Going With The Flow: 1935 Chrysler Airflow

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When you really stop and think about it, automobile design hadn’t really progressed much beyond horse and buggy days by the early 1930s.  Every car was basically a variation of a full frame with an engine and a body perched on top.  Little thought had been given to the concepts of aerodynamics, weight balance, and overall ride.  That changed with the introduction of Chrysler’s tremendously innovative Airflow.  While their success in the marketplace was limited, cars like this 1935 Chrysler Airflow sedan currently for sale on eBay were instrumental in changing vehicle design in America.  At an asking price of $23,000, this luxurious Imperial version is ready to provide its new owner with a driving experience that few 1930s cars can match.  Is this engineering masterpiece the perfect car to introduce your family to vintage motoring?

While the Airflow story has been previously covered on these pages and countless others interested in automotive history, the big takeaways to the story are numerous.  In designing the Airflow, Chrysler engineers completely rethought how cars were built and where the major components were placed relative to the car’s overall balance and ride.  This lead to such innovations as a nearly all steel construction that approached modern unibody design, and the placement of the cabin provided a much more comfortable ride.  Another groundbreaking change that likely was responsible for the design’s dismal sales were the radically aerodynamic body lines.  These lines were a departure from the norm that the public just wasn’t ready for.  While not the engineering masterpiece that the Airflow was, the Lincoln’s Zephyr’s more flowing lines accomplished the same task with much more grace.

Still, the Lincoln was a technological dinosaur compared to the Airflow.  Chrysler and DeSoto were the only two divisions of the Chrysler Corporation that would end up selling the Airflow.  Chrysler’s version was delivered with a 323 cubic inch straight eight engine and could be ordered with an overdrive transmission.  This combination gave these long, heavy vehicles a top speed slightly above 90 miles per hour with a very generous and low revving torque curve.  All that speed was backed up with impressive handling for the day and a hefty set of hydraulic brakes.  If things went south on the road, these cars were built to take a lot of abuse in an accident.  Chrysler filmed a safety demonstration that consisted of rolling an Airflow off a 90 foot cliff.  The dented and somewhat battered car landed on its wheels, and was promptly driven away.

Thankfully the Airflow you see here is in much better condition.  The seller states that the car is a very original example.  The person that it was purchased from had owned the car since the 1960s.  While the condition looks to reflect an older restoration rather than a car in original condition, this Airflow is obviously very presentable.  The maroon paint contrasts well with the black fenders, and the wide whitewalls give the car a dignified appearance.  The chrome and trim pieces are also in top shape.

A look inside reveals a beautifully wood grained dash and instruments that appear to be in good condition.  The unusually shaped shifter gives hints to the forward positioning of the engine and transmission on these cars.  One important feature that is not mentioned in the ad is an overdrive transmission.  Many of these cars were equipped with these robust units.  If the seller, who appears to be quite knowledgeable, doesn’t mention it, then it is likely not there.  If so, the purchaser of this fine automobile should start scouting out the ads in Hemmings Motor News for one.  Having a straight eight Chrysler without an overdrive is almost a sin.

A view through the open doors on the drivers side shows that the spacious interior offers spacious seating for both the driver and passengers.  The upholstery does have a few appearance imperfections that are expected with a few years of use.  However, the cloth on the seats seems to be in good enough condition to last for many more years.  The only questionable area is the headliner.  I am not sure that the material is correct, but this is a minor issue for a car meant for enjoyment.

The real joy in owning this car would be mashing the pedal on this well kept engine.  As previously stated, these engines offer the driver a lot of low end torque and a smoothness that has to be experienced to be believed.  Peering into the engine compartment, it is interesting to see how well packaged the whole assembly is.  The horns are shifted to the side rather than atop the engine compartment like cars of the same vintage.  The snorkel connecting the air cleaner assembly to the carburetor is also unique for the time.  Details like this, and how seamlessly they work together, show just how well thought out these cars really are.

While the Airflow was known mostly as a sales flop, a trained eye can see that features first offered with the car later became the norm rather than the exception.  A car like this is one of the best choices you can make if you want to seriously get into touring with the AACA or other clubs.  You could even take your family on vacation in such a car.  The room inside, the ride, and the ability of these cars to glide down the road effortlessly would surely keep your clan happy.  At least as long as it is not too hot outside and you brought plenty of charged devices for the kids.  Going with the flow in an Airflow is not a difficult task.

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  1. Bob

    A beautiful car at a reasonable price.

    Like 22
    • Story Vogel

      FINALLY something that I would gladly pay the asking price…if I had the money laying around……………really beautiful.

      Obviously its been restored and it has the wrong plates for the year it was originally built. I’d love to know the history of this car…the title shows it was titled in 2018…weird or I’m confused. :)

      Still absolutely worth it .

