1941 Chrysler Thunderbolt

The Chrysler Thunderbolt Concept introduced a new wave of designs and industry technological accomplishments. The body was comprised of aluminum and the roof was a retractable, electrically controlled hardtop. There were no door handles; rather they were operated by the push of a button. The windows were controlled by hydraulic power. The headlights were also carefully concealed in the bodywork. The aerodynamic design continued to the fully enclosed wheel wells. There were no A pillars.

The design was courtesy of Alex Tremulis, an individual who introduced many inspirational industry designs such as the Tucker. Based on the Chrysler Crown Imperial and named after Captain George Eyston's land speed record accomplishments, the Thunderbolt was a masterpiece. Eyston had captured the Land Speed record in 1938 at the Bonneville Salt Flats by traveling at a speed of 357.53 mph. Using a specially designed vehicle that was over 30 feet in length and weight an astonishing seven tons, it was powered by two Rolls-Royce 12-cylinder engines.

The retractable top was so revolutionary; it would not be until 1957 before another manufacturer had a similar feature. The vehicle was the Ford Skyliner.

The interior of the Thunderbolt was adorned in leather. The two-seater was powered by a 323.5 cubic-inch straight-eight engine capable of producing 143 horsepower. Power was sent to the rear wheels courtesy of a Chrysler Fluid Drive transmission.

A total of six examples were produced with four existing in modern time, one residing at the Walter P. Chrysler Museum located in Auburn Hills, Michigan. Each Thunderbolt was given their own unique color scheme.

By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2005

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