5 Things You Should Know About Chrysler

The Man Behind the Name

Walter P. Chrysler was a self-made, self-taught engineering genius whose intense curiosity about how machines work informed his entire business life.  “I always want to know how things work,” he wrote in the original manuscript of his memoir, Life of an American Workman. “Had I been Aladdin, I am certain that after just one wish or two, I’d have taken that old lamp apart to see if I could make another, better lamp.”

The young Chrysler first applied this voracious curiosity to the complex moving parts of steam locomotives, becoming an expert at valve timing during his early work life in the locomotive back shops of numerous western railroads. By 1910, he became a manager at the Pittsburgh plant of the American Locomotive Company (ALCO), one of the nation’s biggest and best steam locomotive builders. By then, he had already been bitten by the car bug, having bought a 1909 Locomobile he reputedly disassembled and reassembled 40 times before driving it a mile.

In 1910 Chrysler accepted an offer from GM’s president Charles W. Nash to oversee production at Buick. There, he instituted assembly line-based production methods that boosted Buick’s daily car output from 40 to more than 500. A few short years later, he re-organized and rescued two ailing car companies: Maxwell and Willys-Overland.

But Walter’s dream was a car that would proudly bear his own name. In 1924, after bringing together a dream team of ex-Studebaker engineers, the “70”, the first car to bear the Chrysler name, rolled off the assembly line, followed quickly by the Chrysler Six. The advanced features of these cars—high-compression engines, four-wheel hydraulic brakes, full-pressure lubrication, and tubular tires)—were the first of many to make the name Chrysler synonymous with quality automotive engineering.

Born in a Wind Tunnel

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c2/1934_Chrysler_Airflow_%2831031719753%29.jpg By Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK (Chrysler Airflow Sedan 1934) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Chrysler’s engineering team was the first to apply aerodynamic principles to a mass-production car: the 1934 Airflow.

Tested in a custom-built wind tunnel, the Airflow’s streamlined styling radically cut wind resistance, making it possible for the car to “bore through the air.” Monocoque construction made for a strong body, and care was taken to evenly distribute engine and passenger weight for better handling on the poor roads of the time.

Despite the Airflow’s advanced engineering, automobile buyers of the mid-1930s preferred the more traditional styling of the less aerodynamic competitors, so the Airflow’s last model wear was 1937.

Today, wind-tunnel testing is standard for all new cars, a testament to the Airflow’s influence on modern car design.

Chrysler Produces Tanks for WWII

Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=391855

Well before America went to war in December 1941, Chrysler was actively wrestling with the thorniest of challenges: how to produce military tanks volumes that met the War Department’s aggressive production demands.

Chrysler’s answer was to bring the same efficient assembly-line production methods that Chrysler had used for years to tank production, starting with constructing a specialized facility that ultimately became known as the Detroit Arsenal.

Almost 90,000 tanks – about 25% of total U.S. tank production – were made by Chrysler during World War II, including M3 (“Lee”), M4 (“Sherman”) and M26 (“Pershing”) type tanks. All played a key role in the Allied victory.

Rocket science

By NASA - Marshall Space Flight Center's Marshall Image Exchange, http://mix.msfc.nasa.gov/abstracts.php?p=1956., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6701970

Chrysler was also a key player in conquering space. The company’s involvement began in the early 1950s, when it was awarded a contract to build the short-range Redstone ballistic missile. This versatile, ultra-reliable missile could ferry a thermonuclear weapon in war, or ship astronauts into peaceful space exploration, as it did in the Mercury Program. In the 1960s, Chrysler built the massive Saturn V booster engines used in the early Apollo program.

The rocketry components built by Chrysler for NASA and the Pentagon scored a flawless operational record. And while the manned space program of the 1960s ended long ago, Chrysler’s partnership with NASA endures. In 2010, a technology sharing agreement between Chrysler and NASA was announced. In the words of Mike Coats, director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, "the investment in NASA technologies has led to hundreds of applications here on Earth for several decades now, and this collaboration with Chrysler promises to continue that tradition.

Chrysler creates the minivan category

By CZmarlin — Christopher Ziemnowicz, releases all rights but a photo credit would be appreciated if this image is used anywhere other than Wikipedia. Please leave a note at Wikipedia here. Thank you! - Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45890796

Vans were once known for hauling cargo, not people. But Chrysler changed all that in 1983 when it introduced the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager. Conceived as a “garage-able van” whose primary duty was transporting people, the minivan’s final specs included front-wheel drive, a single right-side sliding door, the ability to accommodate a 4x8 sheet of plywood, removable seats, and “carlike” handling.

Suffice it to say that while Ford had long nurtured a strong interest in developing one, only Chrysler’s visionary CEO Lee Iacocca had the conviction to mobilize the resources necessary to actually build such a car.

Today, the minivan’s advanced state of evolution is represented by the Chrysler Pacifica, introduced on the 15th anniversary of the minivan’s birth. The Pacifica has earned numerous accolades, including Parents’ Magazine’s “Best Family Minivan of 2017” award, Cars.com’s “Best New Family Car” award,  Consumer Digest’s “Best Buy Minivan” award, and Edmunds.com’s “2017 Best Buy” award.

We welcome you to examine other current offerings from this legendary car company on our website and at our location!

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