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Chrysler Technological Innovations: The Big List of Chrysler Firsts

Also see: New technologiesAlternative fuels and such

Chrysler Corporation/Maxwell Motors has been responsible for many more innovations than one would expect, particularly in the early years, when Carl Breer was seeking out and developing new technologies. In the 1970s, many innovations were driven by the rocket scientists at Chrysler Huntsville Electronics.

1984 navigation system

The First Chryslers: the Zeder-Breer-Skelton cars

Airflow and beyond

The 1934 Airflow was the first car to use scientific weight distribution and synchronized front and rear springs for an anti-pitch ride. The Amola-steel body provided most of the structural strength.

  • Automatic overdrive (1934)
  • Synchronized front and rear springs (1934)
  • Fender skirts (1934)
  • Engineered weight distribution (1934)
  • Built-in defroster vents (1936)
  • Power-operated convertible top (1936BW)
  • Electric windshield wipers (1939DDH).
  • Dual-cylinder front brakes (1940)
  • Full-flow oil filter (1946)
  • Single-piece curved windshield (1934)
  • Safety padding (on the front seat-backs; 1937)
  • First standard air filters, as per Breer (1946)
  • First full-flow oil filter (1946)
  • First fuel filter in the gas tank (1946)
  • Lowerable rear windows in convertibles (1941)
  • Pressure vent radiator cap (1949)
  • Bonded brake linings (1949 Cyclebond)
  • Self-energizing hydraulic disk brakes (1949 Imperial)
  • Nylon upholstery (1949 Chrysler)
  • All-electric window lifts (1950)

Airflow dashboard

Former Chrysler owner Daimler claimed to have invented both the car and the truck. While Gottlieb Daimler did create the first car with a working internal combustion engine, he was decades too late to invent the car. Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot did that, in 1769, building self-propelled vehicles with steering and brakes, mostly as trucks, all steam powered.
The Encyclopedia Britannica and other sources credit Cugnot with inventing the car. (Mercedes also holds claim to the first antilock brakes, only a few years after Chrysler and Jensen had started using them.)

Chrysler started using one-piece flat windshields with their 1925s, as did Chevrolet and Studebaker; none scored a “first” and Chrysler went back to split windshields a few years later.

The 1950s and 1960s

fuel injected badges


  • Solid state, no-tubes radio (1956 model year — 1955 calendar year — one year before GM claimed credit for the “first”)
  • First media-playing system: Highway Hi-Fi (turntable with special records; 1955 for 1956 model year) DP
  • Search-tune radio with direct frequency entry (1978)
  • Electronically tuned radios with digital clock (1984)

testing labs

The Electronic Age begins

engine analyzer


Modern times

1996 Minivan Firsts

Deeper looks

Duane D. Hughes added:

digital dashboard
Chrysler popularized digital dashboards, starting with the 1981 Imperial;
the one above is from a 1985 Dodge 600ES.

Automotive development: Pioneering CAD

Russ Shreve wrote that the Valiant was one of the first cars to have its suspension tested for loads and stress by computer. Computers cut development time by testing parts electronically, rather than by hand. Designs not failed by the computer were then built in prototypes.

CAD - CATIA Aries designThe Valiant was one of the first vehicles to be tuned for lower noise by computer. An October 1959 magazine said that "the Valiant may well be the quietest small car ever made."

Adopted innovations

Diagnostics and customization

The 1996 Grand Cherokee allowed owners to easily set preferences such as whether the horn honked on locking and the doors locked at a certain speed. Patent application 152968 by Kevin Schwanz, David Pruett, and Tracey Stanyer covers a means of accessing the computer via a standard serial interface (RS-232) to retrieve information and change settings. Chrysler has usually used, from their 1980s fuel injected engines to current models, a system which lets ordinary people access error codes.

Credits / key

BWBill Watson       DDH Duane D. Hughes       DP Dave Pope

Also see Moving to front wheel drive • New technologiesAlternative fuels and such

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