Airtemp: Chrysler's Airy Solution to the Long, Hot Summer


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Chrysler Corporation was an early advocate of air conditioning. The Chrysler Building in Manhattan was the first fully air-conditioned skyscraper, and Airtemp had been invented specifically for it. Airtemp Division products also cooled Pullman cars on the nation's railroads in the Thirties, but Chrysler was late in applying what it had learned to automobiles. Packard fielded a pioneer air conditioning unit for 1940, and Cadillac followed for 1941. Though Chrysler ostensibly offered Airtemp cooling on some 1941-42 models, none are known to have been sold that way.

Air conditioning had become more widely available throughout the industry by 1954, and Chrysler's was brilliant compared with the complicated and cumbersome rival systems of the day. It was the most efficient, and it had the highest capacity available on any automobile.

Like Chrysler's PowerFlite automatic, the Airtemp system was disarming in its operational simplicity. A single switch-marked Low, Medium, and High—selected fan speed. High was capable of cooling a big DeSoto or Chrysler from 120 to 85 degrees in about two minutes, and also completely eliminated humidity, dust, pollen, and tobacco smoke. Since Airtemp relied on fresh air, drawing in 60 percent more than any other system, it avoided the staleness associated with more primitive rigs. It was also silent and unobtrusive. Instead of the awkward plastic tubes mounted on the package shelf, as on GM and other setups, Airtemp employed small ducts that directed cool air toward the ceiling of the car, the air then filtering down around the passengers instead of blowing directly at them. (This, incidentally, is a feature that today's cars—including Chrysler products—have lost due to cost considerations.)

On the outside, air-conditioned Mopar products used flush-mounted air intake grilles instead of clumsy-looking scoops like the competition. Airtemp Division also made notable progress in miniaturization. Its unit took up little trunk space, and the compressor took up only one cubic foot under the hood. The condenser panel was mounted out of the way, diagonally, in front of the radiator, where it received adequate fresh air without blocking the cooling system.


This page last updated November 21, 2001.  Send us your feedback, and come join the Imperial Mailing List - Online Car Club