Six Figure Potential? 1935 DeSoto Airflow

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The Chrysler Airflow is one of the most recognizable cars of its time, even if its overall sales success wasn’t the bright spot the company has hoped for. Finding one is hard; finding a DeSoto-badged version trickier still, and the seller thinks it could be worth six-figured when restored. This example here on eBay is listed with an asking price of $23,500 and features some interesting factory options. Thanks goes to Peter R for the tip! 

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Personally, I consider the Airflow among the prettiest cars ever made, in addition to being one of the most innovative. Featuring the world’s first unibody design and utilizing wind tunnel testing to truly streamline the exterior, the Airflow was chock-full of innovation. Some of the marketing pieces from the era even showed it tumbling down a hill and the doors still opened!

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The seller is quick to point out that the all important hood ornament and other ornamental badging remains in place to set this Airflow apart as a genuine DeSoto. The interior is clearly a lost cause but the body looks very straight, considering the age. This Airflow was also optioned with the rare window washing system, which remains intact. I’d love to see that feature working on the finished product.

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The original drivetrain is intact, and still turns – but the seller hasn’t attempted to start it. You’ll need a new driver’s side tail light, but that’s likely the least of your concerns when tackling a project like this. How difficult is parts sourcing? Tough to tell, but the seller does point out there is healthy club support for this windswept classic. Is it worth restoring? Or is the price too high for this once unloved innovator?

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Comments

  1. 68 custom

    that Desoto will really be something once restored! very cool! body looks pretty rust free. the trunk sure is an odd shape though.

  2. JW454

    My first choice for this car would be a complete restoration. If that proved to be impossible due to the lack of correct parts, this would make a very cool hot rod. The hot rod option would only be to keep the outstanding design on the road for people to see. This is only the second 2 door Airflow I’ve ever seen.

    • David Montanbeau

      Like this one?

      Like 1
      • David Montanbeau

        Nice car at a local car show.

      • Ken

        If someone is going to hot rod a car like this, the least they can do is make it all Mopar. I’d have dropped in a steel-crank 340 with a 727. I am so sick and tired of people putting 350s into any car, regardless of make. It shows a serious lack of imagination.

  3. Glen

    Are the parts interchangeable? Is it just a rebadged Chrysler?

    • Ed P

      The mechanicals are standard Chrysler items. The body construction is the big difference.

      • David montanbeau

        Mechanics are also differnt.

    • The Walrus

      Everything is similar, but different. Generally Desoto’s were smaller as well.

      • Tommy

        that would be “exactly the same except for the differences”.

  4. Tirefriar

    Wow, this is the first 2door Airflow I recall seeing. I wouldnt dispute this one to be a 6 figure car, but only after you put 6 figures into restoration…

  5. Wm Lawrence

    One correction, unit body construction was pioneered by Lancia in 1926.

  6. Wayne

    The black four door car is gorgeous, as is the four door shape, but to me the two door is ugly.
    As has been said before just because something is rare, doesn’t make it beautiful.

  7. The Walrus

    I’m quite dubious of this ever seeing 6 figures, as Old Cars Price Guide (OCPG) has #1 values as below $30K for all 2-door ’35 Desoto Airstreams (excluding rag tops). This is solidly a #5 car (see descriptions below prices), with values of $3000-$3500. Anything above $5K on this is silly money. OCPG occasionally lags the market a bit, but not by 3X (I wasn’t exactly sure which model this is, so all 2-doors listed in the guide are below)…

    1935 Airstream, 6-cyl.
    2d Bus Cpe – 6: $1,160 5: $3,480 4: $5,800 3: $13,050 2: $20,300 1: $29,000
    2d Cpe – 6: $1,180 5: $3,540 4: $5,900 3: $13,280 2: $20,650 1: $29,500
    2d Conv – 6: $1,840 5: $5,520 4: $9,200 3: $20,700 2: $32,200 1: $46,000
    2d Sed – 6: $1,040 5: $3,120 4: $5,200 3: $11,700 2: $18,200 1: $26,000
    2d Tr Sed – 6: $1,040 5: $3,130 4: $5,220 3: $11,750 2: $18,270 1: $26,100

    4) GOOD: A drivable vehicle needing no, or only minor work to be functional. Also, a deteriorated restoration or a poor amateur restoration. All components may need restoration to be “excellent,” but the vehicle is mostly usable “as is.” This is a driver. It may be in the process of restoration or its owner may have big plans, but even from 20 feet away, there is no doubt that it needs a lot of help.

