1937 Imperial Airflow / See This Vintage Beauty

The beautifully restored automobile featured in this article is a 1937 Imperial Airflow. Airflow models were built by Chrysler from 1934 to 1937. Airflow was the name Chrysler attached to their newly designed streamlined cars. The iconic Air Flows are probably the most Art Deco American cars built. More on this later.

1937 imperial


The 1937 Imperial and Other Luxury Automobiles

Chrysler's Imperial model was obviously a luxury automobile during the Depression Era 1930's. Buyers were few in relation to the pre depression years. With that said, prices for luxury automobiles were lowered where they were closing in on the mid priced range models. Both Cadillac and Packard had been building lower priced models. Imperial in 1937 was still somewhat below the Cadillac and Packard standard and what was being offered with the Imperial at it's 1937 price tag was considered a bargain. Large automakers who also sold mid and economy priced vehicles could lower price and still stay in the game. On the other hand, the depression years certainly had their share of bankrupt independent luxury automakers such as Auburn, Pierce Arrow and others.

In 1937 the C-14 Imperial line offered six models. The highest priced model was the convertible with a new car price tag of about $1,395. A great big luxury car, superb in beauty and performance, amazingly priced in the thousand-dollar range was it's allure. If you had a bit over $1,000 during the Great depression you could own an out-and-out luxury car that was relatively economical to buy and drive.  It's said that only 325 of these convertibles were produced so when you see one you'll know it's very rare.

imperial airflow

1937 Imperial Airflow

1937 Chrysler Advertising

When you take a look back at an automakers advertising you'll get a good idea of what they thought was important at the time.

The entire 1937 Chrysler line, Imperial included, was touted that it's engineering and design efforts had the goal of making Chrysler automobiles the safest on the highway. So what were some of these safety features? Included were a toughened chassis, all steel body, hydraulic brakes that had equalized pressure, safety glass windshield, elevated dashboard to prevent knee injuries, a defroster and a recessed instrument panel.

Chrysler Airflow

The introduction of Chrysler's Airflow automobiles got off to a rather slow start. During the first model year, 1934, total sales for both Chrysler and Imperial Airflows totaled just over 11,000 vehicles. This was not a good figure and unfortunately sales for the Airflows declined in each of the next three years.

What exactly caused the Airflow to fail? Most feel that the stalled introductory during the 1934 model year didn't help and others say that the concept itself was too much too soon. Perhaps introduced before it's time. You also have to consider the fact that the Airflow came out during the middle of the Great Depression which certainly didn't help. Consider one other theory. Luxury car buyers at the time had this belief that a long hood with a large hood ornament (think Packard and Duesenberg) meant prestige. Others thought that plus spare tires mounted on the side of the vehicle meant prestige. If either of these can be a a barometer of luxury car prestige, the Imperial Airflow had neither.

Even though Chrysler's Airflow didn't prove to be a mid 1930's success, the Airflow did influence other auto designs which you may be familiar with. The 1936 Lincoln Zephyr is one example.

chrysler imperial airflow1937 Imperial Specifications

Engine for the 1937 C-14 Imperial was a 273 cubic inch L-head straight eight delivering a rated 110 HP. The engine was considered state of the art in it's design. Included were aluminum alloy pistons and forged manganese steel connecting rods. The engine and transmission were also mounted on rubber in what Chrysler called it's patented "Floating Power".

Transmission was a three speed manual Synchromesh.

Brakes were four wheel hydraulic with cast iron drums.

Suspension was built for a very smooth ride. The 37 Imperial featured double acting Aero shocks all around the car. Also independent coil springs on the car's front and steel leaf springs on the rear.

The 37 Imperial's wheelbase was 121.0 inches and the car weighed a heavy 3,850 lbs.

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The 1955 Imperial Specs and Photos

The Rare 1941 Cadillac Convertible

Where to Find Serial Numbers on Classic and Vintage Cars

The 1937 Imperial Collector Car

All 1930's Imperials are popular collector cars. Relatively speaking, not a great number were built during these years and the number of survivors is small.

imperial dashboard

37 Imperial dashboard

Condition, model, degree of restoration are all factors on current values. Convertibles usually are valued highest. One sale of a 37 Imperial Coupe Convertible garnered about $150,000. As of this writing e also see a 1937 Imperial Airflow, fully restored, priced at $45,000.

References for this article include the Imperial Car Club...Standard Catalog of Chrysler, 1914 -2000 by James T. Lenzke (Editor) and Ron Kowalke (Editor)...The Birth of Chrysler Corporation and It's Engineering Legacy, by Carl Breer.

