A Restored 1949 DeSoto Custom Club Coupe

The automobile featured in this article is a beautifully restored 1949 DeSoto Custom Coupe. This was the car promoted with the saying "Designed with you in mind". DeSoto was advertised as giving you modern designing without compromising safety and comfort. Even back to 1946 most American automakers stressed reliability in their advertising as opposed to performance. Performance would come a bit later.

1949 desoto custom coupe

1949 DeSoto Custom Coupe

Between 1946 and 1954 DeSoto had three different model cycles. These were 1946-1948, 1949 -1952, 1953-1954. The first post war DeSotos were manufactured beginning in late 1945.

The first post war DeSotos as well as all the Chrysler brands differed from their competition by building valve in block engines as opposed to the overhead valve design. Within a year or two they reverted back to the overhead valve models. The 1946 Dodge models were actually a reissue of their 1942 cars and this was typical of almost all automakers at the time.

Enter the New DeSoto S-13 Models

In the middle of the 1949 production year DeSoto introduced their S-13 models. These replaced the S-11's which had lasted from 1946 through the first part of the 1949 production cycle.All of these DeSotos, from 1946 to early 1949 looked essentially similar. The S-13's were a major change and really were post war milestone automobiles. The years 1948 and 1949 were periods of major design change for many marquees.

1949 desoto design and grille

1949 DeSoto grille

Along with the new S-13's came design changes as well. The mid range positioned DeSoto S-13 had a longer wheelbase than the S-11. Design changes included less overhang on the both the front and rear. This made the overall outside length less but the interior compartment actually offer more space.

This 1949 DeSoto Custom Coupe has the classic DeSoto vertical grille with the front and rear bumpers of a wrap around design. You might consider the overall design to have a boxy appearance.

The DeSoto is thought by many to be good car for restoration. Parts, especially mechanical, appear to be easily available since these Chrysler engines were used on a variety of vehicles including boats up to about 1972. Trim parts can be a bit difficult to locate but there are several companies specializing in vintage Chrysler products parts.

1949 desoto dashboard

49 DeSoto Custom Coupe dashboard

1949 DeSoto Specifications

The 1949 DeSoto Custom came with a 236 cubic inch inline six cylinder flat head engine. This was the same engine put in previous DeSoto models except with the addtiion of a new cylinder head horsepower was increased.

Chrysler Corporation had gained a fine reputation for engineering and they even advertised the fact as early as 1944 that their engines powered Sherman tanks. It's interesting to note that Chrysler kept their brand names in front of the public during the war even though they, like everyone else, had no new cars to sell to the public.

Transmission on the 1949 DeSoto S-11 was a three speed manual  Hydra-fluid. This transmission had a hydraulic coupling in place of the flywheel. Also available as an option was the Tip-Toe Shift transmission.

On the DeSoto S-13 models the DeSoto Tip-Toe Shift (other brands used other names) was standard equipment. This was billed as a semi-automatic transmission but in reality there was really no such thing as a semi-automatic in the true sense. Some might however disagree with that. To operate the transmission the driver would shift between the two forward gears, high and low, by lifting his/her foot off the accelerator at a certain speed causing the overdrive to kick in. A sound would be heard when the overdrive engaged. There were actually four speeds with this transmission. Low, low overdrive, high, and high overdrive.

1949 desoto coupe

1949 DeSoto Coupe

The car had a wheelbase of 125.5 inches and an overall outside length of 206.75 inches. Width was 73.25 inches and height came in at 65.75 inches.

1949 was a good year for DeSoto. Total DeSoto production for 1949 was 92,400 vehicles (S-13's) in the U.S. and 2,792 units in Canada. The Canadian S-13's were all DeSoto Custom Club Coupes.

The DeSoto engine serial number on this model is stamped on the engine block on the left side above the generator and below the cylinder head. The body serial number should be placed on the left front door post.

