The son of a Canadian-American Civil War veteran, 36-year-old Walter Chrysler took his experience as a machinist and railway works manager into the fledgling auto industry in Flint, Michigan in 1911, and the rest, as they say, is history. With the centenary of his now-iconic car company approaching, we take a look back at some of the milestones in the history of this most American of car manufacturers.
The founding of Chrysler. Following some years of successfully running Buick for GM head William C. Durant, to whom he sold his shares for a huge sum of money in 1919, Walter Chrysler founded his new company in partnership with three former Studebaker engineers. Their stated goal was to produce luxurious cars that were affordable to all.
The first Chrysler. Produced in 1924, the Chrysler Six featured an innovative, powerful yet lightweight 6-cylinder engine, along with 4-wheel hydraulic brakes, another first as a standard feature on a passenger car. Within a decade, the Chrysler Corporation had produced so many technological firsts it was known as Detroit's "engineering company".
The Chrysler Building. Walter Chrysler in 1928 announced the financing of what would become arguably the most cherished skyscraper in the world's most skyscraper-mad city, New York City. The Chrysler Building remains today an iconic and adored part of the city's skyline. Chrysler himself was subsequently named Time Magazine's Man of the Year in 1928.
The first V-8. Chrysler introduced the V-8 engine for the first time in 1951. The HEMI improved combustion efficiency, heat retention and compression to dramatically increase horsepower. The same period saw the introduction of the fully automatic Powerflite transmission, another revolutionary development.
The Chrysler 300. Considered by some to be the first muscle car, the 1955 Chrysler 300 married sleek styling with strong HEMI power, and conquered both roads and the track. Soon, the Chrysler 300C (1957) was featuring a HEMI engine with two 4-barrel carburetors and producing 375 HP. It was to become known as America's "beautiful brute".
The 1960s, a decade of revolutions in style. Sales increased steadily throughout the 50s and 60s, but Chrysler engineers remained dedicated to transforming both the looks and abilities of its cars, and the style revolution of the 1960s saw the advent of such models as the Chrysler New Yorker and the Chrysler Newport. Tailfins shrank and disappeared, lines got more aerodynamic and more seductive, and safety elements improved by leaps and bounds.
The Cordoba. The 1970s saw Chrysler produce the legendary Chrysler Cordoba, a unique coupe that gained fame partially through Ricardo Montalban's hugely popular TV spots, invoking the Cordoba's "rich corinthian leather"!
The Minivan. The 1980s saw the introduction of the safe and practical minivan; as it turned out Chrysler's most practical vehicle would become its most popular one, with the Chrysler Town and Country being revived as a more upmarket vehicle.
Innovation as Priority. Chrysler the corporation returned in the 1990s and particularly in the 2000s to Chrysler the man's abiding focus: innovation in the service of improving quality, performance, safety and affordability. From the PT Cruiser to the reimagined tech-heavy minivan to the fuel-efficient sedans of today, Chrysler has proven once again its relevance in the field of automotive design, innovation and excitement.