a limb, aesthetically. And thanks to Ghia, Chrysler was now competing on every front - including craftsmanship!

Chrysler Thunderbolt

Chrysler Thunderbolt 1940s American classic concept car

The Chrysler Thunderbolt was named after the land speed record car, driven by Captain George Eyston. That mission had been accomplished at Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah - in '38. The 2-seat roadster Thunderbolt sported an apt chrome lightning flash on its doors. Its straight-eight 323.5 cubic-inch engine made 143bhp. Rather less, no doubt, than its record-breaking namesake. Like the LSR car, though, the Thunderbolt prototype was a promotional tool. In '41, six Thunderbolts duly departed Detroit. They did the rounds of Chrysler dealerships, throughout the USA. The job of these 'dream cars' was to generate buzz for the new range of Chryslers to come.

Alex Tremulis was tasked with designing the Thunderbolt. A freelancer, at the time, the commission from Chrysler kick-started his career. The Thunderbolt was radical. Its bodywork was a rounded slab of aluminium. Beneath it, wheels and tyres were only partially visible. The body was built by LeBaron - later acquired by Briggs Manufacturing. Technically, too, the Thunderbolt was ahead of the game. Its roof and headlights were electrically retractable. Tiny push buttons opened the doors - rather than conventional handles. The air intake was below the front bumper. Avant-garde stuff, indeed, in the 1940s.

The chassis, at least, was mainstream. It was carried over from the Chrysler New Yorker. Indeed, the Thunderbolt had its roots in the Chrysler Crown Imperial. That was in stark contrast, then, to the sci-fi gadgetry of the interior. Saying that, it was upholstered in traditional leather. In the toy shops, tin replicas of the Thunderbolt sold by the shedload. Each of the half-dozen life-size cars came in its own custom colour scheme. One of them is on display at the Walter P. Chrysler Museum - in Auburn Hills, Michigan. The Chrysler Thunderbolt, then, was a stylish blend of automotive futurism and coachbuilt craftmanship.

Goldenrod

Goldenrod classic land speed record car

It was in 1965 that Bob Summers drove Goldenrod to a new world land speed record of 409mph. The backdrop was the Bonneville Salt Flats - Utah's Mecca of straight-line speed. What set Goldenrod apart from many of its rivals was its relative orthodoxy. It was, quintessentially, a car ... albeit, one which pushed the automotive envelope. Whereas some of its contemporaries were borderline, at best, Goldenrod proudly declared its roadster credentials.

Key to that claim was its engine. To wit, a 6.9-litre Chrysler V8. Well, actually, four 6.9-litre Chrysler V8s! Two of them turned the front wheels - the other two, the rear. Their combined output was 2,400bhp. And they were not even supercharged. Now, that is efficient engineering! Saying that, they were fuel-injected.

But, Goldenrod was about more than pure power! Aerodynamics were just as important. The car was assembled in Ontario, California - by driver Summers, and his brother Bill. Sensibly, Bob built a mock-up, beforehand. It was this scaled-down model that first caught Chrysler's eye. Summers was sure that his dream could be realised. And - after studying the mock-up - Chrysler agreed. The green light was given - and Goldenrod began to take shape. Its length alone - all 10 missile-like metres of it - buoyed Chrysler with confidence. Summers explained that Goldenrod's weight was to its advantage. It would force its aluminium wheels - shod, as they were, in Firestone tyres - solidly into the salt, he said. He was proved right. Goldenrod duly snatched back the land speed record from Brit Donald Campbell. It was almost 40 years since the USA had made the fastest four-wheeler on Earth. Goldenrod had been shot down from hot rod heaven - expressly for the purpose. A shining example of America's need for speed!

Chrysler Airflow

Chrysler Airflow 1930s American classic car

The Chrysler Airflow was where Art met Science! Its body lines were aerodynamic - at a time when that craft was a mere glint in a boffin's eye. Indeed, the Airflow was the first production car to feature the fledgeling craft. A wind tunnel was duly constructed. Today, such systems are considered arcane ... in the early '30s, they were a black art! The Airflow wizards of engineering were Carl Breer, Fred Zeder and Owen Skelton. Breer had been first to be smitten by the new-fangled science. Zeder and Skelton soon followed suit. And it did no harm at all when pioneer pilot Orville Wright's input was added. Over 50 test cars were subsequently built. So - by a process of painstaking refinement - the Chrysler Airflow gradually took shape.

The Airflow, though, was not just aerodynamics. Weight-saving, too, was part of its brief. Its svelte frame was made from light metal - rather than heavy timber. Perched on that frame was a monocoque body. That reduced weight still further. What mass was left was optimally placed. The engine was over the front wheels - with ride and handling in mind. The seats sat neatly within the wheelbase - in the interests of balance. Thanks to all the wind-cheating work, the Airflow was well-placed to 'turn up the wick', when required. A top speed of 88mph was not to be sniffed at, in '34.

The Airflow's sales, though, were lacklustre. Walter Chrysler showed courage and commitment, in commissioning the car. But, the Airflow was the future. Buyers were not yet ready for its 'free-flowing' lines. On top of that, there were rumours of build quality faults ... on account of new welding techniques. Ultimately, though, cars like the Airflow are not about sales. Rather, they are about the legacy they leave - and the visions they engender. The Chrysler Airflow influenced automotive design for decades!