Arizona

19-20 January 2017

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Lot 205

1937 Chrysler Airflow Eight Sedan

  • Engine no. C17-2000

Sold for $55,000


130 bhp, 323.5 cu. in. L-head inline eight-cylinder engine, three-speed manual transmission with overdrive, solid front axle and live rear axle with semi-elliptical leaf springs, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 128 in.

  • Last of the Airflows
  • Documented no-expense-spared restoration
  • Classic Car Club of America (CCCA) Full Classic


Chrysler’s Airflow represented the best of times, yet also the worst of times. A brilliant design, it had the promise of technology yet suffered the heartbreak of the Depression. Credit for the design is rightly given to engineer Carl Breer, who with Owen Skelton and Fred Zeder was one of Walter Chrysler’s “Three Musketeers.” The trio, who worked at Studebaker during World War I, were recruited by Chrysler in 1920 to design a new car for Willys, then under Chrysler’s direction. Through a series of complex events, that car eventually became Billy Durant’s Flint, but the Musketeers stayed with Chrysler for the rest of their working lives and were responsible for all of Chrysler Corporation’s much-vaunted engineering until the 1950s.

The Airflow was Breer’s implementation of “form follows function,” a wind tunnel-tuned shape built on a semi-unitary “truss bridge” chassis based on aircraft principles. The engine was pushed forward, over the front axle, which allowed both seats to be situated within the wheelbase. The Airflow was roomy inside and extremely comfortable.

It was launched to great fanfare in 1934. Chrysler had four series on different wheelbases, all eights and three of them Imperials. DeSoto had a single line of six-cylinder Airflows. Although the press was generally positive in its reaction, enamored of the technology, the public was not. Barely 11,000 Chrysler Airflows were sold, against 25,000 conventional six-cylinder models that had fortunately been continued. With only an Airflow model, production shrank by nearly half.

For 1935, stylist Raymond Dietrich was called in to give both Chrysler and DeSoto Airflows a more attractive front end. As a hedge, he also came up with more conventional “Airstream” models to help weather Depression-hampered sales. DeSoto abandoned Airflows after 1936, but Chrysler soldiered on for one more season with an abbreviated line. The Imperial name had been reclaimed by three series of high-end conventional eight-cylinder cars. The Airflow Eight line consisted of a coupe and a six-passenger sedan. Production was limited to just 230 coupes and 4,370 sedans.

Last of the Airflows, this car is a solid Texas example and the recipient of a frame-off restoration. It was acquired by Lowell Stapf of Amarillo, Texas, from Jack Edmonds of Fort Worth, in 1966. In the early 2000s, Stapf commissioned the no-expense-spared restoration. At his passing, the car was inherited by a long-time employee, who sold it to the current owner.

Striking in deep maroon with black fenders, it exhibits superb fit and finish. The interior is expertly upholstered in grey cloth, and the instrument panel is correctly detailed. Mileage showing is slightly in excess of 80,000. The quality of the restoration extends to the luggage compartment and likewise the engine, which is immaculately detailed. Factory features include an overdrive transmission and full fender skirts at the rear. The car is equipped with wide whitewall tires. Included are a dossier of pre-restoration photos and comprehensive documentation of the restoration itself.

The C-17 Airflows are recognized by the Classic Car Club of America as Full Classics, so this car is eligible for all CCCA events. Certainly one of the best of the last of the Airflows, it will be a delight to own.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

aweaver@rmsothebys.com

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

asabatie-garat@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

bruprecht@rmsothebys.com

+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

Cameron Smyth

csmyth@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Cameron Smyth joined RM Sotheby’s as a Car Specialist in 2015, working out of our corporate office and providing assistance on c... read more

David Swig

dswig@rmsothebys.com

+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

drose@rmsothebys.com

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

dgould@rmsothebys.com

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

gduff@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Ian Kelleher

ikelleher@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Ian Kelleher began his automotive career immediately following his graduation from Oberlin College with a Bachelor of Arts in Politica... read more

Jake Auerbach

jauerbach@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

kforry@rmsothebys.com

+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

mmalamut@rmsothebys.com

+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

msquire@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

mfairbairn@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

ocamelin@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

pdarvill@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

pfisher@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Peter Wallman

pwallman@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Peter Wallman joined RM Europe in 2007 following nearly two decades in the international advertising industry, where he was based out ... read more

Shelby Myers

smyers@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

tvandervelden@rmsothebys.com

+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more