Chrysler is an American car brand with a great history and solid reputation on the market. However, over time the history of the Chrysler brand went through some tumultuous periods. In the ’70s the decade is an eerily reminiscent of the current crisis period faced by the U.S. automaker, when the car manufacturer went on the brink of bankruptcy.
Challenged by U.S. antitrust laws, Chrysler had difficulty responding to increasing demands for vehicles that got better mileage and are environmentally friendly. Having its sales level lower than both General Motors and Ford, the Chrysler company had to retrofit its engines in order to meet emission standards, which in turn affected its fuel economy in the midst of the ’70s oil crisis.
Reliant on gas-guzzling large vehicles, the Chrysler automaker company lacked a strong compact line, and was heavily affected by the concurrence coming from the Japanese automakers with their fuel efficient and compact cars. Just four months before the end of the decade, in a move that sounds so familiar today, Chrysler was forced to ask the U.S. government for a $1.5 billion bailout in order to avoid bankruptcy.
As we can see from the company’s history, Chrysler is no stranger to crisis. Today, in the midst of a global financial crisis that still continue with no clear deadline for a recovery, Chrysler finds itself again in a familiar position, asking for government assistance in order to survive. However, no matter how uncertain the Chrysler’s future may be, the past of this American automaker company is certainly full of notable moments and some exceptional top vehicles to remember.
The Chrysler Airflow
In 1934, the fledgling Chrysler Corp., still a relative newcomer to the American automotive market, hoped to distinguish itself from the competition with the innovative Chrysler Airflow car model. Airflow was an aerodynamically vehicle tested in the industry’s first air tunnel. It was designer as a lighter car, in order to provide a more efficient ride.
Chrysler Airflow was released at the height of the Great Depression and the car had a sleek design that was too revolutionary for the times and the consumers’ taste. They continued to prefer the boxier models. Despite the many innovations of the Airflow model, that later will eventually became industry standards, Chrysler was forced to adopt a more conservative design for the next two decades due to the disappointing sales of the Airflow model.
The Age of the Muscle Car and Chrysler’s Hemi Engine
In the year 1951, the Chrysler automaker introduced the Hemi, a 180 horsepower internal-combustion V-8 engine called Hemi. This might sound modest by modern standards, however it was a very powerful engine for that time. Particularly after Chrysler company rolled out the 426 Hemi in the year 1964, the Hemi V-8 engine ushered in the golden age of the American muscle car. That year, cars featuring the innovative Hemi V-8 engine took the first three places in the prestigious Daytona 500.
Plymouth/Chrysler Prowler (1997-2002)
The Chrysler Prowler was a concept car that came to life. The car introduced in mass production kept nearly all of the concept’s good looks. Just some small compromises had to be made in order to meet the current safety and street legal standards.
The Prowler was featuring a V6 powertrain and had many aluminum components in the chassis. In later years an upgraded engine had replaced the V6. This is a collection sports car today, since only 11,702 were produced during the five year run.
Chrysler PT Cruiser (2001-present)
The PT Cruiser looked like nothing else on the road. The model even drew dealer markups and waiting lists, even if the car was basically only a taller version of the Neon chassis. The interior of the PT Cruiser managed to strike an art deco upscale tone with nicely grained plastics and body colored accents.
Even if later on the PT Cruiser’s 2006 refresh cheapened the interior in order to bring it down to the level of other Chrysler cars, this model remains an icon car. It was also a great sales success. With PT Cruiser the automaker has likely exceeded its sales goals.
Chrysler Crossfire (2004-present)
The Chrysler Crossfire was a re-bodied version of the R170 first generation Mercedes-Benz SLK roadster. The instrument panel as well as the rest of the interior is almost identical with the Mercedes-Benz car. However, the Mercedes-Benz went for a wood look, while Crossfire has more silver-appearing parts.
The Crossfire SRT-6 is powered by a 330 horsepower engine. Its design is better than the Sebring and after the merger of Chrysler with the German automaker company this car is a great way to get a Mercedes for bargain prices.