The Desoto Airstream is an automobile built by the Chrysler Corporation and sold through its DeSoto division during model years 1935 and 1936. During both years, the car was sold along with the streamlined DeSoto Airflow. Chrysler also fielded its own Chrysler Airstream model concurrently; visual cues separated the two automobiles.
The Airstream was created to capture market share lost during the 1934 season when DeSoto only offered the Airflow. While streamlined and aerodynamic, the Airflow was not embraced by the public, and the more mainstream Airstream was introduced as a stop-gap measure until a fully redesigned DeSoto could be introduced in 1937.
In reviewing the Airstream, conventionality was its best attribute. Solidly built, and more conservatively styled, the 6-cylinder Airstream did away with the Airflow's integrated headlights, broad grille work and monocoque construction. While the super structure of the Airstream was all-steel (as opposed to wooden framing - a practice still followed by some US automakers in the mid-1930s), the car rested on its frame, while Airflow's unibody build qualities placed the passenger compartment within the frame structure.
Body styles for 1935 included 2-door business coupe, convertible coupe, roadster coupe, 5-passenger coupe and trunkback sedan. Four-door offerings included a base sedan and a trunkback sedan. The cars featured Chrysler’s vaunted “Floating Power” rubber engine mounts which isolated engine vibration from the chassis. Optional features included carpeting for the front seat area, radio and a heater.
Airstreams were priced about $200 dollars less than the DeSoto Airflow. That, plus the more traditional styling, made the car a success.
For model year 1935, DeSoto's total sales of 20,003 Airstreams and 6,797 Airflows (26,800 units) almost doubled that of 1934's sales of 13,940 Airflows alone.
In 1936 the Airstream was split into two trim levels, Deluxe and Custom. Deluxe models had one piece windshields while Customs (exp. the convertible) had two piece units which were quickly becoming the industry standard. The senior series also gained a Custom Traveller model, built on a stretched 130" wheelbase. Custom travellers were popular with limousine conversion companies and marked the beginning of DeSoto's long standing, and profitable relationship with the Taxicab industry.
For 1936 total sales improved to 38,938 units, of which the Airstream accounted for 33,938 units compared to the reduced Airflow offerings with returned 5,000 units for the Airflow's final year.
- Kimes, Beverly R., Editor. Clark, Henry A. (1996). The Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805-1945. Kraus Publications. ISBN 0-87341-428-4.