Changing Winds: The 1934-1937 Chrysler Airflow

THE CHRYSLER AIRFLOW GOES INTO PRODUCTION

If it had strictly up to the engineers, the Airflows probably wouldn’t have arrived until the 1935 model year, perhaps even later. However, the tenth anniversary of the first Chrysler was fast approaching and Walter Chrysler wanted to show off the new car at the New York Auto Show in January 1934.

1934 Chrysler Model CU Airflow Eight front 3q Chrysler Historical Collection
An early press photo of the 1934 Chrysler Model CU Airflow Eight. The CU sedan was 207.1 inches (5,260 mm) long, 70 inches (1,778 mm) tall, and 70.5 inches (1,791 mm) wide, riding a 122.8-inch (3,120mm) wheelbase; curb weight was over 4,000 lb (1,830 kg). Four-door sedans accounted for most of the 8,389 CU Airflows sold in 1934, but there was also a four-door Town Sedan (with no rear quarter windows), as well as a two-coupe and the two-door Brougham, which had the sedan’s profile and rear clip, but the coupe’s longer doors. There were no convertibles, roadsters, or phaetons as the Airflow’s unitized construction precluded open body styles. (Photo © 1934 Chrysler Group LLC – Historical Services; used with permission)

Part of the urgency may have stemmed from reports of a secret GM prototype called the Albanita, which GM Engineering had begun testing at the corporate proving grounds in Milford, Michigan in the spring of 1933. The Albanita was a streamlined, midsize sedan, slightly smaller than the Trifon Special and sporting several features later introduced on production Chevrolets, including an all-steel Turret Top and vent windows. The GM car rode an unusual backbone chassis and was powered by a Ford flathead V8.

Chrysler was almost certainly aware of the Albanita; former GM testers claimed that observers from other automakers made such frequent appearances outside the proving grounds that project director Ollie Schjolin started carrying a rifle to discourage them. However, Chrysler may not have realized that the Albanita was only an engineering testbed, which GM Engineering was to evaluate the backbone frame and two different types of independent suspension. Some GM engineers believed that the Albanita prompted Chrysler to rush the Airflow into production, fearing that their thunder was about to be stolen.

Since they required entirely new tooling and equipment, the production Airflows were undoubtedly expensive to build, driving up their retail prices. Chrysler management decided to introduce the new models in the more-expensive DeSoto and Chrysler brands, although there were tentative plans to add Dodge and Plymouth versions later. Carl Breer and research chief Ken Lee also started work on a compact with front-wheel drive and an unusual 67 cu. in. (1,091 cc), five-cylinder radial engine, either for export markets or as a possible economy model for North America.

1934 Chrysler CW Airflow Imperial Custom front 3q Chrysler Historical Collection
The most expensive 1934 Airflow was the big Chrysler Model CW Airflow Imperial Custom Eight, which cost over $5,000 — comparable to a Cadillac V-12, and more expensive than any Packard Twelve except the rare factory customs. Built by LeBaron, the CW had many unique features, including a curved, one-piece windshield (the first on any American production car); its own dashboard; bigger doors; larger wheels, springs, and brakes; a bigger clutch, radiator, and fuel tank; bumpers with four horizontal bars, rather than three; and a 385 cu. in. (6,306 cc) straight eight with nine main bearings and 150 gross horsepower (112 kW). It was about 4 inches (10 cm) wider than any other Airflow and stretched a mammoth 233.1 inches (5,920 mm) overall, with a curb weight of over 6,000 lb (2,730 kg). (Photo © 1934 Chrysler Group LLC – Historical Services; used with permission)

The smallest and cheapest U.S. Airflow would be the DeSoto Model SE, offered in four body styles, powered by a 242 cu. in. (3,960 cc) flathead six. A Chrysler Airflow Six, the CY, would be offered only in Canada, sharing its 115.5-inch (2,934mm) wheelbase and engine with the DeSoto; six-cylinder U.S. Chryslers would retain conventional styling and engineering. The smallest U.S.-market Chrysler Airflow, the CU Airflow Eight, would be offered in the same body styles as the DeSoto, but on a 122.8-inch (3,120mm) wheelbase with a 299 cu. in. (4,898 cc) straight eight.

