The Valiant was one of the first vehicles to be tuned for lower noise by computer, work normally requiring many mathemeticians working for months. Computers were used to find electronically where and why parts would resonate or echo with road or engine noise and vibration. An October 1959 magazine said that "the Valiant may well be the quietest small car ever made" and that "Chrysler is building more than just a smaller car. Instead, it appears to be a revitalized approach to basic transportation."
Curtis Redgap noted:
•AC Alternator instead of a DC generator that kept electrical current flowing, even at idle.
•Regular production engines that got a "supercharged" effect without having the mechanical components of an engine driven blower.
•Mass produced unit bodies that were designed by use of computers.
•Outside sheet metal didn't have to be part of the overall structure for strength of the unit body.
•A seven step series of body structure rust proofing baths that employed the use of electrostatic charge to insure sealant bonding to the structure metal. (Nash started using the bath in the 1950s, dipping to the roof; Lincoln dipped the bottom 18 inches in 1958; Chrysler went up to the beltline.)
Duane D. Hughes added:
•4 wheel antilock brakes (1971 Imperial) — introduced during 1970.
•Electric windshield wipers (1939; they had been pneumatic and, before that, hand-operated)
•Replaceable cartridge oil filter (1924 Chrysler).
•Oil filters were standard on Plymouths way back into the 1930s at least. I don't know when they became standard on Fords, but in 1961 they were still an option on 6 cylinder Chevrolets. [This was based on a vendor idea with considerable Chrysler engineering]
•Ignition key starting (1949) (rather than pushbutton starting)
•Safety rim wheels (1940 or 1941) (made blowouts much safer)
•Resistor spark plugs (1949)
•Rotor-type oil pump (1941)
•Disc brakes (1949 Imperial--quite a different design than today's disc brakes.)
◦Bill Watson added: “They had two expanding dics that that rubbed against a finned drum's inner surface. A series of ball bearings between the discs forced the discs apart as brake pressure was applied. The system was self-energizing. The brakes were designed by H.L. Lambert and built by the Auto Specialties Manufacturing Company. Chrysler first tested the brakes in 1939. ”
◦Chrysler claimed a first for four-wheel, self-energizing hydraulic disc brakes for 1950.
•Two leading shoe front-wheel brakes (1940)
•Power steering (1951 Chrysler--GM didn't get it until 1952, and unlike Chrysler's full time system, GM's had no assist until 3 lbs of pressure was applied to the steering wheel.)
•Unitized body (Airflow, 1934) — though Bill Watson wrote, “Although Chrysler hypes the Airflow as unibody [see bottom of page!], it still had a chassis frame. The frame was not as stiff as normal and the body framework was welded to the chassis to provide stiffness. The first unitbody in the design we are familiar with appeared on the 1941 Nash 600.” For what it's worth, Nash ended up as part of Chrysler later!
•Auto Pilot (1958). Bill Watson wrote: “Unlike later units, you set the speed on a dial located on the dash. If you hit the brakes, you had to start all over. It was used on full-size Mopar cars through 1966. Chrysler's cruise control with the controls on the turn signal arm was introduced for 1967.”
•Steering wheel rim-blow horn
•Superlight (1969 Dodge Monaco) and swivel seats (1959) - neither lasted
•Electronic dimming rear-view mirror (Chrysler 1959)
•Driver side airbags standard on all cars (1990)
•Driver side sliding door on minivans (1996)
•Splash-proof ignition (1949)
•Independent front suspension (1934 Plymouth) - Chevy also brought out a version in 1934, calling it "knee action"; it was standard on the Master (deluxe) model, with an I-beam one piece axle standard on lesser models. Plymouth went back to the one piece axle in 1935. The design of the Plymouth suspension was much closer to that of independent suspensions of the 1940s and 1950s. [Webmaster: Bill Watson pointed out that Olds, Buick, and Cadillac all had coil-spring, short-long arm independent front suspensions in 1934; Plymouth and Dodge returned to IFS in 1939.]
•There's been a lot of arguing about who made the first two door hardtop. Generally, the honor is given to Buick in 1949. Chrysler built seven in 1946 (Town & Country models) and the company claimed credit for this in 1995. Bill Watson wrote: “Photos of the hardtop appear on page 259 of 70 Years of Chrysler and on page 34 of The Postwar Years - Chrysler & Imperial. The latter also has a photo of Chrysler General Manager David Wallace's 2-door hardtop. He had a padded top installed along with a larger rear window.” This car still exists.
•High compression engines. Work on this started even before Walter Chrysler joined Maxwell-Chalmers. Throughout the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, Chrysler typically had the highest compression ratios in the industry. During the 1930s, optional high compression aluminum heads were offered on some models.