DeSoto automobiles, named after the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto,  were manufactured from 1928 to 1960. Over this multi-decade span over two million DeSoto vehicles were built. The decision to cease DeSoto production was similar to what happens when a large automaker such as Chrysler has offerings that are too similar in size and price. In addition, DeSoto sales suffered quite a bit during 1958 and 1959.

Another contributing factor to DeSoto's demise recognized by many is that each of Chrysler divisions during the 50's were free to target markets which meant some were targeting the same market. It would only be a matter of time before one marquee would suffer at the hands of another Chrysler division.

See the AutoMuseumOnline articles on the links below...

1948 Pontiac Silver Streak Convertible

1947 Ford Super Deluxe Convertible

1949 Cadillac New Post War Design

1949 desoto trim

1949 DeSoto trim

DeSoto Collector Cars

Essentially all DeSoto automobiles are good collector cars and the marquee has a strong following represented by the National DeSoto Club. DeSoto stands as a symbol of the American automobile industry at it's height.

The most popular DeSoto for collectors might be the 1941 and the abbreviated 1942 models. These would be in addition to the Airflow models of the mid 1930's.

Asking prices for 1949 and 1950 DeSotos will have a lot to do with degree of restoration if any. As of this date you'll find partially restored models being offered in the mid to high teens. Fully restored DeSotos of this period will average in the area of $40,000 with some prices being asked for museum quality condition vehicles approaching $60,000 and $70,000 and even more.

(Article and photos copyright 2014 AutoMuseumOnline)



Powerful and Sleek / The 1956 DeSoto Firedome Seville

The first DeSoto Firedome model was introduced in 1952 as a full size automobile built by the DeSoto Division of the Chrysler Corporation. The DeSoto Firedome also introduced a new V-8 Hemi engine replacing the straight six.

1956 desoto firedome

1956 DeSoto Firedome

The Beginning of DeSoto / Filling A Gap

De Soto automobiles were first introduced with the 1929 model. De Soto cars were produced by Chrysler and the De Soto line was utilized to fill in the gap between the Chrysler and Dodge brands. De Soto’s chief competitors were GM’s Buick and Oldsmobile.

De Soto’s creation actually came about in 1928, the same year Chrysler acquired Dodge and also the same year that Chrysler added the lower cost Plymouth brand. This was all just a short four years after the Chrysler brand itself was introduced.

The first De Soto’s on the market had 3.2 liter six cylinder engines and were priced slightly below the Chrysler brand and above the Plymouth brand.

56 desoto firedome seville

56 DeSoto newly designed mesh grille

The 1956 DeSoto Firedome Seville

The 1956 DeSoto Firedome Seville has a sleek design with the customary tail fins seen so much on cars in the mid to late 1950's. The instrument panel was of aircraft design and easily was one of the most imaginative dashboards of the 1950's.

The DeSoto Firedomes had the Virgil Exner design touch, this one in a smart two tone paint scheme, which made a mark for itself throughout the Chrysler Corporation brands during the 50's. Many attribute the tail fin designs of the 50's seen across numerous brands to Chrysler designer Virgil Exner.

Another design touch which entered the picture in 1956 was the "Christmas Tree" tail light assembly. Along with the new tail fins in 1956 the DeSoto Firedome tail lights gave the automobile a rocket like rear end. Also in 56 the toothy grille was replaced with a mesh one and helped give the car a more dynamic appearance compared to 1955.

DeSoto offered four models of the Firedome in 1956. These included a convertible, sedan, wagon and hardtop coupe. The car's success was a combination of smart design, both exterior and interior, and DeSoto's reputation for engineering excellence. The V-8 Hemi offered in the 1956 DeSoto is a good example of DeSoto and Chrysler engineering of the period.

desoto 1956 tail lights

Christmas Tree tail lights on 56 DeSoto Firedome

The 1956 DeSoto Firedome models sold very well. In fact, the models sold so well that they outsold Chryslers during that model year. This was the first time in DeSoto history that the brand outsold it's parent Chrysler brand. Added to this triumph was DeSoto serving as the Indy 500 Pace Car that year.