Above that would be two Airflow Imperial Eight series, the CV and CX, riding either a 128-inch (3,251mm) or 137.5-inch (3,492 mm) wheelbase and using a stroked 324 cu. in. (5,301 cc) eight. At the top of the line would be the massive CW Airflow Imperial Custom Eight, riding a 146.5-inch (3,721mm) wheelbase and available as either an eight-passenger sedan or limousine, with or without blind quarter panels. To cope with their three-ton mass, all CWs would be powered by the big 385 cu. in. (6,306 cc) nine-bearing eight first introduced on the CG Imperial in 1931.

Most of the major stampings for Airflow bodies were made by Budd, although Chrysler itself manufactured the complex front clips and the CW Imperials were built as semi-customs by the coachbuilder LeBaron, which had been owned by Briggs since 1927.

Despite the proliferation of wheelbases and body styles, all Airflows had a remarkable degree of commonality, surpassing even GM’s new A-B-C-D bodies. The Chrysler CU, for example, shared the same roof panel and rear clip as the short-wheelbase DeSoto and Chrysler CY, with welded-in extensions to the floorpan and side stampings ahead of the firewall to allow room for the longer straight-eight engines. The Imperials simply added more welded-in sections to create their longer wheelbases. All sedans shared the same rear clip, while all coupes shared their own tail section. Perhaps the most ingenious trick was the use of interchangeable doors, allowing Chrysler to create five different door configurations with only two sets of basic tooling. Such commonality helped to reduce production costs, offsetting some of the expense of unitized construction.

1934 DeSoto Airflow sedan front 3q high Chrysler Historical Collection
The most popular Airflow was the 1934 DeSoto Model SE four-door sedan, which accounted for 11,713 sales — more than 20% of all Airflow production. The SE was shorter than the eight-cylinder Chrysler CU, 193 inches (4,902 mm) long on a 115.5-inch (2,934mm) wheelbase. All of the difference was between the firewall and the front axle; SE and CU bodies were basically identical aft of the cowl. Note the fabric roof insert; until the mid-thirties, even “all-steel” closed bodies generally had fabric roofs to avoid drumming. It was replaced in 1936 by a bolt-in steel insert. (Photo © 1934 Chrysler Group LLC – Historical Services; used with permission)

While their engines and three-speed gearboxes (synchronized in second and third gears) were largely conventional, the Airflows introduced an important new mechanical feature: an automatic overdrive. Invented by Rex Keller and manufactured by Borg-Warner’s Warner Gear division, the overdrive unit was essentially a centrifugally operated two-speed rear axle. When engaged via a dashboard switch, it shifted automatically into its 0.70 overdrive ratio whenever speeds exceeded 40 to 45 mph (64 to 72 km/h), shifting back if speed dropped below 25 mph (40 km/h). Unlike the Columbia unit popular for Fords and Lincolns a few years later, there was no automatic ‘kickdown’ to direct drive.

Carl Breer said the overdrive was an afterthought, added when production Airflows proved to significantly heavier and thirstier than originally intended. In 1934, the overdrive was combined with freewheeling, which automatically disengaged the clutch whenever the driver lifted completely off the throttle. (The freewheeling feature was dropped in 1935 — some U.S. states were beginning to outlaw it, concerned about its deleterious effect on engine braking — but Chrysler’s brochures listed it as standard on Imperials as late as 1936.)

PUNCHING A HOLE IN THE AIR, BUT NOT THE MARKET

While the Airflow entered pilot production by December 1933, ramp-up was very slow and only about 60 cars had been built by early January. Nonetheless, the Airflow made its scheduled debut on the main stage of the New York Auto Show on January 6, after weeks of teaser advertisements in major magazines.

