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1934-1937 Chrysler Airflow


The End of the Chrysler Airflow
The Airflow incorporated many forward-looking engineering features, but the styling-especially up front-was of the love-it or hate-it variety; not enough people loved it.
The Airflow incorporated many forward-looking engineering features, but the styling-especially up front-was of the love-it or hate-it variety; not enough people loved it.
©Vince Manocchi

Once the initial enthusiasm had died down -- and that didn't take very long -- it quickly became apparent that the Chrysler Airflow's sales would not come up to expectations.

Design consultant Norman Bel Geddes was called in to "fix" the styling. He endowed the 1935 models with a new hood, which extended forward to a vee-shaped grille. Decorative hood louvers were added, the bumpers were redesigned, and the Brougham -- which had not been at all well received -- was dropped from the line.

All of which didn't help very much. Chrysler Airflow production, which had totaled 10,839 for 1934, fell to 7,751 in 1935. Fortunately for its dealers, Chrysler rushed two new conventionally styled cars to market for 1935. Known as the Airstream Six and Eight, these were particularly attractive cars, helping pace the division to a 35 percent sales increase for the year.

The Airflow received another facelift for 1936, this time featuring a prominent diecast grille. A humpback trunk was added to the sedan's rear, allowing the spare tire to be tucked inside. The Town Sedan followed the Brougham into oblivion as Airflow sales continued to fall, this time to 6,275 units. Again it was the Airstreams that kept the corporation and its dealers alive. Overall, Chrysler production rose that year by nearly 43 percent.

Only one Airflow series was offered for 1937, the ill-fated streamliner's final year of production. Though it actually represented a continuation of the 1934-1936 Imperials, it was known simply as the Chrysler Airflow (the company had other plans for the prestigious Imperial title). Sedan and coupe styles were offered, both priced at $1,610, a S135 increase over the previous year.

Alas, sales continued their downward trend, totaling just 4,600 for the season.

Or rather, 4,603. The big Custom Imperial CW still had its cadre of loyalists. Three more of these enormous cars were run up on special order during the Airflow's farewell season, one of them for Major Edward Bowes, host of radio's popular Amateur Hour show.

And then it was all over. Walter Chrysler, by then in his final illness, must have wondered what went wrong. Richard M. Langworth and Jan Norbye, in their Complete History of Chrysler 1924-1985, offer this explanation: "The normally canny Walter Chrysler approved this advanced concept without much apparent regard for whether the public would accept it. And that would prove to be Chrysler's -- both the man's and the company's -- first serious mistake."

Next, get specifications for the 1934-1937 Chrysler Airflow.

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