Sunday, August 06, 2006

Engineering marvel was doomed by ugly-duckling styling

When the Chrysler and DeSoto Airflows were unveiled in 1934, they rode better than other cars, they were powerful and fast, and they were sturdy. An automatic overdrive transmission gave them sensational mileage. Occupants had plenty of room in the unitized bodies and all sat between the wheels.

The Airflow had everything except one essential -- good looks. They look interesting now, but in 1934 buyers rejected them as ugly. Within two years, Chrysler and DeSoto sales had nosedived and the corporation was retreating rapidly to the more conventional Airstream, an interim move to save face. The DeSoto Airflow was dropped in 1936 and the Chrysler in 1937. By 1938, all styling vestiges of the Airflow were gone, although many of its engineering advances were preserved.

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