1934 Chrysler Airflow CU front 3q Rex Gray 2010 CCBY20-Gen
The 1934 Chrysler CU Airflow had a 299 cu. in. (4,894 cc) straight eight, making 122 hp (91 kW) and 225 lb-ft (304 N-m) of torque on 6.5:1 compression. The Airflow was one of the first American cars with a front-opening ‘alligator’ hood; the body sides extend all the way to the nose, allowing them to accommodate the headlights. Integrated headlights were quite novel in 1934, although Chrysler had to add separate parking/passing lamps because the main beams were a bit too small to meet state rules for minimum headlight size. (Photo © 2010 Rex Gray; used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license)

The Airflow made quite an impression, even on jaded auto show regulars. Streamlined show cars were increasingly common in the early thirties; the spectacular Pierce Silver Arrow had debuted in 1933 and Buckminster Fuller’s wild three-wheel Dymaxion was parked out front at the 1934 show after Chrysler arranged to displace Fuller from the main stage. However, the Airflows were full-fledged production models, aimed (excepting the big Imperials) at the conservative middle-class market. Some show goers were entranced; others were simply appalled. When the independent Market Research Corp. of America asked visitors to name the best- and worst-looking cars in the show, the Airflow topped both lists. Like the “coming or going” postwar Studebakers and Ford’s Edsel, the Airflow became the butt of many jokes, although the DeSoto version won top honors at the Monte Carlo Concours d’Elegance in both 1934 and 1935.

1934 Chrysler Airflow CU rear 3q Rex Gray 2010 CCBY20-Gen
Rear fender skirts were standard on all production Airflows, but whitewall tires and wheel trim rings were extra, although commonly specified. The three-bar bumpers (four-bar on CW Imperials) were attractive, but dented easily. On U.S. cars, sturdier bumpers were added in 1935, although CWs and some export cars retained the original bumpers through 1936. An external spare was standard on 1934-1935 Airflow sedans. (Photo © 2010 Rex Gray; used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license)

While Chrysler sales reps left the New York show with thousands of advance orders, the company was initially able to fill only a handful of them. Airflow production didn’t really get up to speed until almost three months after the show, during which time many frustrated customers either opted for the cheaper, more orthodox-looking Chrysler CA and CB Sixes or took their business elsewhere.

Customers who did receive early-production Airflows were not necessarily any happier. The Airflow’s design was basically sound, but its manufacture involved many new assembly techniques, and teething problems were inevitable. In his memoir, Carl Breer downplayed those issues, but in an interview with author Michael Lamm in the early seventies, his son Fred recalled Breer reading angry letters from disgruntled owners and Chrysler dealers about the many failings of the early production cars. Most of those problems were addressed quickly enough, but they did nothing for the new car’s reputation, nor did rumors about the Airflow’s lack of structural integrity.

1934 DeSoto Airflow coupe front Bill McChesney 2008 CCBY20-Gen
The 1934 DeSoto Airflows had unique headlights, larger than those of the Chrysler models, and small grilles beneath the lights for the horns, deleted in 1935. Both DeSoto and Chrysler Airflows had unusual — and no doubt expensive — front windows with inset vent windows that could be swung out in the normal fashion (with or without lowering the side window) or rolled down along with the entire window and frame. (Photo © 2008 Bill McChesney; used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license)

For those willing to wait — and embrace its controversial looks — the Airflow offered excellent performance. Even the six-cylinder DeSoto was capable of around 85 mph (136 km/h), not bad for a 3,600 lb (1,630 kg) car with only 100 gross horsepower (75 kW). With the optional overdrive, racing driver Harry Hartz averaged a commendable 21.4 mpg (11 L/100 km) in an AAA-supervised run from New York to San Francisco. The eight-cylinder Chrysler CU, meanwhile, could reach 60 mph (97 km/h) in a bit over 20 seconds, lively for the time, with a top speed of over 90 mph (145 km/h). A CV Imperial coupe, also driven by Harry Hartz, set more than 70 production car speed records at Bonneville in mid-1934, hitting 95.7 mph (154.1 km/h) in the flying mile and then averaging over 18 mpg (12.9 L/100 km) between Los Angeles and New York City. Both were excellent figures for any big mid-thirties automobile.

