Written by independent automotive journalist Steve Statham
Every once in a great while, a new product comes along that is simply ahead of its time. The aerodynamic 1934-37 Chrysler Airflow was one such product. It is hard to overstate how shocking the Chrysler Airflow was in the mid-1930s. Today, aerodynamics dictate every aspect of automotive styling, but in the early 1930s mass market automotive design hadn’t yet deviated far from the automobile’s “horseless carriage” roots. Most cars still featured long hoods ending in upright waterfall grilles, elaborate hood ornaments, floating headlamps and side-mounted spare tires.
For the Airflow (also shared with the DeSoto division), Chrysler engineers took inspiration from the streamline modern styling era that was emerging in the aviation field, in trains and in other industrial products. With styling tuned by wind-tunnel testing, the Airflow was distinguished by a sloping nose and rear deck, recessed headlamps, an angled V-type windshield and rear fender skirts. The Airflow incorporated other innovations in passenger comfort and safety. Anyone picking up a brochure at a Chrysler dealership would have read that the Airflow was “Engineered to stay years ahead.”
Ultimately the public was not yet ready for such a break from the past and sales were low. Even so, the Airflow was a bold move that helped establish Chrysler’s reputation as an engineering powerhouse.
It takes similar boldness to take a 1935 Chrysler Airflow coupe and turn it into a custom performance machine, but the one offered with No Reserve at the 2023 Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Auction in January is an Airflow perfectly suited to its time. Taking a seldom-seen C1 2-door coupe, the owner dedicated more than 4 years to constructing the car at his shop. It is a classic melding of vintage styling and modern performance.
Under the all-original steel body resides a 6.1-liter HEMI V8 engine with an Edelbrock supercharger. A 545 RFE automatic transmission and a 9-inch Ford rear end complete the powertrain.
The suspension reflects engineering principles that have served the custom car community well, with a modified Mustang II front end and an Art Morrison rear clip. Wilwood brakes provide more stopping power than Chrysler engineers could dream of in 1935. The Boyd Coddington rims fill the wheel wells and look right at home paired with the clean styling of this custom Airflow.
The two-tone Ghost Green paint combination on the vintage sheet metal is a custom PPG mix. The body and paintwork were handled by Armando’s Custom Upholstery in San Jacinto, California, as was the interior work. The interior features two-tone light cream and light tan leather. The chrome trim on the headliner and doors is handmade.
This car includes small custom touches throughout the interior, such as the winged Chrysler insignia on the rear seat, along with substantial custom features, including the center console and the fabricated 1935-era matching “luggage” that disguises the gas tank. In keeping with the Airflow’s modernization, it has been equipped with power windows and a Vintage Air climate control system.
The general public might not have been lining up to purchase Airflows in the 1930s, but we’re pretty sure if Chrysler had been able to field one with this car’s virtues at the time, its success would have been assured. Bidders in Scottsdale may just prove that the Airflow’s time has finally arrived when it crosses the auction block at WestWorld, January 21-29, 2023. Register to bid today.