Early Aerodynamics: 1934 DeSoto Airflow

The Airflow was built by Chrysler Corp. between 1934-37. It was the first full-size American production car to use streamlining as a basis for production. Chrysler, DeSoto and Imperial all had their versions of the Airflow whose aerodynamic shape didn’t quite stir up the sales they wanted, but this was still the Great Depression era. This DeSoto version of the Airflow has only had two prior owners in 85 years and stayed in Oregon for most of its life. The unique automobile is being offered in Glendale, California and here on craigslist for $8,500. Thanks, Ikey Heyman, for notifying us of its whereabouts!

This is not the first time this Airflow has graced us at Barn Finds. I covered it in August 2020 when it was offered for sale at that time. Perhaps due to its unusual shape, the Airflow did not catch on with the buying public. Today, it can often be found in pop culture along with the Edsel as an American car that didn’t take off. Which is too bad, because these really are fascinating cars. First year production of the Airflow across all Chrysler divisions was just 2,450 units. Today, the cars enjoy a niche following with collectors as part of the Airflow Club of America.

This particular Airflow seems to be an Oregon car all the way back to the beginning. The seller bought it off the second owner’s family. The 93-year-old-father was still driving the car at some point, but we don’t know how far back that was. But we’re told it was still running until 2-3 years ago. At 29,000 supposed miles, the car appears to have been off the road for some time. It looks to be completely original from top to bottom. The seller is in the process of relocating the car to Southern California, so that’s likely where the next transfer of ownership will take place. The seller says he’d like to see to car brought back to life, but he has lost the inside storage intended for the car and doesn’t want it to live outside under a tarp.

As part of the car’s originality, there is an oil change service sticker still on the door jamb from 1956. The headlight lenses are marked left and right (does that matter?) and are in great condition. The blue paint is worn and paint as you might suspect after all these years, although photos from the first time we saw the car in 2020, it looked to be staying in a barn. The interior appears to be complete and the seats are still around. The seller removed them to clean the interior and then covered them in custom-made clear plastic to protect the original fabric. The exposed roof has an interesting honeycomb pattern that I’m at a loss to explain.

The seller has made additional effort to get it going again. He has gotten the motor to turn over and had the distributor and carburetor rebuilt to the tune of $900. However, the brakes will need to be redone as well as the gas tank removed for a thorough cleaning. The car is not rust-free, but we’re told that structurally it’s still sound. The buyer will also receive a ton of spare parts and components that have accumulated over the years.

This looks to be one of those cars that if you can get it roadworthy again and all cleaned up, you should drive it as-is for a while. You’d likely be the only one at most cars shows to turn up with one of these interesting forays into automotive technology from the 1930s. You can always restore it later because, after all, they’re only original once.

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Comments

  1. BlondeUXB Member

    Honeycomb roof = Chicken wire support for fabric insert…

    Like 30
    • Don p

      Or a quick fix to keep the critters out while awaiting restoration maybe?

      Like 7
      • Jim Benjaminson

        The chicken wire was to support the fabric roof. Its factory. And it also acted as the radio antenna!

        Like 3
  2. RayT Member

    I’ve always been more attracted to the looks of the DeSoto Airflows, for some reason. The larger Chrysler design seemed a little less graceful to me.

    What this needs is a complete restoration. When shined up, these are Art Deco masterpieces, and even if they are only original once, that might be a good thing in this case. When originality goes full iron oxide, it’s too late….

    I have seen one or two that had been lovingly brought back to showroom condition, and they are stunning. This appears to have all the basics to respond equally well to the effort.

    For the record, I don’t know what that would mean to eventual value. If I could do this one up, it would be done simply because I dig the daylights out of the Airflow, not because I want to turn a buck on one.

    Like 28
    • David Taylor

      My exact thoughts.

      Like 6
  3. Teresa

    If the money weren’t an object, this would have a new owner today. Even so, I’d be really tempted to cash in some paper just because these cars have long fascinated me.

    I’d do a showroom-original restoration without a second thought.

    Like 16
  4. IkeyHeyman

    I’ve always been fascinated by these cars, I’ve never seen one on the road, only in museums and a junkyard.

    Like 4
  5. Slantasaurus

    Anyone seen the custom Airflow with Viper engine?? Sold at B-J a few years back, wow.

    Like 4
  6. Jerry

    I’ve come to the conclusion that 90% of the descriptions listed in Barn Finds could be cut and pasted endlessly simply change a couple of numbers, e.g., mileage etc. They all seem slippery and come with ‘tons’ of parts thrown in. Meh, maybe just me.