Such speed and economy came at no sacrifice in comfort. Although outward visibility left something to be desired, Airflows were quite roomy. Even the front seats could seat three abreast where conventional Chryslers of the period were a little tight even for two. With their ample weight and slow steering, no Airflow was particularly nimble, but they handled with composure and their reasonably tight turning circle aided low-speed maneuverability. As advertised, the Airflow’s “Floating Ride” was superb, rivaling even some IFS-equipped contemporaries.

1934 DeSoto Airflow coupe dash Bill McChesney 2008 CCBY20-Gen
1934 DeSoto Airflow coupe engine Bill McChesney 2008 CCBY20-Gen
Top: Overdrive was standard on Chrysler Airflow Imperials and Imperial Customs, but it was initially a $35 option on Chrysler CU and DeSoto models. The paper tag on the dashboard of the ’34 is the original instruction card, which warns that the clutch should be disengaged before pressing the overdrive button, and that it should not be engaged at speeds over 45 mph (72 km/h). Bottom: All DeSoto Airflows and the Canadian Chrysler CY had a 242 cu. in. (3,960 cc) L-head straight six, rated at 100 gross horsepower (75 kW) with a 6.2:1 compression ratio. On non-Airflow Chrysler Sixes, the same engine had 5.2:1 compression and 93 horsepower (69 kW), with the higher-compression head available optionally. (Dash and engine photo above © 2008 Bill McChesney; used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license)

Unfortunately, even when Airflows finally became available in quantity that spring, sales were well below expectations. Aside from the styling, the major sticking point was the prices, which started some 20-25% higher than the conventionally engineered models the Airflows replaced. The DeSoto Model SE Airflow, for instance, cost up to $330 more than the 1933 Model SD, making it roughly the same price as the eight-cylinder Model CF that DeSoto had dropped two years earlier due to lack of demand. The Chrysler CU Airflow Eight, at $1,345, was more expensive than most 1933 CQ Imperials. The U.S. economy was better in 1934 than it had been in 1932, but not that much better.

The Airflow’s lackluster sales provoked sharp divisions among Chrysler management. The sales organization, then headed by Joseph W. Frazer (later of Willys-Overland and Kaiser-Frazer fame), blamed the weak business on the Airflow’s quirky looks and wanted to see it replaced, or at least supplemented, by conventional models. Even some of the engineering staff agreed. Carl Breer naturally defended the Airflow, as did Walter Chrysler, who called it the car of the future, resisting efforts by DeSoto and Chrysler managers to kill it.

1934 DeSoto Airflow coupe side Bill McChesney 2008 CCBY20-Gen
1934 DeSoto Airflow coupe rear 3q Bill McChesney 2008 CCBY20-Gen
The sleek fastback coupe is arguably the best-looking Airflow, particularly in profile. Coupe tails taper a bit more than those of the sedans, so Chrysler initially claimed five-passenger seating for the coupes rather than six. The doors of the coupes are longer than the front doors of the DeSoto SE, Chrysler CU, and CV Imperial sedans, but the bigger CX Imperial sedans and limos used coupe doors in front, to match their longer wheelbase. The CW Imperial Custom used the coupe doors both front and rear, with an extra section welded in below the bottom hinge line of each door to allow a taller door opening. (Side and rear 3q photos above © 2008 Bill McChesney; used under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license)

On May 24, the Airflow’s woes were compounded by a new problem: a pending lawsuit file by the Jaray Streamline Corporation of America, charging Chrysler with patent infringement.

SIDEBAR: So, how slippery WAS the Airflow?

Chrysler wind tunnel tests in the late thirties found that the production Airflows had drag coefficients between 0.50 and 0.55 depending on model and body style. That was a definite improvement over most conventional cars of the era, which were in the 0.65 to 0.70 range, but unimpressive compared to the more radical European streamliners (and worse than many modern SUVs). As a point of comparison, the initial Lincoln Zephyr had a Cd of around 0.45, while the first Volkswagen Beetle’s Cd was about 0.49. We have no figures for the Airflow’s frontal area.

19 Comments

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  1. A wonderful article. I still have some very vivid memories of the Pennsylvania AACA vintage car shows back in the 1970’s when a couple of Chrysler Airflows would show up. And definitely got noticed, unlike my personal ’37 Buick Special.