(Article and photos copyright Auto Museum Online)


See the 1986 Excalibur Series V Phaeton / The Brooks Stevens Design

The first Excalibur was an automobile fitted on a Studebaker chassis and for a real short time with a Studebaker engine. This was the year 1964 and just about the same time that the first Excalibur received a Studebaker engine, Studebaker stopped building cars. This is the story about a show car that went on for a very successful production run.

excalibur phaeton

1986 Excalibur Series V Phaeton

Brooks Stevens Excalibur

The fine automobile featured in this article is a 1986 Excalibur Series V Phaeton. A beautifully styled automobile which was designed by Brooks Stevens. At that time, Stevens was a design consultant for Studebaker and was asked to design a new automobile for the upcoming New York Auto Show. Studebaker wanted a "show car". In fact, Studebaker sales had been going south for a long time and the company wanted the show car to help boost their presence and image. At that time the only think Studebaker was building was the Lark model in Ontario, Canada. They were holding on by a thread.

Stevens and his team actually built the prototype car in about two months. The car would be a contemporary classic. A car with 1930's type styling. When the prototype was ready just a few days before the auto show was to begin, Studebaker announced it was ceasing production. The 1964 Excalibur nevertheless was displayed at the New York show. Steven's himself and his sons decided to move forward with their car project and purchased a small booth at the show and proceeded to show the car themselves. The reception was extraordinary. In fact, Brooks Stevens immediately had a list of enthusiastic buyers.

excalibur car

1986 Excalibur

Vintage auto enthusiasts may remember that the Excalibur was designed after the Mercedes-Benz SSK. Not line for line but with a lot of similarities. Brooks Stevens had even owned an SSK at one time.

Excalibur's GM Engine

With Studebaker and it's 289 cubic inch V-8 out of the picture, Stevens arranged to receive Chevrolet engines for his new car. The engines that Chevrolet provided were 327 cubic inch V-8's that could deliver 300 HP. Chevy had tuned the engines to Corvette standards. All of a sudden the new Excalibur became a true performance car. The Excalibur with it;s new engine was rated at a top speed of 160 MPH and the 0-60 in under 5 seconds. Truly a much higher performer that the Studebaker engine Excalibur.

Celebrities Flock to the Excalibur

The Excalibur was produced from 1964 to 1986. The automobile had and has a long list of celebrity owners. Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin were just two of that long list. It was reported that Phyllis Diller owned four Excaliburs.

The Successes of Brooks Stevens

Brooks Stevens was a very successful industrial designer. During his career he would design everything from washing machines to motorcycles, to lawnmowers and tractors and of course automobiles. Add to that boats and the famous Oscar Meyer Weinermobile. He was the most successful industrial designer of the twentieth century. Stevens even taught a class in design up until his death in 1995.

Brooks Stevens was a very successful automobile designer who would con­tribute designs to over forty makes of car. His Jeep Wagoneer was just one of those that achieved great success. You would think that with the design ability that Stevens truly possessed, why are there not more of his designs still around. The answer is simply that much of his work was for automobile manufacturers who were in trouble. Stevens did fine work for Willys- Overland as well as for Kaiser, and as mentioned, for Studebaker.  If Stevens had done design work for one of the Big Three, we probably would see more of his automotive work around today.

1986 Excalibur Specifications

The 1986 Excalibur Phaeton had a Chevrolet small block 305 cubic inch V-8 engine delivering 155 HP.

Transmission as an automatic four speed.

Brakes were four wheel power disc.

Dimensions included an outside length of 204 inches and a wheelbase of 124 inches. Curb weight was 4,600 lbs.

The Excalibur is the only car built with two spare tires.

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The 1972 jaguar E-Type V-12

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An excellent book regarding Brooks Stevens' amazing design career includes...Industrial Strength Design : How Brooks Stevens Shaped Your World by author Glenn Adamson.

excalibur dashboard

Excalibur dashboard

Excalibur Company Fails

The company started by Brooks Stevens in 1964, the Excalibur Automobile Corp, failed in 1986. The downturn began with the recession in 1981. The company was eventually sold by the Stevens family and by 1986 production of the automobile model ceased. Over 3,200 Excaliburs were produced by the original company.

Brooks Stevens Automobile Museum

At one time there was a Brooks Stevens Automobile Museum in a Milwaukee, Wisconsin suburb. Stevens put a lot of time and effort into the museum.

The museum itself had 12,500 square feet of exhibition space and, when it opened, displayed thirty-four autos, most of them from Stevens’s personal collection.

