Chrysler - the early years
Chrysler was formed in June 1925, when the ailing Maxwell Motor Company was absorbed into the Chrysler Corporation, which was created by Walter Chrysler. Walter Chrysler was hired in the early 1920's to save the Maxwell Company, similar to what he did for the failing Willys car company earlier. Maxwell had severely extended itself after World War I, and had more than half it's inventory still unsold during the depression after the war. The Maxwell car lines would continue under Chrysler for a few years, but be renamed and undergo a few modifications.
Chrysler decided to create an hierarchy of brands, similar to what GM was doing. In 1928, Chrysler spun off some new brands. The Plymouth brand was introduced to target the lower end of the auto market, and DeSoto was created as the mid range level. Soon after these brands were introduced, Chrysler bought the Dodge Brothers Automobile and Truck Company, and renamed it simply Dodge Motors. Dodge started out as the top of the line models, but over the next few years Dodge became the mid range price models, and DeSoto became the higher end brand.
A brand named MoPar (Motor Parts) was started in the early 1930’s, and supplied parts for all the Chrysler divisions. MoPar is used as a slang term today by many Chrysler division fans to denote Chrysler and it’s divisions. The MoPar term became very popular during the muscle car and pony car craze of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, when the Chrysler division had many muscle cars to choose from.
Chrysler released the Airflow models in 1934, setting a course for Chrysler design over the next 20 years. The Airflows were powered by an inline 8 cylinder engine, and designed using aerodynamic principles. It was the first automobile designed and tested in a wind tunnel, using swooping lines not seen previously. The look did not go over well with the public, and sales were poor. The more conventional looking Dodge and Plymouth models saved the Chrysler division through out the depression, and for the next 20 years the Chrysler models were very conservative in their styling. It wouldn’t be until the 1950’s when the 300c and Town and Country models were released, considered today to be treasured classics.
Chrysler released the now famous Hemi engine in 1951 to comete with the powerful engines being offered by rival Cadillac , raising the horsepower of it’s V8’s to 180 hp, compared to the previous V8’s 135 hp. The term “Hemi” is derived from the way the cylinder heads combustion chamber is shaped – hemispherical. Chrysler has trademarked the term “Hemi engine”, but many other auto manufacturers have used the hemispherical design. The first generation Hemi engine was named the Chrysler FirePower Engine, and the second generation was named the 426 Hemi, which was produced form the mid 1960’s to mid 1970’s.
The DeSoto brand was dropped in 1961, the same year all Chrysler models had alternators instead of generators. The 1960 Plymouth Valiant was the first American production automobile to have an alternator, and it was so successful that Chrysler put it in all models the next year.