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1934-1937 Chrysler/DeSoto Airflow

Distinctive Features of the 1934 Chrysler/DeSoto Airflow

The result of all the 1934 Chrysler/DeSoto Airflow's engineering innovation was what Chrysler called "Floating Ride," and the cars included a number of distinctive features.

Blared the DeSoto brochure: "No matter whether you are sitting in the front seat or the back, you can relax completely and utterly . . . you ride comfortably 'amidships' . . . experience no bumping, bouncing, or vibration of any kind. The bumps just seem to flow under the car without reaching you. It is impossible to realize how great a relief this is until you actually try it."

1934 DeSoto Series SE Airflow sedan
Actor/singer Dick Powell takes the wheel of the
1934 DeSoto Series SE Airflow sedan.

Also missing in the Airflow was the typical composite body common to virtually all other cars of the period. In its place was one complete steel unit "built like a modern bridge."

Box girders ran longitudinally up from the front, into the roof rails and down to the tail, and were joined with vertical and horizontal members to create an exceptionally strong structure that Chrysler claimed was "40 times more rigid than a conventional frame and body . . . The entire car moves as whole instead of the frame vibrating against the body," although this was not, in fact, true unit construction.

Flush headlamps were featured on the 1934 Chrysler/DeSoto Airflow.
Flush headlamps were
a 1934 feature.

The "girder-trussed" arrangement was not engineer Carl Breer's alone but also reflected input from the Budd Company and Chrysler's chief body engineer, Oliver Clark. Incidentally, Budd ended up supplying most Airflow sheetmetal aft of the cowl, while the entire front end was built up as a subassembly at the Dodge plant in Hamtramck.

Besides its solid front axle, the Airflow was curiously old-fashioned in retaining the traditional fabric roof insert, although this was replaced for 1936 by a solid steel panel, a response to GM's introduction of the "Turret Top."

Inside, the Chrysler/DeSoto Airflow could comfortably accommodate three in front on a seat 50 inches wide, 10 inches broader than those of ordinary cars. The seat itself was mounted high off the floor on a novel chrome-plated tubular frame (also used for the rear bench), which allowed air to circulate beneath and flow back to the aft compartment for more efficient heating and true windows-up ventilation.

Center latch rear doors on the Airflow opened a cavernous space.
Center-latch doors revealed a vast interior with
chair-height seats on chrome-tube frames.

Other interesting touches included commodious twin gloveboxes, one at each end of the dash, and full instrumentation housed in two circular dials flanking a steering column angled much more horizontally than the then-current norm. The glass area was uncommonly generous all around, "a vital new safety feature" that made for improved over-the-road vision.

With so many fabulous features, the Airflow seemed destined to sell. Find out what really happened on the next page.

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