    5) RESTORABLE: Needs complete restoration of body, chassis and interior. May or may not be running, but isn’t weathered, wrecked and/or stripped to the point of being useful only for parts. This car needs everything. It may not be operable, but it is essentially all there and has only minor surface rust, if any rust at all. While presenting a real challenge to the restorer, it won’t have him doing a lot of chasing for missing parts.

    6) PARTS CAR: May or may not be running, but is weathered, wrecked and/or stripped to the point of being useful primarily for parts. This is an incomplete or greatly deteriorated, perhaps rusty vehicle that has value only as a parts donor for other restoration projects.

  8. Steve

    Just for fun, here’s the Desoto Blue Book from 1935. Found the book many years ago in my Grandmother’s house. My Grandfather, who died in 1950, seven years before I was born, had a used car lot among his several businesses in Western Maryland.

  9. Steve

    Just for fun, here’s the Desoto Airflow listing from the National Used Car Market Report (Executives Edition) Blue Book from 1935. Found the book many years ago in my Grandmother’s house. My Grandfather, who died in 1950, seven years before I was born, had a used car lot among his several businesses in Western Maryland.

  10. Steve

    Here’s the top of the page.

  11. peter

    I too have not seen a two-door. It looks great.

    Also, I have read that on some of the four-door Airstream or Airflow models, the front and rear doors were interchangeable on the diagonal (ie. front left to rear right and front right to rear left – Mr Chrysler was brilliant).

  12. jtnc

    Chrysler Airflows are generally worth more than DeSotos because the Chryslers were eights while the DeSotos were sixes (not sure that applied in all years, but definitely did in 1934-35). What’s really rare here is the 2-door bodystyle. 2-doors represented a small fraction of Airflow sales. There is an Imperial Airflow 2-door currently on display at the North Carolina Museum of Art’s (Raleigh) “Art Deco Cars” exhibit, and it is gorgeous. I personally much prefer the 2-door, but most buyers obviously didn’t.

    If well-restored, I think this car could potentially bring $75,000 in today’s market, but not six figures. In any case, one of my favorite American cars of the thirties.

  13. MikeH

    I have never seen an Airflow convertible and was about to argue that they didn’t exist. However, that used car report proves me wrong.

  14. David Conwill

    Very cool car. The two-door Airflows are so handsome.

    Anybody else feel like this is just begging for a sliding, cloth sunroof like the later, Airflow-influenced Beetles had?

    Or is such a thing too undignified for an icon of streamline design?

  15. Mike

    @ Walrus : prices not correct, the prices indicated are for Airstreams. An Airstream is NOT an Airflow. It’s a completlely different car. ! And no convertible Airflow . !

    • The Walrus

      Mike. This is a Desoto, not a Chrysler. Chrysler’s were Airstreams. Desoto’s were Airflows. The numbers I quoted are correct for the car. The records indicate just over 2000 Desoto Airflow convertibles were produced.

      • MikeH

        From what I can find, and I am MikeH, not Mike, DeSoto produced both Airstreams and Airflows in ’35 and ’36 [not ’34]. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DeSoto_Airstream
        The Airstream being the more conventionally styled. The Airstream had a convertible model. The Airflow, the art deco car, seems to have been available only in a 4dr sedan and 2dr coupe. Chrysler’s art deco car was called Airflow as well. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DeSoto_Airflow
        However, I’m not an Airflow guy [I love them, but don’t own one] and I got my info from Wikipedia, which I realize is not always a reliable source.

  16. Mike

    Hello, for those who read these lines, : what The Walrus says is completely WRONG. ! . . . . ” Chrysler’s were Airstreams and Desoto’s were Airflows” . . . WRONG. ! ! ! !
    For example : in 1935 there was DeSoto AND Chrysler Airflow and there was DeSoto AND Chryler Airstream. The Chrysler Airflow was bigger than the DeSoto Airflow. The Airstreams had a completely different design.
    And no DeSoto nor Chrysler Airflow convertibles . . ! !

    I’m just a guy who owns two DeSoto Airflow. !

    In the pictures below you can see DeSoto AND Chryler Airflow and also DeSoto AND Chrysler Airstream . . note the différences between the cars.

  17. Mike

    Chrysler Airflow 1935.

  18. Mike

    DeSoto 1935 Airflow.

  19. Mike

    Chrysler Airstream 1935.

    • Mike

      Chrysler Airstream 1935.

  20. Mike

    DeSoto Airstream 1935.

  21. Mike

    Chrysler Airstream 1935 Coupe.

  22. Tirefriar

    I think I like the looks of Airstreams better than those of Airflows. Thanks for sharing Mike!

    • Ed P

      The car buyers when these were new did agree. I do think Airstreams are interesting now.

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