Airflow Celebration

Arkansas Museum Reaches 50 Years

John Gunnell - April 03, 2014 01:05 PM


“There’s nothing like it on wheels,” was the Chrysler Airflow sales slogan.

John Gunnell

De Soto had increased sales in 1935, but sales of the Airflow models were modest.

John Gunnell

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When people in the 1930s saw a Chrysler or De Soto Airflow coming down the street, they thought they were seeing one of Buck Rogers’ rocket ships. The streamlined, unit-body cars had plenty of advanced thinking, but what they didn’t have is buyers. Chrysler’s Airflow program turned out to be a sales flop.
Nevertheless, the cars made history. Winthrop Rockefeller had a taste for these cars. He started the Museum of Automobiles on Petit Jean Mountain, in Morrilton, Arkansas. The museum has a pair of Airflows on display side-by-side for its 50th anniversary celebration this year.
The first car is a 1937 Chrysler Model C-17 Airflow that sold for $1,610 when it was new. The idea behind the Airflow was to incorporate aircraft design principles into a car. They had a strong beam-and-truss body, a forward-mounted engine and 50-inch wide seats. For Chrysler in 1937, the C-17 accounted for 4,370 sales out of 4,600 total sales for all Airflow models.
Parked next to the eight-cylinder C-17 in the museum is a 1935 De Soto Airflow with a six-cylinder engine.  It sold for $1,015 new and is one of only 6,797 De Soto Airflows made that year. The museum car even has fender skirts, overdrive and a radio.
In 1953, New York millionaire Winthrop Rockefeller settled on Petit Jean Mountain and built Winrock Farms. He later constructed the Museum of Automobiles to house his antique car collection. Rockefeller also started the Lincoln Highway Tire Co., which was the first to start remaking obsolete tire styles for collectors.
 Rockefeller became Governor of Arkansas and The Museum of Automobiles ultimately became part of Petit Jean State Park. It opened Oct. 18, 1964. The two Airflows, as well as a Chrysler predecessor car called the Maxwell, will be at the birthday party!
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