Video: 1934 Chrysler Airflow Shatters Records at Bonneville

1934 Chrysler Airflow AAA recordsIn this 1934 Chrysler promotional reel, famed Indy car driver Harry Haartz drives a new Imperial Airflow coupe to a slew of speed and distance records at Bonneville. 



Introduced in January of 1934, the Chrysler Airflow was not simply unorthodox in appearance. It was revolutionary in most every way, from its cab-forward packaging to its unitized body/chassis construction. (You can learn more about the Airflow’s ground-breaking design and engineering in this video.) To demonstrate the new model’s capabilities to a suspicious public, Chrysler arranged a whole series of performance stunts, including the trip to the Bonneville Salt Flats documented here.

For the Bonneville speed runs, Chrysler retained the services of race driver Harry Haartz, a shrewd money racer from California who started the Indianapolis 500 six times and scored three second place finishes. In August 1934 on the salt, Haartz drove a showroom stock (reportedly) Imperial Airflow coupe to 72 speed and distance records, including a flying mile at 95.7 mph and 2,000 miles at an average of 74.7 mph.

In this very same production Imperial coupe, it is claimed, Haartz then drove from New York to Los Angeles to demonstrate the Airflow’s durability and economy, averaging 18.1 miles per gallon. And as this promotional reel demonstrates, Haartz was also fluent in 1930s-style screwball banter, apparently. Watch for the peppy exchange between Harry and the announcer starting at the 2:30 mark. All great fun, enjoy.


7 thoughts on “Video: 1934 Chrysler Airflow Shatters Records at Bonneville

  1. I met Harry Haartz years ago at Indianapolis, where my late father was involved for decades. Harry was just a genuine humble senior at the time.

    • I really admire how the Speedway treats its former racers. Each and every one returns each May as a champion.

  2. Harry had that flathead 6 purring to get to 95 mph! Wonder how many miles it took to get it wound up? Great to see these old newsreels. Surprizing so many have remained intact through the years.

  3. I’m sorry, but this was not “cab-forward” vehicle packaging. The Airflow besides being the 1st real mass production aerodynamic car, had more influence on changing vehicle architecture by moving the passengers between the axles & the engine over the front axle. This made for a much smoother ride & allowed the passengers to be lower to the ground, eliminating the need for running boards. Also, by making the body as wide as the car, you could fit 3 people in the front seat. It took years for the other manufacturers to effect anything similar, despite doing further development of aerodynamic design.

    The Chrysler LH series of cars, Intrepid, Eagle, & LH were cab forward. They moved the wheels to the corners of the car & put the passengers as a priority by moving the windshield as far forward as possible. This architecture/design change took place under VP of Design, Tom Gale & Advance Design Director, Neil Walling.

    The Airflow coupe, not 3 or 4 door sedan, was the design leader that affected the industry. The Desoto was the best proportioned & svelte-looking. They do look ever so much better if the front end is lowered a few inches, though! 🙂 What is typically seen are the giant Imperials or 4 door Chryslers. As a mass produced car this did influence half a dozen companies in Europe.

  4. “They moved the wheels to the corners of the car & put the passengers as a priority by moving the windshield as far forward as possible.”

    I’ll agree that the Airflow was not cab forward but your description of the concept sounds a lot like the BMC Mini, which turned the engine sideways and pushed the wheels to the corners. You’d have to place it in the lineage of that packaging theory. I like to think of iti as Britain’s Ford Mustang.

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