The museum also exhibited postwar vehicles that Stevens respected, including a 1954 Rolls Royce Silver Wraith town car. The museum unfortunately closed in 1999, five years after Stevens death. At that time his vast car collection was auctioned off by Stevens' family.
excalibur phaeton brooks stevens
Today's Excalibur Collector Car Values
The Exclaibur remains a popular collector car. The original automobiles are rare considering that only over 3,200 were built.
Some are more collectable than others and are much rarer than others. This is determined by the design and number built. The Excalibur has been officially added to AACA as a factory built Antique Automobile as of 2007.
Depending on mileage and overall condition you'll find Excaliburs priced from the $28,000 range to $80,000 or more.
(Article and photos copyright 2015 Auto Museum Online)


A Restored 1956 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud I

Rolls Royce, the company that started out as Rolls-Royce Limited in 1906, came out with the Silver Cloud in 1955.

rolls royce silver cloud I

1956 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud I

The Silver Cloud was a beautiful automobile and it was very popular among luxury car buyers. Featured in this article is the 1956 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud I. Silver Cloud bridged between the pre-war Rolls-Royce and the modern Silver Shadow.

The Silver Cloud model replaced the Silver Dawn which was the car that brought Rolls Royce post war prosperity.

The Silver Cloud I was something very different for Rolls Royce. Instead of building chassis and send them off to custom coach builders, the Silver Cloud was entirely built in the Rolls Royce factory and with a complete factory built body. The Silver Cloud was produced from 1955 to 1966 and during that time was the main model for Rolls Royce.

1956 rolls royce silver cloud

56 Silver Cloud

The Silver Cloud Design

The 1956 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud was beautifully proportioned. The body was mounted onto completely new closed box section frame.

Rolls-Royce's chief designer John Polwhele Blatchley did a wonderful job with the automobile's design. The body was designed so meticulously and balanced that the cars' great  size wasn't really noticed when first viewed. A lot of people may never have heard of John Polwhele Blatchley however most have seen his work. Blatchley was assigned as Rolls-Royce's first ever stylist.

Blatchley who retired from Rolls Royce at the age of 55 in 1969 passed away in 2008 at age 95.

An interesting side note was that the Rolls Royce Silver Cloud I design came out pretty fast.  Blatchley was asked to quickly sketch of a more traditional design than the one he had been working on for several years. He did and the board at Rolls Royce approved it fast and these automobiles were scheduled for production. Note that these were also automobiles that were to have factory bodies that were to have the same craftsmanship and elegance as those from coach builders. As mentioned above, this was a big departure for Rolls Royce.

1956 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud I Specifications

The 1956 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud engine was 4.9 Liter Inline Six. This engine can be traced all the way back to the Silver Ghost model decades earlier.  Horsepower was estimated to be 155. A British publication had rated the Silver Cloud I with a top speed of 102.0 MPH. Zero to 60 was rated at 13.5 seconds.

Standard transmission was a General Motors four speed automatic.

Brakes were four wheel hydraulic drum.

silver cloud I dashboard

Dashboard on the 1956 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud I

The dimensions for the Silver Cloud I included an overall length of 17 ft, 8 inches, a width of 75.0 inches, and a wheelbase of 121.0 inches. There was a long wheelbase model that came out in September 1957 at 145.0 inches. The Silver Cloud I's curb weight was 4,990 lbs.

A total of 2,238 Silver Cloud I's were built from 1955 to 1959. Out of these there were 121 that were coach built. There was no mechanical difference between the Rolls-Royce and Bentley versions of the car. Only the badges, radiator and bonnet were different.

New car price for the 1956 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud I was about $13,500.

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1956 silver cloud one

Rear view of the Silver Cloud I

The 1956 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud I Collector Car

All Rolls Royce models from the 1950's are highly popular luxury collector cars. Regarding the Silver Cloud I's, those that were independently coach built are rare and one's that are in top condition today can garner six figures at auction. An extremely Rare Freestone and Webb 1956 Silver Cloud I as of this writing had an asking price of $165,000. A rare 1957 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud I Mulliner 4 door Sedan with right hand drive had an asking price of $79,900. This model is one of reportedly four produced with suicide doors. Another is a 1957 Silver Cloud with left hand drive and a/c for $39,500.

What you should always look for when shopping for this kind of automobile are complete records and a detailed ownership trail. Repairs on these cars are rarely inexpensive so an  inspection by a qualified Rolls Royce mechanic is recommended.

(Article and photos copyright 2014 AutoMuseumOnline)