      Like 8
      • DavidLMember

        One my top of the list Lotto Cars!!! i.e. if I win the Lotto …

        Like 3
      • Miguel

        It has the correct plates. All cars were required to replace their plates in 1963.

        Like 2
  2. h5mind

    One of the best deals I’ve seen here in quite a while. It would be impossible to buy one in “unrestored” condition and create this within the same budget.

    Like 16
  3. Beatnik Bedoun

    …What the others said…

    This is one drop-dead gorgeous car that could be driven just about anywhere.

    As I mentioned on another Airflow post awhile back, I road tested one for NZ Classic Car magazine a couple of decades ago and the mix of old technology and advanced (for the ’30s) styling made it a fun car drive.

    It was one of my favourite road tests – along with the 270 HP ’57 ‘Vette, L-79 Sting Ray (in the pouring rain!), XY Falcon GTHO Phase III, and (would you believe?) a Willys Aero Custom – in the years I contributed to the publication.

    Somebody should snap up the Airflow posted here and just enjoy…

    Like 8
  4. 86_Vette_Convertible

    Absolutely gorgeous! That’s one I’d be proud to be seen in, and it appears to be a buy and drive to boot.

    Like 6
  5. Sam61

    Very cool, fair price….I would drive it every day the weather is nice.

    Attached is a similar genre car at the Studebaker Museum.

    Like 7
  6. Steve H.

    I would buy that in a skinny minute if I had the cash. I always loved the Airflows. Do you guys think that the burgundy and black 2-tone is the original paint scheme? Did not know they made those in 2-tones…

    Interesting how the grille is not all chrome but rather chrome and body color…

    Like 5
  7. local_sheriff

    Beautiful, beautiful Art Deco design. By today’s tecnical standards it’d be a dinosaur, still it shows just how much ahead American car design was in the 30s.
    Love every bit of it, I get such a feeling of QUALITY when looking at its plush interior.You won’t even need be a gear head to appreciate such a gem…!

    Like 4
  8. newfieldscarnut

    My Desoto Airflow that has been undercover since 1956 .

    Like 16
  9. Bruce

    I got to help restore and repaint one of these and they are more amazing on the inside but and it is a huge but the one I helped restore was painted a factory green and it did not look good in the shop but in the sun light it make the car look like an enormous pickle We never laughed about it in front of the owner as it was his fathers car and we were of the opinion that is where his first sex experience happened but as wonderful as these cars are in the wrong color they are truly UGLY machines.

    Like 2
  10. David Rhoces

    way ahead of it’s time …. too bad

    Like 2
  11. Bob McK

    Come home to Daddy!! Love this car and it is priced right.

    Like 4
  12. Comet

    Beautiful car! Too bad at the time the world didn’t seem ready for this stunning design.

    Like 5
  13. Howard

    The addition of the front turn signal lights makes me wanna scream! Makes me wanna belt someone in the mouth for drilling holes in those fenders to put them there. There has to be a better way. The dash was once a gorgeous piece. You too can learn to faux paint……….. NOT With that being said, this is still a fabulous piece of machinery and if I could wrangle it, it would be parked in my garage anytime I wasn’t cruising down the boulevard

    Like 1
  14. Miguel

    That is funny. The serial number shown in the EBay ad, doesn’t match the VIN on the title.

    Like 0
  15. ed klapstein

    Looks like its registered using the engine number. They call it an Imperial, but is a C1 which is the standard airflow. The Imperials were a C2 and had a longer wheel base noticeable in the back door and quarter window that is also longer and has a divider. The rear edge of Imperials door was straight, did not curve around the fender. Non original interior, pattern and material and wonky sealed beam conversions. Still looks like a decent car for the money. Nice to hear such positive comments on the Airflows!!

    Like 1
  16. Bellingham Fred

    Yes, what a beautiful car. I’m on the list of wanna be and wish it was me owners for this. I do wonder if the lack of trunk was a factor in the lack of sales for these cars. Is there a trunk? It would limit how much you could pack for that family vacation.

    Like 1
  17. Ed

    The trunk is accessed from inside by lifting up the seat back. Sort of ackward and I think later models had a conventional opening trunk.

    Like 0
  18. Bill W

    Most definitely a Chrysler Airflow Eight and not Airflow Imperial Eight.

    The windshield wipers are not original. As the front window sections can be opened the windshield wipers were mounted above the windshield. You can see the crank handles mounted on the instrument panel just above the instruments and glove box.

    The non-Airflow Airstream (DeSoto and Chrysler) models had stationary glass for the windshield (two panes) with the wipers mounted on the cowl. Suspect who ever did the restoral was copying the windshield treatment from an Airstream.

    Like 1
  19. Mitch RossMember

    Good thing I don’t have the cash available or I would buy that in a second! Seems like a very fair price.

    Like 1

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