    Now, how about some follow-up! I’d love to see an article on the Lincoln Zephyr, and would especially love to see something on the Hupp Aerodynamic’s of 1934-35. The 1937 Ford wouldn’t be out of line, either. The mid-30’s were definitely a wonderful time for automotive design.

    1. I would love to do the Zephyr and the original Continental, if I can put together enough pictures. (The fact that I was unable to find a ’36 or ’37 Zephyr photo to include in this article, as a contrast with the Airflow, tells you how many I have right now..!)

  2. I’d like to second the earlier commenter, the mid ’30s to early ’40s period really was a fascinating early golden age in automotive styling, where for the first time styling really was given a high priority over the more utilitarian looks of the 20s-early 30s, even if the customers of the day didn’t always go for the more radical examples of streamlined Art Deco, as was the case with the Airflow and shark nose Grahams.

    Although I appreciate the need to jump around a bit for variety, please do consider more articles on the ’30s streamliners in the future, as it is such a fertile era. – the Cord 810/812 would be a great read.

    As an aside, I read an article a few years back about an architect or fashion designer (some creative professional) in Manhattan who had a really special custom CW restomod built, taking an original Airflow body and interior and retrofitting it with a modern drivetrain and undercarriage, apparently the owner loved the Art Deco style and was using it as a daily driver in the city. Wish I had saved the article, but as I recall, there weren’t many pictures with it, but definitely an interesting project.

    1. I’m not categorically opposed to restomods, but doing it with a car as rare as a CW Imperial seems…wrong. I don’t know if they’re on the list of capital-C Classics (if not, they ought to be), but they’re extremely rare, with a lot of unique components (dashboard, brakes, springs, driveshaft, wheels, windshield). The CW is so huge and so heavy that even with a modern drivetrain, it would be a handful in city traffic — it’s bigger and heavier than an Escalade ESV. Admittedly, if it was in sad shape to start with, restoring it would be a serious pain in the ass, but still…

  3. Very interesting as always Aaron, I had a passing knowledge of the Airflows but it is great to read about the detail – I can’t imagine more than a few current cars would warrant the same attention!

    I saw a 1934 Airflow last year (with flat camera batteries!) and I remember previously one of the later model ones with what was quite evidently a tacked-on traditional grille. Looking at the photos perhaps what made the car look so jarring is the horizontal line of the hood which gives the optical illusion that the nose of the car is higher than the cowl, and I find the 6cyl cars better looking because the shorter nose lessens that impact. On the point that aero design per se was not sales-proof perhaps a slight taper for a less bulbous appearance, and wider-set headlights, would have made a difference?

    Rob it would be interesting to hear more about that car too.

    1. John,

      I hadn’t thought about the nose seeming higher than the cowl, but looking at the photos again, I see what you mean. It’s exacerbated by the position of the hood ornament, which gives the tip of the nose a bit of a ‘ski jump’ flair, even on the ’34s, where the original hood line actually slopes downward quite a bit. I imagine that is one of the factors that contributes to what I think of as a ‘stubby’ look to the whole car (especially sedans). The 1934 CU is quite a big car, but its rounded contours make it look smaller than it actually is, an effect that only the really long wheelbases of the CX and CW Imperials offset to any great degree.

      Deciding to mount the headlights in the leading edges of the body sides, rather than the fenders, was really limiting, both in spacing and light size. I don’t know why they didn’t mount the lights in the front fenders, as John Tjaarda did with the Zephyr. (The production Zephyr’s front end was mostly redone by Bob Gregorie, but the fender-mounted lights were on the original Briggs prototype.) I think the headlights of the ’36-’38 Zephyrs still look a bit awkward, but their spacing makes the Lincoln look lower and wider than the Airflow, even though it really isn’t.

      I imagine these are all reflections of the fact that the Airflow was [i]engineered[/i] more than actually [i]designed[/i]. The role of the stylists appears to have been to decorate the shape given them by the engineers, in which they had little if any say.

