Orville helped the Airflow to fly

Riley Riley

Betcha didn’t know the first Toyota ever built was a knock off? That was way back in 1936 and it was a slightly smaller version of the Chrysler Airflow, regarded as the first modern car.

Released in 1934 the Airflow’s design was refined with the help of a wind tunnel and under the guidance of none other than Orville Wright, one of the famous Wright Brothers who flew the first successful airplane.

But, while the car was clearly an advanced design, with a steel frame and plush ride, the look was a little too radical for public taste and the car was axed within three years.

One of the cars even competed in the 1953 Redex Trial and less than 10 remain in Australia, one of which it turns out is up for sale this month.

Shannons is auctioning a 1936 left-hand drive Chrysler Airflow C11 Custom Imperial Limousine at its Melbourne auction on September 23 in Melbourne.

Sole survivor of a rare variant of an already very rare car, this 1936 Chrysler Airflow C11 Custom Imperial Limousine is number 19 of just 27 examples built.

Its early life was in San Francisco owned by a pair of elderly sisters, chauffer driven to the bank to collect their weekly trust fund payment.

It then passed to a car collector, and on to an Airflow enthusiast, before being purchased from the USA in 2010 by the vendor.

The car became the centrepiece of an important collection of American ‘machine age’ industrial design objects.

The Airflow underwent a meticulous, nine-month nose-to-tail inspection, testing and mechanical renovation program, in the hands of Australian-based world Airflow expert John Spinks, a senior judge with the Airflow Club of America, and regarded as the go-to person on all matters Airflow and authenticity.

Retaining its original left hand drive configuration, the body and interior remain in unrestored condition, with patina to the jet-black paint and chromework.

All these Imperial vehicles had customised interiors, and the Chauffer cabin features a black vinyl bench, while behind the retractable glass partition it’s all tan cloth which extends to the door cards, including a pair of fold-out ‘jump’ seats in the rear compartment.

Mechanical refurbishment work included replacement of an incorrect cast-iron cylinder head with a correct new aluminium one, rebuilding the engine itself and the gearbox.

Full brake system overhaul and restoring many of the technical operations of the vehicle to working condition, as it had lain idle for some time.

These repairs or replacements were made using new-old stock parts wherever possible.

This Airflow is showing an indicated 63,000 miles at the time of cataloguing, just 1500 of which have been clocked up since its mechanical rebuild.

Accompanied by a large portfolio of receipts and photographs tracing its history back to the ‘70s, original owner’s manual, lubrication chart and tuning diagram, plus some original advertising material.

There’s also an uninstalled period-correct Delco radio and a pair of newly fabricated rear axles for spares.

Previously on full Victorian registration, it is now being sold unregistered.

An internationally important car, this is a rare chance to own a piece of automotive history and is expected to fetch between $70,000 and $80,000 when it goes under the hammer.

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