•Chrysler introduced hardened valve seat inserts in their engines around 1935. Other manufacturers let the valves close on a seat that was machined into the block or head. Up to that time, it was common for owners to have to have a valve job at 30,000 miles or earlier. The Chrysler engines, because of the inserts, were good for at least 80,000.
•Chrysler used a process called "Superfinish" on bearings starting in the early 1940s that decreased friction and increased the life of the engine. The Superfinish process reduced grinding marks to 1 millionth of an inch or less, so the Chrysler engines outlasted their counterparts from Ford and GM. Typical oil consumption for V-8 Fords of 1936 was listed in gallons, not quarts, in a Ford service manual. Chevy had only one technological advance in the "stove-bolt 6", overhead valves; otherwise, the engine was a throwback, using cast iron pistons, non-replaceable rod bearings, and splash lubrication. In contrast, Chrysler used aluminum pistons, bearing inserts, and full pressure lubrication. Details on this and hardened valve seats are in Carl Breer's book.
Dave Pope added:
•First widely available automotive air conditioner: 1953 Chrysler New Yorker (this system was also the first of the modern type). Nash and Pontiac brought the condensor under the hood in 1954. [Geo Hamlin wrote that the 1940 Packard had a modern air conditioner.] To quote the Imperial Club:
◦Air-conditioned Mopar products used flush-mounted air intake grilles instead of clumsy-looking scoops like the competition. ... 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 fresh air without blocking the cooling system. ... 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% 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 filtered down around the passengers instead of blowing directly at them.
•First modern air filter: 1955 Chrysler C300
•First 1 horsepower per cubic inch engine: 1956 Chrysler 300B (355 hp, 354 cid Hemi engine)
•First American full line of passenger cars with unit-body construction: 1961
•First music system where you select what gets played: Highway Hi-Fi (turntable with special records and dampening)
•First digital fuel injection: 1957 DeSoto Adventurer (Bendix aircraft system adapted for Chrysler use); again, for an American automaker, 1981-1982 Imperial. The DeSoto's system was modern in design and had reliable circuit materials for underhood use been available, it would probably have been very successful.
Ellis Brasher added: Clutch and selective gear transmission
J. Mutz added:
•1937 Chrysler safety interiors with soft armrests, recessed controls
•1949 Chrysler padded dashboard (verified)
•1967 Imperial rear anti-lock brakes
Bill Watson added:
•1926 - Rubber engine mounts in, along with rubber spring shackles and adjustable front seats.
•1929 - Rust-proofed fenders and sheet metal parts
•1931 - Floating power introduced - positioning the front and rear engine mounts with the engine's centre of gravity mid-way between the two. Thus the engine could rock on the axis.
•1931 - Rust-proofed bodies, introduction of vacuum spark control.
•1934 - One piece, curved windshield - Custom Imperial Airflow CW
•1936- Built-in defroster vents
•1937 - Fully insulated rubber body mountings
•1937 - Safety padding on back on front seats
•1939 - Power-operated top - Plymouth
•1946 - Fuel filter in tank
•1949 - Nylon upholstery fabrics - Chrysler
•1949 - Bonded brake linings - "Cyclebond"
•1949 - First car all-steel station wagon - Plymouth
•1950 - Station wagon tailgate window rolls down into tailgate - steel-bodied wagons
•1956 - Introduces Torqueflite, 3-speed automatic. Based on Howard Simpson's planetary gear patents, it proves to be a ground-breaking unit. Both GM and Ford copy Chrysler and Simpson designs in the 1960s.
•1957 - Curved side glass windows - Imperial
•1960 - Alternators — diodes were used to convert AC power to DC, and prevent power from flowing back into alternator from battery if the unit dies. These replaced the then-standard and problematic generators.
•1961 - First automaker to make alternator standard across the board (U.S. only)
Filter Taylor wrote: “When the anti-theft steering wheel lock went into production, you would put the key into the steering column, not the dash, and break the key. Mopar had it with the key in a lock that you twisted (the lock not the key), no problem.”
We're nowhere near having an exhaustive list. Perhaps you would help by contributing?
Energy saving / alternative fuels
We now have an entire section devoted to turbine, hybrid, fuel-cell, and electric vehicles, along with other energy-saving and alternative-fuel projects; alternative fuels section.