  4. Very nice article, Mr. Severson! I’m the president of the Airflow Club of America and I happened to find this site while searching for some other material. It’s nice to see a recent article about the Airflow. We are a small (425+) member club. We just had our National Meet in Durango, Colorado and I drove my 1935 C2 (Imperial) from Seattle WA. There are not many 76 year old cars which cruise smoothly down the road at 75 mph in overdrive. I did the return trip (1,300 miles) in two days. I own a 35 Packard, a 37 Cord and numerous other cars of the era and none can match the “modern” ride and drive of an Airflow.

    You are right, Engineering called the shots when the Airflow was designed. It was truly radical. Besides being quiet and smooth at 75 mph, it has gobs of art deco everywhere.

    The 6 cylinder cars (all DeSotos) are true to the Airflow spirit, but after riding in a prototype, Chrysler wanted an Airflow with his name on it. The Imperial Coupes are very well proportioned with six extra inches behind the B pillar.

    I am not opposed to rods, but if a CW was rodded it would break my heart so don’t verify it, please!

    In 1934, Chrysler did offer a retrofit grill which replaced the pure “waterfall” look with a more traditional grill – as was found on the ’35 models. With each passing year, as sales never materialized, Chrysler tried to make the front end look more conventional.

    Visit the website at airflowclub.com. Check out the video of the Airflow being pushed off a cliff and driving away (in the Library section). If anyone would like to see an Airflow close up, let me know and I’ll link you up with the closest members. fwd9@hotmail.com

    Thanks again for a nice article!

    1. Frank,

      Thanks for the kind words!

      I’ve seen the story that the Airflow was originally intended [i]only[/i] as a six-cylinder DeSoto in a number of secondary sources. Do you have an original source for that account? As it stands, I’m afraid I’m rather skeptical of it.

      It’s true that the 1932 Trifon Special prototype was a DeSoto-size, six-cylinder car, and Carl Breer does say that he and Oliver Clark started with a six-cylinder model in laying out the packaging for the Airflow; they wanted to determine the minimum dimensions necessary to achieve both the aerodynamic profile and minimum passenger space they were looking for. However, Breer makes no mention of intending to [i]only[/i] offer the Airflow as a six, and his account indicated that the decision about which brands would offer it was made later. All he says on that subject is that they decided it would be sold by Chrysler and DeSoto; he says nothing about any plan to market it as a DeSoto-only product.

      Breer does say that Walter P. Chrysler was very excited about introducing the Airflow to celebrate Chrysler’s 10th anniversary. Based on Breer’s description of WPC’s enthusiasm for the project, it’s hard to conceive Chrysler [i]not[/i] wanting an Airflow with his name on it — if somebody suggested otherwise, I’m not sure who or why. From a business standpoint, certainly, offering the Airflow only as a DeSoto six wouldn’t have made much sense. The development costs were undoubtedly high, and DeSoto’s annual volume was not; it hadn’t topped 40,000 units since before the Crash. Also, even if there were some original plan to only offer it as a six, why didn’t the U.S. Chrysler line get the CY?

      Now, given the antipathy some of the corporation’s management apparently had toward the Airflow project, it’s entirely possible that getting the individual presidents to accept it was quite a battle. I suppose it’s possible that DeSoto president Byron Foy was less opposed than his colleagues; I really don’t know. However, my suspicion is that if there was a debate over who would offer the Airflow, it was more a matter of internal resistance than any overarching plan of what the Airflow should be.

      It would certainly be fair to call the six the baseline Airflow, since the larger eight-cylinder cars were created by splicing additional sections into the body panels and frame, but I don’t know that that means the bigger cars were somehow an afterthought. From Breer’s account, I think it was just easier to start with the smaller version, to establish the minimum package dimensions. That makes sense — if you know you have acceptable passenger room on the shorter wheelbase, it’s easy to make it bigger, whereas if you base your engineering on the larger version, it’s harder to scale it down without compromising utility space.

      If someone can point me toward a primary source for the DeSoto-only story — first-person accounts of the meeting where it was decided, etc. — I’ll happily accept that, but otherwise, I’m inclined to think that story may just be a misinterpretation of Carl Breer’s account, one that has, as they say, grown in the telling.

