1934 Chrysler/DeSoto Airflow

Originally, the Airflow was to have appeared only with the DeSoto badge, but that changed when the boss decided there ought to be a Chrysler version to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his namesake marque.

Thus, the new model bowed under both nameplates -- the 1934 Chrysler/
DeSoto Airflow -- encompassing five different wheelbases and as many engines. Smaller versions were also being prepared for Dodge and Plymouth Divisions in anticipation that the public would flock to the Airflow concept. They didn't.

A 1934 Chrysler/DeSoto Airflow fastback model.
The five-passenger brougham fastback two-door
sedan in 1934 Chrysler Series CU guise. It was one
of four body styles in that year’s Airflow Eight
line, each priced at $1,345.

This strategy created a near-disaster for DeSoto, which relied exclusively on the Airflow for 1934, while Chrysler hung onto conventional styling for its six-cylinder models.

Designated Series SE, the DeSoto Airflow rode a 115.5-inch wheelbase and offered a choice of four body styles -- two-door coupe and brougham sedan, six-window four-door sedan, and a four-window four-door town sedan. All were powered by the familiar 241.5-cubic-inch L-head six, rated at an even 100 horsepower.

A sales manager pitches the 1934 Chrysler/DeSoto Airflow.
Chrysler Corporation
general sales manager
Joseph W. Frazer “asking
you to compare” the 1934
Chrysler Airflow Eight.

The all-straight-eight Chrysler Airflow lineup initially consisted of three model groups. At the bottom was the 123-inch-wheelbase Series CU, with the DeSoto's four body
types and a 298.7-cid engine packing 112 horsepower.

Next up was the Series CV Airflow Imperial Eight on a 128-inch wheelbase and without the brougham model. Its 323.5-cid powerplant produced 130 horsepower and, like all Chrysler engines that year, boasted an aluminum cylinder head.

Pride of the fleet was the Series CW Airflow Custom Imperial, spanning a huge 146.5-inch wheelbase and powered by the company's largest eight, a 384.8-cid nine-main-bearing unit rated at 145 horsepower. Body styles comprised eight-passenger four-door sedan and town sedan in standard and limousine form, the latter with division window and different trim for the separate chauffeur's compartment.

All CW bodies were supplied by the famed LeBaron coachworks. Chrysler prices ranged from $1,245 for any Series CU up to $5,145 for the impressive Custom Imperial town limousine. The DeSotos were priced at $995 across the board.

In construction, the Airflows were completely different from other cars of their day, a fact that may be difficult to appreciate in ours. While the 1934 Plymouth had a newly designed independent front suspension, the Airflows were a throwback in having a tubular front axle, the same type as on the very first Chryslers.

Nevertheless, the DeSoto brochure boasted that you could read a newspaper at 80 mph over almost any road. Rear seat passengers sat 20 inches ahead of the rear axle instead of directly over it, because the engine, the heaviest single component in any car, was moved a corresponding distance ahead to rest over the front axle.

This left riders almost at the car's exact center of dynamic balance, aided by slightly front-heavy weight distribution (55/45 percent front/rear) compared to that of conventional cars, where the rear axle usually carried most of the load. Also enhancing ride comfort were extra-long leaf springs with more leaves all around. On the Chrysler CU, for example, the front springs measured 44.125 inches and the rears 52.5 inches, with no fewer than 10 leaves at the front and eight in the back.

What other features made the 1934 Chrysler/DeSoto Airflow unique? Find out on the next page.

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