Corporate use of IT
•Using CATIA to create the 1997 Dakota
•DealerConnect and the eEngineering Portal
•Profile of IT chief Sue Unger
•1988 tech roundup
•The Digital Factory project - designing production on the computer
•Using computers in the Neon engineering process
•Auto development notes
Other key projects
•automatically shifted manual transmission (dual-clutch)
•alternative fuels and such
•Chrylser and the environment, 1993
•New technologies, based on patent searches and Chrysler releases
Diagnostics and customization
Long ago (around 1990), this site's webmaster wrote to Chrysler and suggested that owners be able to connect to their cars via laptop and adjust things like shift points and default behaviors. 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, not USB) to retrieve information and change settings.
Chrysler has used, from their very first computer-controlled fuel injected engines to current models, a system which lets ordinary people access error codes.
Lanny Knutson wrote in the Plymouth Bulletin (reprinted by permission):
A new electronic spark advance module called Lean Burn was introduced by Chrysler [in 1976] on all its 400 and 440 engines. Six sensors monitored the engine RPM, manifold vacuum, water temperature, ambient temperature, intake air temperature and throttle position, sending the data to a small computer unit mounted on the air filter housing. A pioneering version of what is now under the hood of nearly every contemporary car, Lean Burn was designed to avoid the driveability problems usually arising from manually leaned carburetors. Although it gained approximately one mile per gallon, the primary purpose of the system was controlling emissions inside the engine. For a time, it permitted Chrysler to avoid use of expensive power-robbing catalytic converters. In 1977 Lean Burn was extended to the 360 engine. [It was later put onto the 318 and Slant Six before.]
Chrysler popularized these on various K-cars before moving on to electronically driven dashboards with analog displays. The first appeared on the 1981 Imperial; the one below is from a 1985 Dodge 600ES.
Chrysler talks about their own electronic advances
1960: First made the alternator practical for automotive use by incorporating silicon diodes as an electronic rectifier in the design.
1969: Introduced a modern silicon electronic voltage regulator on all vehicles. This device has no moving parts and is much more reliable than the electro*mechanical regulators used previously.
1973: Made electronic ignition standard on all cars and trucks. This device eliminated troublesome ignition points and condenser-the major cause of engine tune-ups.
1976: Introduced the Electronic Spark Control System. This system uses an electronic computer and
engine and environmental sensors, which combine to adjust the timing of spark plug firings for good
combustion and smooth engine performance.
1977: Introduced second-generation Electronic Spark Control Computer. This computer includes circuitry for electronic ignition, and computes all vital information necessary to control the ignition system. The distributor centrifugal advance flyweights and one of the two pickup coils were eliminated
from the distributor.
1978: Introduced Electronic Search-Tune radio.
1979: Electronic Feedback Carburetor Emissions Control System introduced on compact and midsize cars sold in California equipped with a 3.7-liter (225 CID) 1-barrel 6-cylinder engine and automatic transmission.
1980: Incorporated a digital microprocessor in the spark-control computer of the Electronic Spark Control System. The digital electronic circuitry of this unit offers more operating precision and programming flexibility than the voltage-dependent analog system used previously.
Incorporated a detonation suppressor system in the Electronic Spark Control System on V-8 engines sold in California. A sensor mounted on the intake manifold monitors background vibration levels of the engine. When engine knock frequencies are detected, the engine spark timing is electronically retarded to suppress tne engine knock-and is auto*matically advanced when the condition is removed.
1981: Expanded use of Electronic Combustion Control System to all U.S.-built 4-cylinder and V-8 engines and the California 3.7-liter (225 CID) Slant Six. This system employs a single Combustion Computer for the electronic ignition, Electronic Spark Control System and Electronic Feedback Carburetor.
1982: Adaptive memory system incorporated in Electronic Spark Advance Computer for 1.7-liter and 2.2-
liter engines sold in high altitude areas. This memory system continuously fine tunes air-fuel mixture
calibrations and spark advance calibrations as the car moves from one altitude to another in mountainous terrain. It has a built-in altitude compensator.
1984: Electronically tuned radios with integral digital clock.
1985: EFI turbocharged engine equipped with electronic boost pressure control. New AM stereo.
1986: Electronic speed control for Voyager. Electronic intermittent feature for rear window wiper/washer on Voyager. AM stereo use expanded to all domestic AM/FM radios.
1987: Single module engine control computer introduced on 2.5-liter EFI and 3.0-liter MPI engines. Electronic lockup torque converter introduced on 2.5-liter EFI and 3.0-liter MPI engines. Electronic speed control usage extended to include all front drive vehicles, except Horizon America and Turismo.
1988: Single-module engine controller on all domestic front drive cars.
1991: Sequential electronic fuel injection used on 2.5-liter turbo engine; 2.2 Turbo III pioneers Chrysler’s use of distributorless ignition, four-valve-per-cylinder design, and dual overhead cams.