    Like 2
  7. Richard Isenberg

    When I see one of these photos. The front end reminds me of the old divco milk trucks. Cool ole car.

    Like 15
    • Lou Rugani

      As though wearing stockings pulled over their faces. Good car, though …

  8. Terry J

    If the photo of loading it on the trailer depicts the current owner buying it in Oregon, then it is surely dry arid Central Oregon where it lived it’s life rather than the wet rainy Willamette Valley. If so there may not be a lot of rust. :-) Terry J

    Like 2
    • House of Hotrods

      The phone # on the flatbed is Caveman Towing, from Grants Pass (Southern) Oregon. Not quite Central Oregon desert but definitely drier than here in the valley!

      Like 1
  9. Stan Marks

    Looks like a VW on steroids. LOL!!

    Like 3
  10. guggie

    when I was a kid , in the 50s Mr Bean ( real name) had one of these always always thougt it was a neat car , the Gentleman Mr Bean was in his 70s or older . He passed and a guy came and drove the car away , last we ever saw it .

    Like 3
  11. Bill

    Auto Clutch and Free Wheeling. What could go wrong?

    A bit rough to call a “Survivor”. I’d call it a “Project”. But a great project!

    Like 2
  12. Allen Member

    Wonderful car for a very reasonable price. I don’t want to detract from it in any way but I do have a question about the finish of the dash. I don’t know about 1934, but I do know that all Chrysler-built cars from 1936 to at least 1952 (1954?) had faux wood dashboards, yet this one appears to be a flat gray color. The seller maintains that nothing has been altered since new. We had neighbors who owned two of these in succession and I remember the faux-wood dashboards. Can some Chrysler or Airflow expert reconcile this for me?

    Like 2
  13. Allen Member

    Wonderful car for a very reasonable price. I don’t want to detract from it in any way but I do have a question about the finish of the dash. I don’t know about 1934, but I do know that all Chrysler-built cars from 1936 to at least 1952 (1954?) had faux wood dashboards, yet this one appears to be a flat gray color. The seller maintains that nothing has been altered since new. We had neighbors who owned two of these in succession and I remember the faux-wood dashboards. Can some Chrysler or Airflow expert reconcile this for me?

    • Stan Marks

      Back in the day, maybe it was an option upgrade.

  14. TED

    It is chicken wire, They called it the soft top to save on metal for the war, it is on my “34” Dodge Pick-Up. The wire held up padding and a leather covering. A good upholstery shop sould be able to make one, i did, 1935 they advertised the NEW ALL STEEL Body

    Like 2
    • BlondeUXB Member

      More likely the soft top insert had to do with stamping limitations.
      (The country wasn’t on a war economy until 1941)…

      Like 6
    • Chuck Dickinson

      In 1934, they were not ‘saving metal for the war’. That was still several years in the future. To my understanding, the fabric roof inserts were due to the fact that they didn’t have presses that were big enough to stamp an entire metal roof in one piece.

      Like 4
      • Ed P

        The stamping issue is what I heard from year’s ago

        Like 3
  15. Will Pereira

    The chicken wire on the roof was actually wired to the radio and used as an antenna. My ’37 Packard 115C was the same way. Probably most 30’s cars came that way. I love this car.

    Like 3
    • Ted

      Well, that could be but my “34” does not have a radio,HA HA!!! Not even a glove box!!!

      Like 1
  16. Will Pereira

    They were pre-wired for those folks who chose the radio option.

  17. Wayne from oz

    Left and right headlight glass certainly does matter. The diffusions in the glass are different. The RHS will light up the side of the road more, while the LHS will throw the beam further down the road.

    Like 6
  18. Carl R Bacon Jr

    If only that front on a 2-door coupe body….

  19. Dennis Mccargar

    My heart is broke/n! I really wanted that DeSoto. Been looking to replace one that I bought in 1962, stolen before I got out of the Navy in 1966. Think I found mine again, in Denver about 1986, but got away, again, before I could locate the property owner. This OR car was much better, I am nearby to Montrose, CA hope to at least see this one again, if still around, the site at Craig’s List was taken down…darn it! Maybe it will motor in to the Early Rodders’ show, some Sat morning!

    • Jimmy Novak

      Ouch … sorry. Let’s *hope* it wasn’t hotrodded …

  20. Jimmy Novak

    Ouch … sorry. Let’s *hope* it wasn’t hotrodded …

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