1956 DeSoto Firedome Specifications

The 1956 DeSoto Firedome Seville came with a 330 cubic inch V-8 with a two barrel carburetor delivering 230 horsepower. DeSoto Fireflite models had the same engine but with four barrel carburetors that put out 255 horses.

Two transmissions were offered with this 1956 DeSoto. One was a two speed Powerflite push button automatic.1956 was the first year of the push button automatic. The other transmission offered was a Borg Warner manual overdrive.

The car's overall outside length was 220.9 inches, a width of 78.3 inches and a wheelbase of 126.0 inches.

Interestingly enough, DeSoto offered both seat belts and a padded instrument panel as extra options.

1956 desoto firedome

1956 DeSoto Firedome Seville

DeSoto's New 12 Volt Electrical System

During the mid 1950's many automakers switched from 6 volts to 12 volts for their electrical systems. Actually the Dodge brothers used a 12 volt system in the late teens into the 1920's which phased back into 6 volts later.

1956 was the year that DeSoto made the change. As a symbol of this new power source DeSoto offered a power antenna in 1956. In addition to that Dodge also offered a power front seat and a Highway Hi-Fi record player.

From 1956 to 1960, DeSoto's Last Five Years

As mentioned above, DeSoto had a banner sales year in 1956. Unfortunately, after that the division ran into competitive trouble. When 1961 arrived the DeSoto line was discontinued.

There are many opinions about what happened to DeSoto. Many feel that DeSoto was the Oldsmobile of the 1950's. While Olds sailed through the 1950's and beyond, their trouble occurred when the financial downturn of 2008 hit and the brand was considered somewhat redundant.

Did Chrysler fully support DeSoto when times got tough? Maybe, maybe not. The same could be said about GM when Oldsmobile was sacrificed to automotive history. What is known is that changing markets and demographics can make two brands redundant. When this happens a large automaker begins looking for ways to cut costs.

See the additional AutoMuseumOnline articles on the links below...

The 1948 DeSoto S-11

1956 Olds Rocket 88 Convertible

1957 Olds Super 88 J-2 Option

1956 desoto dashboard

1956 DeSoto dashboard

1956 DeSoto Firedome Collector Cars

The highest classic car prices for 1956 DeSoto's is found with the two door convertible. The 1956 DeSoto is a milestone automobile in the sense that the tail fin and tail light assembly plus the new mesh grille and 12 volt electrical system with it's accessories  differentiated it from previous models.

The DeSoto Seville hardtop shown in this article ranks second in collector value. This car's price range as of this writing and depending on condition and originality would be from the $20,000 to $60,000 range. As with many 1950's restored automobiles, mint museum quality vehicles can be in the six figures depending on the exact model. The Powerflite automatic transmission DeSotos with operating electrical accessories will be valued higher than those without.

A good reference book on the DeSoto and Plymouth automobiles is the Illustrated Plymouth and Desoto Buyer's Guide by Jim Benjaminson.

(Article and photos copyright 2014 AutoMuseumOnline)


1948 De Soto History and Specs

De Soto automobiles were introduced to the public with the 1929 model. De Soto cars were built by Chrysler and the De Soto line was unveiled to fill in the gap between Chrysler and Dodge. De Soto's chief competitors, among others, were GM's Buick and Oldsmobile.

1948 De Soto

1948 De Soto

An Addition to the Chrysler Line of Automobiles

De Soto's creation actually came about in 1928, the same year Chrysler acquired Dodge and also the same year that Chrysler added the lower cost Plymouth brand. This was all just four years after the Chrysler brand itself was launched. Some have said that the very first Chrysler's were essentially modernized Maxwells. This was probably true because Chrysler took over the Maxwell-Chalmers company in the early 1920's and then used the Maxwell factory to build his first Chrysler's in 1924.

