Aerodynamic Re-Do: 1934 DeSoto Airflow

Chrysler Corp.’s Airflow was an effort in aerodynamics that didn’t quite impress the buying public. Chrysler, DeSoto and Imperial all had their versions of the Airflow during the mid-1930s and pop culture ranks it just behind the Edsel as an American car that didn’t work out. This particular car appeared for sale several months ago and has popped up again, so perhaps the seller had no luck the first time. It can be found in Grant’s Pass, Oregon (west of Medford) and available here on Craigslist for $5,000.

The Airflow was built by Chrysler Corp. between 1934-37. Its claim to fame is being the first full-size American production car to use streamlining as a basis for production. While not a commercial success for Chrysler at the time, this move contributed to future automobile design. Chrysler’s top three brands offered the Airflow and the DeSoto’s version represented almost half of total sales. Chrysler marketing folks called these cars “futuristic,” but they may have been too different from the competitors’ products to capture buyers since the country was just coming out of the Great Depression. Safety pundits also took their digs at the car, but those were never proved. DeSoto was all-in with the Airflow for the 1934 model year. Thanks to Ikey Heyman for noticing that this car was still on the market.

The seller, Bob, gives us a little information about the car, but no history as to how it found itself hidden away after 86 years. We’re told its 100% stock with a six-cylinder engine and 3-speed manual transmission. While a restoration would be the cool thing to do, Bob postulates that this car could also be a rat rod candidate. While cash would certainly close the deal, the seller says he’s open to trade for a 4-speed from 1955-72.

For more details about the Airflow, you can visit Airflow Club of America’s web site. Perhaps this could be a great place to learn how to fix one of these cars up and where rare parts can be located.

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  1. Curt

    That de Soto airflow looks soooooo sad. I’d love to give it a home.

    Like 11
  2. Don H

    Looks like a beetle on steroids 🏋️

    Like 9
  3. TimM

    The Art Deco look of these cars just makes me think of the of this car sitting in front of the Empire State Building in the 40’s!! Great looking automobile!!!

    Like 24
    • George Louis Member

      It would look better parked in front of The Chrysler Building in New York.

      Like 8
  4. IkeyHeyman Member

    I’m usually on the side of the purists in the “restore” vs “restomod” debate, but this is a car I’d like to see on the road, however that happens.

    Like 9
  5. Kenneth Carney

    I wonder if Jay Leno knows about this
    one. Oh sure, he’s got one already but
    he’s the only guy I know of with pockets
    deep enough to do this car right. Rat
    rod? No way in hell! To keep that from
    happening, I’d add another Chrysler icon
    to this car. A 225 slant six that would be more than adequate to move this car
    down the road with no strain–especially
    if built like the one on Power Nation.
    That engine was, as the kids would say,
    “Totally off the chain!”. I’d slide in a 727
    Torqueflight tranny so Sis could get in
    on the fun. I would, but I just picked up
    an ’01 Ram 1500 quad cab that needs
    some TLC to be right again. Just did
    the laundry list and it’s gonna keep me
    busy for awhile.

    Like 8
    • Kelly Breen

      Watching his show I think Jay Leno is one classy gentleman.

  6. Brendon

    If I weren’t in the middle of my current build I’d totally buy this and make a fun driver with it

    Like 2
  7. BTG88

    Jay Leno just recently reviewed his Airflow on his YouTube channel. Beautiful car.

    Like 7
  8. Bob

    Really tempting. Getting it over the border into Canada would be a major hassle however.

    Like 2
  9. thomas casserly

    I saw one of these once with the fenders removed, lowered and rodded, looked pretty cool.

    Like 1
  10. Robert L Roberge

    Sorry folks, there is an elephant staring directly out of that garage. The deSoto waterfall grill will probably double the cost of the whole car right out of the box if it can be sourced. Maybe Jay could print one up.

    Like 2
    • Ed P

      The grille is there

  11. Robert L Roberge

    Perhaps that info might have been included, sure didn’t see it.

  12. Will Owen Member

    I’ve read that the NY Auto Show intro of a not-quite-consumer-ready Chrysler Airflow was mobbed by people wanting one NOW and trying to hand over checks on the spot. Marketing insisted on rushing it into production, without (among other things) the independent front suspension they were still working on. So all those early buyers wound up being test drivers of underdeveloped cars.

    This was a retired Chrysler production guy writing in Old Cars Journal or one of those similar magazines, sometime in the ’80s; I remember the story but the magazine did not move away when I did.

    Like 1
  13. Mike

    I don’t think it’s really fair to compare the Airflow with the Edsel. Maybe the Corvair would be a better comparison: A big American carmaker tried to do something truly forward-looking… and for their trouble they got their head handed to them.

    Like 1
  14. Kenn

    The grill is there but it looks like the windshield glass is gone. Why would it look so clean when all around it is dust?

    Like 1

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