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The History of Airflows

Airflow sales were weak, even allowing for the depressed economy. Chrysler sold a parallel line of more conventional cars, called Airstream, during Airflow production from 1934 through 1937. They outsold the Airflows by a wide margin. DeSoto offered only Airflows for 1934, but they quickly added an Airstream model as well for 1935 and 1936 that, as with Chrysler, outsold the Airflows. Airflows were more expensive than Airstreams, and both were higher than the low-priced Fords and Chevrolets of the era. All told, about 55,000 Airflows were produced.

Here are some links to explore for more on the development history of these trendsetting cars.




  • Breer, Carl: The Birth of Chrysler Corporation and Its Engineering Legacy, 1995, Society of Automotive Engineers (sometimes available on Amazon and eBay)






Sales Figures

Period Marketing


1934 Chrysler Airflow Advertisements 3.17 MB

1934 DeSoto Airflow Advertisements  3.27 MB

1935 Chrysler Airflow Advertisements 4.19 MB

1935 DeSoto Airflow Advertisements  5.39 MB

1936 DeSoto Airflow Advertisements  1.26 MB

1937 Chrysler Airflow Advertisements 513.44 KB


1935 Chrysler & Custom Imperial Brochure 3.94 MB

1936 British Airflow Brochure - Kew 6, Wimbledon 6, Richmond 6  5.39 MB

1937 Chrysler Brochure

It is sometimes said that, in the 1930s at least, Chrysler as an automobile company was driven by engineers and engineering. Under Walter P. Chrysler's leadership, the company developed and produced innovative improvements to how cars worked. Style, design, marketing, manufacturability and many other elements of the car business followed engineering. As early as 1930, engineers Owen Skelton, Carl Breer, and Fred Zeder, nicknamed the Three Musketeers, were conducting wind tunnel tests with the cooperation of Orville Wright to discover the most efficient shape that could be adapted to automobile design. They discovered that the conventional two-box design of cars was actually aerodynamically more efficient if turned around backwards. This led to the famous backwards DeSoto that appeared on Detroit city streets and in newsreels of the day. 

In 1934, Chrysler introduced the DeSoto and Chrysler Airflow cars. Early reviews were enthusiastic, and over 18,000 orders were taken after the 1934 New York Auto Show debut of the cars. Production problems and delays, and defects in early cars, hurt sales. The cars' radical appearance, especially the front grille, was criticized, and rumors spread that the car was unsafe. Chrysler mounted an extensive campaign to counter these, showing that the Airflows were safer than nearly any other car. 

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