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1920-1924: Chrysler teamed up with three ex-Studebaker engineers, Fred Zeder, Owen Skelton and Carl Breer, to design a revolutionary new car. They defined what the products of the Chrysler brand would be - affordable "luxury" vehicles known for innovative, top-flight engineering.
1924: The first was the 1924 Chrysler Six, an all-new car priced at $1,565 that featured two significant innovations - a light, powerful, high-compression six-cylinder engine and the first time four-wheel hydraulic brakes were standard on a passenger car. The well-equipped Chrysler Six also featured aluminum pistons, replaceable oil and air filters, full-pressure lubrication, tubular front axles, shock absorbers and indirect interior lighting.
1930-1935: Within a decade of its founding, Chrysler Corporation's leadership in innovation had earned for it the label of Detroit's "engineering company." Chrysler's list of early automotive "firsts" included Floating Power (a new method of mounting engines to isolate vibration), replaceable oil filters, downdraft carburetors and one-piece curved windshields.
Chrysler entered a higher level of competition with its richly appointed Imperial series. With a custom-built body from LeBaron or Briggs, a 145-inch-wheelbase chassis, a 125-horsepower engine and a price tag of $3,145, a typical Imperial of the early 1930s rivaled a Duesenberg in style, but cost only about a third as much!
1946-1954: The first indication of changing times at Chrysler came with the 1951 development, and enthusiastic reception, of the authoritative, hemispheric-head V-8 engine. The soon-to-be legendary HEMI® combined better combustion, higher compression and lower heat loss to create much more horsepower than previous V-8s. Close behind was the fully automatic Powerflite transmission.
Chrysler then reaffirmed its engineering reputation by commissioning a revolutionary gas turbine engine program. This 27-year campaign to apply an aircraft engine turbine's smooth power and low maintenance requirements to automobiles became part of the Chrysler brand's folklore.
1955-1962: Exner revived Chrysler production car design with the sleek, sculptured Forward Look designs of 1955 that transformed the product line overnight. The Forward Look flagship was the 1955 Chrysler 300, a striking automobile that combined smooth styling with brawny HEMI power. The 300, arguably the first muscle car, became a legend on and off the race track and set records throughout the 1950s, including a 143-mph performance at Daytona Beach. As the Fifties progressed, Chrysler products began to sprout distinctive tailfins, ostensibly to improve handling and stability above 70 miles per hour. The 1957 Chrysler brand standard-bearer, the 300C, was equipped with a standard 392-cubic-inch, 375-horsepower HEMI, two four-barrel carburetors, a high-output camshaft, Torsion-Aire suspension and the new Torqueflite transmission, making it the fastest, most powerful production car built in America that year and earning it the appellation "beautiful brute."
The company's engineering "firsts" from this era include the first "safety cushion dashboard," the famous Chrysler push-button transmission (which became an icon of the '50s), power steering, torsion-bar suspension and the first practical alternator (introduced in 1960, it proved so successful it became standard equipment just one year later).
1963-1970: Chrysler products evolved gracefully through the '60s - fins disappeared, large cars became more refined - and ads for the 1963 New Yorker promised that there were "no junior editions to compromise your investment." The 1963 Chrysler 300-J maintained the brand's style-plus-speed image with standard leather interiors, heavy-duty torsion bars and Ram induction manifolds; a special-edition Pace Setter convertible version started the Indianapolis 500.
By 1965, Chrysler sales had increased 65 percent and the brand moved from 11th to ninth place in national rankings. Models ranged from the "affordable luxury" of the Newport line (with no fewer than 376 trim and color combinations), through the high-line New Yorker to the sporty 300 with its 440-cubic-inch V-8 engine.
1971-1979: One design highlight in Chrysler's rapidly evolving 1970s lineup was the Cordoba - a 115-inch-wheelbase coupe billed as "Chrysler's new small car." With its Jaguar-like front end, formal roofline and one-of-a-kind rectangular taillamps, it became one of the era's most memorable cars - along with the TV commercials featuring actor Ricardo Montalban extolling the virtues of its "rich Corinthian leather" interior. Cordobas sold better than all other Chrysler models combined, inspiring other new, "smaller" Chrysler designs, like the LeBaron Medallion coupe.
1980-1987: The automotive "back to basics" era peaked with the 1984 introduction of the minivan. Chrysler Corporation's most practical vehicle proved to be its most popular and eventually led to the revival of the Chrysler Town & Country nameplate on an upmarket version.
The design highlight for the Chrysler brand during this period was unquestionably the LeBaron convertible, which reintroduced the convertible to the American market and enjoyed a nine-year run as it brought style and excitement back to the brand.
1988-1998: In the late 1980s, new leadership at Chrysler, determined to return the brand to its roots of engineering and design excellence, decided to create an entirely new line of "Euro-Japanese-ethic" cars - and developed platform teams to get the job done quickly and affordably. The new product philosophy was reflected in the development of concept cars like the 1988 Portofino and the 1989 Millennium.
Chrysler's renaissance began in earnest with the mid-size 1993 Concorde sedan, which was quickly followed by the full-size LHS and Chrysler 300M, the smaller Cirrus sedan, the companion Sebring luxury sports coupe and the separate Sebring convertible, and the next-generation Town & Country minivan.
2000-2010: The new millennium ushered in a decade of innovation and design accomplishments for Chrysler, most notably the launch of the iconic Chrysler 300C-the latest generation in a long pedigree of champion 300s built for excitement since 1955. When it was launched in 2005, the stunning 300C turned the eyes of the automotive world back to Detroit. And shone a new spotlight on great American design.
But the Chrysler 300C wasn't the only shining example of Chrysler design innovation this decade-the introduction of the PT Cruiser fused modern amenities with a retro sensibility romanticizing an era of hot rod Model A wagons. And the decade was one of remarkable reinvention of the minivan. By the people who invented it. With our family flagship Town & Country receiving a host of technology and safety innovations to maintain its status as the minivan benchmark into the new millennium and beyond.
2011 +: Chrysler was founded on the philosophy of design with purpose. To build revolutionary new cars - affordable luxury vehicles known for their innovative, forward-thinking engineering. And it is our purpose today and for tomorrow.
Our alliance with Fiat® Group now gives us the competitive advantage of access to new technologies and advanced engineering solutions that further our mission. Our beautiful purpose. To create the type of exciting, efficient, reliable, safe vehicles you expect and deserve.
Detroit, 2011. Design and innovation take flight. This is Chrysler now. We can't wait to unveil what's next.
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