Car History Year 1924
Date: Sunday, September 26 @ 22:10:16 UTC
Walter Percy Chrysler proved to be a man with an outstanding talent and flair for the business of manufacturing automobiles. Since his background was in engineering, in the railroad industry, his first connection with cars was as works manager for Buick in 1910. By 1919, the frustrations of working with the volatile Billy Durant proved too much and Chrysler abruptly left the Flint, Michigan, factory, settling on a $10 million pay-off for his stock. Chrysler's next task was to try to sort out the troubled Willys-Overland Company on behalf of the Chase National Bank, for an annual fee of one million dollars. During his two years with Willys, Chrysler became convinced that a six cylinder engine being developed at the Elizabeth, New Jersey, plant, by three engineers who had formerly been with Studebaker - Carl Breer, Owen Skelton and Fred Zeder - showed some definite promise.
1921 saw Chrysler at Maxwell, which had merged with Chalmers and was facing difficulties. After both the New Jersey Willys factory and the six cylinder prototype were bought by Durant, Chrysler took the opportunity to acquire the services of Zeder, Skelton and Breer and brought them to Detroit in 1923 to produce an improved version of their engine.
The resulting power plant provided Walter P. Chrysler with the means to make an immediate success of a car bearing his name, which replaced the Maxwell. Displacing 201.5 cu.in. the L-head six produced 68bhp at 3200rpm thanks to a much higher than average compression ratio of 4.7:1 with a Ricardo-type cylinder head, giving the new Chrysler a very comfortable top speed of 70mph. Performance of this caliber in a car costing only $1,395 was a major breakthrough, and the Chrysler got an enthusiastic reception with 32,000 cars sold in 1924 - a record for first year sales by a new nameplate.
Competition success followed the car's launch, with Ralph Da Palma winning the Mount Wilson hill climb and setting a record two minutes quicker than the previous best by a stock car. Later that year, the same car and driver would cover 1,000 miles on a board track in California, establishing even more performance records. Yet the Chrysler was not just about speed. It had hydraulic brakes on all four wheels, air cleaner, oil filter, a tubular front axle and several other features not normally found on mass-produced, medium priced automobiles. If the engineering of the Chrysler was both excellent and innovative, the same cannot be said of the body styling, which was both conventional and entirely devoid of any imaginative flair. For years to come, the Chrysler's sound engineering practice would dominate the aesthetic design.
Outwardly, the only hint of speed on the '24 Chrysler was the winged radiator cap, but it was enough to mark the beginning of a major force in the auto industry for the rest of the century. Less of a long term force was Calvin Coolidge, who won the presidential election in 1924 using the slogan "Keep Cool With Coolidge" to emphasize his laid back attitude. Also keeping his cool was Clarence Birdseye who introduced frozen food to the world and thereby established another enduring household name.
Chrysler's reputation for dowdy styling would, of course, be completely reversed and the corporation would go on to become a style leader in the post-war period. One of the most dramatic examples of revolutionary Chrysler design came in 1934 with the arrival of the Airflow, styled, with the aid of wind-tunnel testing, by Oliver Clark.
Cast iron - 6 cylinders in line
201.5 cu. ins
Bore and stroke
3 x 4 1/3ins.
Roadster; Coupe; Tourer; Phaeton; Sedan; Brougham; Town Car
No. of seats
2,700lbs - 3,225lbs
$1,395 - $3,725
90 degree V8 - cast iron with alloy crankcase
314.5 cu. ins
Bore and stroke
3 1/8 x 5 1/8ins.
No. of seats
c. 4,500 lbs
$3,185 - $4,010
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