Atlanta Dream Cars Showcase – 1941 Chrysler Thunderbolt Is Aero Convertible Coupe

I can hear your thoughts right now, saying… “How is that giant brick of a car an aero coupe?”

It really is. Versus its contemporaries, the 1941 Chrysler Thunderbolt was quite innovative in many ways — mostly having to do with shrouding and aero-smoothing any turbulence-inducing surfaces.

1941 Chrysler Thunderbolt – INNOVATIONS

— This meant the entire front grille of the 1930s Chrysler Airflow had to go, in favor of a mouth-breather setup wherein the engine gets its cooling air from below the front bumper.

1941 Chrysler Thunderbolt

— Shrouding also extended to the headlamps, where were one of the first pop-up or flip-lamp types ever seen

— The license plate housings front and rear were also covered in glass – to form a pure and streamlined aero character

— Another innovation shown here is in the shrouded wheels – which alone can be shown to cut drag 10-15-percent if done properly. Not sure how these front wheels turn, but that is not important for a high-glamour show car.

This Thunderbolt sold in 2008 by RM Auctions for $1.3-million, so clearly the ideas are captivating.

Even though…. it does look like a giant brick from many angles, or an overturned bathtub, perhaps. The true aero brilliance of the Thunderbolt was not in its pure drag coefficient stats — but in the fact that Chrysler’s engineering teams were so willing to try new ideas. The roof? Its bubble canopy stored itself in the trunk when not needed for weather protection.

Obviously, the Thunderbolt did not make production as it debuted shortly before the United States entered World War II.

When the boys returned home, they had new ideas on aerodynamics — as shown by Chrysler’s continuing evolution of this theme over the next decades.



DREAM CARS runs through September 7th at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art.

The DREAM CARS companion hard-cover book offers outstanding descriptions, insights and photography of the collection – it is available now world-wide via the High Museum shop link below.

Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of, an innovative and rapidly-expanding automotive news magazine.

He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank.

Mr. Burkart is available for all questions and concerns by email Tom(at)

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