As an "engineer's car," the Chrysler/DeSoto Airflow was the sort of thing that naturally appealed to Walter Chrysler, and he gave it his wholehearted endorsement. But there was another, more important reason that accounted for his eagerness to start producing the car.
General Motors, he had heard, was about to launch a streamliner of its own, and he feared any delay would allow his rival to steal the Airflow's thunder. Accordingly, he decreed that the car would be launched in January 1934, which just happened to coincide with the opening of the annual New York Auto Show.
Guests at a 1934 bash for
the DeSoto Airflow
included baseball great
Babe Ruth (left), division
chief Byron C. Foy
(center), and a certain
Walter P. Chrysler.
Production engineering now accelerated to full steam, and fresh funds were allocated for tooling, final design details, and other expenses. The first production prototype quickly took shape in a sealed-off area of the Highland Park engineering building, and road tests were underway by fall 1933 in a secluded area called Strubles Farm on the Au Sable River about 200 miles north of Detroit.
Chrysler obviously knew the element of surprise would be important in launching such a radical new product, and he didn't want rivals -- especially GM -- finding out what he was up to.
When it did appear, the Airflow was a sensation. Never had there been a production car like this. True, Pierce-Arrow had shown its stunning V-12 Silver Arrow show car the previous year. But at $10,000, it was clearly available only to the wealthy -- and precious few at that.
The Airflow, on the other hand, was a product of the world's third-largest automaker and aimed directly at the mass market. It not only looked like the "car of the future" but was actually within reach of ordinary people.
Chrysler Corporation's newest were prominently featured in trade journals and Sunday supplements, but writers seemed hard-pressed to describe the precedent-breaking Airflow design. Writing in MoToR, technical editor Harold T. Blanchard observed: "After you've looked at them for two or three days, you become accustomed to them."
He went on to state that the Airflow offered extraordinary interior room and a new weight distribution that provided an exceptionally smooth ride unlike that of any other car on the market.
Just to be sure the public didn't miss the point that the Airflow was a harbinger of the future, Chrysler publicists posed one alongside the Union Pacific Railroad's M-1000 streamliner locomotive at the Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago, one of the best-known automotive public relations photos of all time.
The Chrysler Series CU Airflow Eight four-door
poses with the Union Pacific’s M-1000 streamlined
locomotive at Chicago’s Century of Progress
Continue to the next page to learn more about the Chrysler/DeSoto Airflow introduced in 1934.
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