It's also been said that Chrysler's creation of a mid price range De Soto in 1928 was an effort by Walter Chrysler to get the bankers to lower their asking price for the Dodge Brothers company which was for sale. Whether this is true or not is a matter for debate.

An interesting note is that the De Soto factory on Detroit's west side was the only automobile plant in America constructed during the Great Depression.

1948 De Soto S-11

1948 De Soto S-11

The first De Soto's on the market were 3.2 liter six cylinder models and were priced slightly below the Chrysler brand and above the Plymouth brand. The first De Soto in 1929 averaged about $500 for a two seat coupe.

The De Soto was named for the Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto. De Soto spent time in Central America and South America and then landed in Florida in 1539 with 600 soldiers. He explored north from Florida into Tennessee and then into Arkansas. De Soto died of fever in 1542.

Excellent Sales Numbers of the First De Sotos

What's really significant about the 1929 De Soto was that it's sales figures were very impressive. Chrysler Corporation's 1929 De Soto sales topped 81,000 units. This was especially impressive for a new brand's first year and was not surpassed until the Ford Falcon was introduced in 1960.

De Soto Custom dashboard

De Soto Custom dashboard

The first De Soto automobiles were quite some vehicles. Engineering was excellent for the times. The engine was mounted on rubber connection points which lowered vibration considerably. The 1929 De Soto also had hydraulic brakes on all four wheels. This was in 1929 when Ford Motor was still using mechanical drum brakes.

The 1948 De Soto S-11 featured in this article was one of the series of immediate post World War Two De Soto automobiles with many design characteristics similar to the pre World War models. The first post war models came out in late 1945 and these were largely based on the 1942 De Soto's that were built prior to the February 1942 cessation of civilian automobile manufacturing.

The first really new post war designs came out in the 1949 model year and was available beginning in the last half of the year.  Even though the 1948 De Soto was not a post war redesigned model, sales were good mostly due to the overall pent up demand for new cars.

Total 1948 model year production for De Soto was 101,850 units. Out of this total, about 93,500 were De Soto S-11 Custom Deluxe models and about 8,000 were seven passenger Custom Deluxe models.

1948 De Soto Custom Coupe

1948 De Soto Custom Coupe

The Termination of the De Soto Brand

Chrysler announced the termination of the De Soto brand in late 1960 not long after the 1961 De Sotos started to be built. The brand never really recovered from the 1958 recession which deeply affected sales. The big story of the decision to end the De Soto automobile brand was that Chrysler continued to ship cars to De Soto dealers even after the termination announcement. dealers couldn't sell what they had on their lots yet new cars were arriving. Dealers ended up selling their remaining inventory at a loss.

1948 De Soto Custom Specifications

The 1948 De Soto featured a 237 cubic inch L-Head six cylinder engine delivering 106 horsepower.

The transmission was a three speed manual. De Soto used the Chrysler trademark name of "Fluid Drive" which was a Chrysler hydraulic coupling that was used in place of the flywheel. Either a three or four speed manual transmission was put behind the fluid coupling. The Fluid Drive transmission was on Chrysler vehicles from 1939 to 1953.

Brakes were hydraulic drum.

The 1948 De Soto had a 121.5 inch wheelbase, a length of 207.3 inches and a width of 75.7 inches.

The original base price for the 1948 De Soto was about $1,500.

De Soto Fluid Drive

De Soto Fluid Drive

1948 De Soto Auction Sales Prices

Auction price history for the first series De Sotos that appeared after the war from 1946 through 1948, as of this writing look as follows.

A 1946 De Soto Sedan sold for $21,500. A 1948 Five Passenger Custom Coupe had an asking price of $15,000. The 1947 De Soto's sales prices above were for fully restored vehicles.

Additional AutoMuseumOnline photo articles of cars from this period you'll find interesting include...

The 1946 Ford Convertible

The 1949 Mercury

The 1946 Ford Woody Wagon

(Article and photos copyright 2013 AutoMuseumOnline)