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November 30, 1960: The Last DeSoto

Posted November 30, 2006 3:33 PM by Steve Melito
Pathfinder Tags: cars November 30

On this day in engineering history, the Chrysler Corporation announced its decision to discontinue the DeSoto, a mid-range automobile that featured the image of a Spanish conquistador.

DeSoto and Dodge

Chrysler introduced the DeSoto in August of 1928 in order to compete with General Motors, Studebaker, and Willys-Knight in the mid-price range. During that same summer, Walter P. Chrysler purchased the Dodge Brothers Motor Vehicle Company and began to position the Dodge sedan as a higher-end vehicle. DeSoto sales outpaced Dodge until 1933, when Chrysler shifted strategies and sought to make the DeSoto a style leader.

The Chrysler Airflow Body

Unfortunately, the company's decision to use the 1934 Chrysler Airflow body with the DeSoto proved to be disastrous. Consumers rejected the Chrysler Airflow's blob-like appearance, a look that the DeSoto's shorter wheelbase accentuated. Fortunately, DeSoto sales rebounded with the arrival of the more conventional-looking DeSoto Airstream in 1935. A year later, Chrysler split the DeSoto into two trim lines: Deluxe and Custom. The Deluxe featured a one-piece windshield while the Custom provided a two-piece design and a wider wheelbase.

Out of Sight Except at Night

Chrysler's attempt to popularize the DeSoto during the first half of the 1940s was hurt by wartime restrictions on the production of civilian automobiles. Nevertheless, the 1942 DeSoto became the first mass-produced vehicle to use pop-up headlights, a feature that Chrysler marketed as "out of sight except at night".

After World War II, Chrysler reissued the 1942 DeSoto as the 1946 model, but dropped the hidden headlights. In 1953, DeSoto ended its Deluxe and Custom lines and designated its new six-cylinder car as the Powermaster and its new V8 vehicle as the Firedome. The DeSoto Powermaster featured Chrysler's 251 I6 engine and provided seating for up to eight passengers. The DeSoto Firedome boasted a Hemi V8 that provided 160 hp (120 kW) and a top speed of 100 mph (160 km/hr).

From Fire to Flame-Out

Changes to the DeSoto product line occurred regularly during the 1950s and included models such as the Firesweep and the Fireflite. The 1957 DeSoto offered an aeorodynamic front end and soaring tailfins, but sales fell by 60% during 1958. Rumors of DeSoto's demise gripped Detroit when the DeSoto sales dropped again in 1959.

During its final model year, DeSoto dropped all of its product names and adopted the smaller Chrysler Windsor wheelbase. Then, just forty-seven days after the 1961 DeSoto was announced, Chrysler announced its decision to discontinue the product line altogether. To rid itself of otherwise unusable parts, the company ramped up production; however, slack dealer interest and lagging consumer confidence remained constant. Chrysler and Plymouth dealers who had been forced to take possession of DeSotos under the terms of their franchise agreements did not receive compensation from the Chrysler Corporation. To make matters worse, Chrysler continued to ship DeSoto backstock, much of which had to be sold at a loss.

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Power-User
United States - Member - Germany - Member - Spain - Member - Trabajo en Pamplona

Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 346
#1

Re: November 30, 1960: The Last DeSoto

11/30/2006 3:56 PM

Brings a little tear to my eye - I've always like the DeSoto of the 30's myself.

If you haven't check out this link

DeSoto Models 1928-1961

Hope there's a write up on Packard coming next....

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Guru
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Location: http://www.linkedin.com/in/stevemelito
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#2
In reply to #1

Re: November 30, 1960: The Last DeSoto

12/01/2006 1:57 PM

Thanks for the link, stilljester. I'll work on that writeup about the Packard.

I can't tell if this is really a DeSoto, but it was posted in response to a thread I started at the website of The National DeSoto Club.

If it hangs on a wall, does that make it art?

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Power-User
United States - Member - Germany - Member - Spain - Member - Trabajo en Pamplona

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Posts: 346
#3
In reply to #2

Re: November 30, 1960: The Last DeSoto

12/01/2006 6:55 PM

That's a 61 for sure....

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