      I wholly agree on the CW. I’m not keen on the idea of heavily customizing the Airflow to begin with — it’s relatively rare, of obvious historical interest, and already pretty wild looking without any help — and the idea of cutting up a CW is the sort of thing that gives historians night terrors!

  5. Aaron,
    In the text on page one, it states that the Rumpler Tropfenwagen was powered by a 2.5 W6. Is this a misprint of V6? Or was this a prelude to to todays W8 Volkswagen?

    1. Nope, that’s not a typo. The early Tropfenwagen had a 2,580 cc Siemens & Halske engine with three banks of two cylinders. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a picture of it, but I imagine it was rather bulky.

  6. another expertly written and beautifully illustrated article on these avant garde art deco cars that were way ahead of their time in terms of both styling and engineering-please do an article on the history of De Soto

  7. I own a 1935 Chrysler Airstream c-6 Coupe.
    I’ve been able to determine thru internet research that there were 1975 like models made. What I can’t find is how many of them were standards and how many were deluxe. Does anyone know or know how I can find this info.

    Tx

    1. Dennis,

      The information I have indicates that the six-cylinder Airstream C-6 models weren’t grouped into standard and deluxe versions, only the CZ Airstream Eight. Your number is what I show for business coupe production, as well.

      1. Thank you for the reply that’s interesting to hear, but I’m still confused. I’ve seen, what I believe are photo’s of some C-6’s with parking lights on top of the front fenders & horns mounted thru the stainless grill work on the fenders below the headlites on ea. side of the grill..in addition these cars have 2 windshield wipers. In addition to that I’ve seen photos of C-6’s with no parking lites on the fenders – grill work on the lower fenders
        with no horns & also a single wiper. I’m confused about the differences, could it be as simple as diff. options? What are your thoughts.
        Tx
        Dennis

        1. The Deluxe models were introduced after the start of the 1935 model year. At least on CZs, the dual horns were initially standard and then were deleted on non-Deluxe Eights when the Deluxe was introduced; the horn layout you describe sound like the early and late non-Deluxe CZ arrangements. Chrysler’s factory production figures don’t distinguish between Deluxe and non-Deluxe CZs, probably because of the midyear change. Now, I don’t know anything about a Deluxe version of the six-cylinder cars — all of that applies to the Eights.

          Is it possible that some of the confusing pictures you’ve seen were actually mislabeled CZs? A quick image search just now revealed at least once set of photos labeled as C-6s that are pretty clearly late CZ Deluxes (they even have the winged "8" badges on the catwalks) and there was definitely that variation with the eight-cylinder cars. I could see the parking lamps being a dealer or owner add-on, but the horns do seem like a production variation.

  8. Finally! The story of the Airflow in enough detail for me to understand these beautiful machines. Thank you for this piece!

    They may not have sold well, but their influence was certainly felt around the world. You mention the Volvo Carioca and the <i>Fuseau Sochaux</i> Peugeots (the last of which were made in 1949!), but there is also the first "proper" car from the land of the rising sun: the 1936 Toyota AA. None survived, so Toyota actually built one for their museum in the 1990s.

    Along with Cords, Marmons, Franklins, shark-nose Grahams and the Zephyr, these Chryslers are the epitome of 30s American cars for me.

    1. I must admit had always been a little skeptical of the Toyota link, but the 2012 edition of Toyota’s official history specifically says the Toyoda Model AA took its inspiration from the Airflow. It wasn’t just the styling either; the engineers at Toyoda (not spun off of the parent company as Toyota Motor until 1937) recognized and sought to emulate what Breer and crew had done with the Airflow’s weight distribution and ride. Very interesting.

      1. I should add that while the Model AA was the first Toyota automobile, it was NOT the first Japanese car. The first Japanese-built four-wheeled automobile was made in 1904 and the first gasoline-powered car was in 1907. However, people really didn’t have enough money to create a sustainable domestic passenger car industry until much later. According to the numbers I’ve seen, it wasn’t until 1951 that Japanese companies built more than 2,000 passenger cars in a single calendar year.

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