(taken in 2013 on my trip to California)
San Francisco, CA.
DeSoto Cabs were DeSotos, back when there WERE still DeSotos being manufactured. Then they stayed with Chrysler…all Plymouths, for many years. But now they can be anything, Chrysler products being in the minority. I saw a Toyota Pious, er, Prius DeSoto Cab at the airport last month. It was so jam-packed that the customers were carrying luggage on their laps, and one piececwas sticking out a window.
I just googled that company, and it looks like they still have some preference on Chrysler products, as on the main page it shows a Chrysler 300 in easily identified angle, then a Toyota Prius+? in a not so easily identified angle, and then they have an older Durango on picture too.
A Prius cab at the airport is a BAD idea. Been there, done that…
Scala’s Bistro on Powell – have eaten many enjoyable meals there.
I always associate De Soto cabs with pre-55 models seen in movies of the period. For sure Plymouths later on.
Have been thinking of De Soto this week, in the context of the piece on Edsel. It was such a successful, popular car during my childhood and then – gone in 1961. Even as a kid it hit me that the automobile market was changing rapidly by the early 60’s.
I saw a new 200 in DeSoto livery and thought that was interesting.
I’d never seen a 200 taxi and this is the first time I’ve seen a Durango taxi!
Interesting story about DeSoto cabs in SF. Following the success of Uber and Lyft, a cab hailing app called “Flywheel” was introduced. Despite having no affiliation with the app developer, DeSoto rebranded all their cabs as “Flywheel” cabs, and painted them red. DeSoto was formerly one of the biggest names in SF cabs. That’s the story as I remember it, you could do a quick search for the details.
I think they try to be more young and modern looking by offering red Toyotas, and they stayed more traditional with typical Chrysler cars.
I just chose that photo as an example.
DeSoto literally renamed ALL their cabs to “Flywheel” in SF… Toyota, Chrysler, whatever. The DeSoto name does not exist anymore. That cab, and all the other red Flywheel cabs, were formerly painted yellow with DeSoto signage.
I’m really surprised, because in their website it shows the little badge of Flywheel, but still presents DeSoto in a Chrysler 300 in the first photo.
If I remember (from several articles here at CC), Desotos were popular as cabs up until the mid 50s due to their sharing the long wheelbase sedan body with Chrysler.
When I bought my Volvo PV544 in the early 70s the seller had a big old 49-50 Desoto 2 door sedan in the drive way. It looked nearly twice as big as that Volvo and the styling was vaguely similar….except for that huge chrome Cheshire grin on the Desoto.
James Waters, the Desoto-Plymouth distributor in San Francisco, owned Desoto cab, and also started a separate division to upfit and sell cabs, with a large branches in NYC, and a small plant for upfitting in Detroit.
They did a good business up until 1954, when NYC dropped the requirement that all cabs had to seat 5 in the back. I’m not sure why that happened, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Chrysler informed the city there would be no long wheelbase DeSotos come 1955, and it was either change the spec or hand 100% of the market to Checker.
Having long-wheelbase, 8-passenger models across multiple product lines was one of those weird things Chrysler did that set them apart from the big 3. In an era of larger families, it made some sense.
I was told by a Chrysler transmission engineer (in the 80/90’s) that Chrysler had an interest in DeSoto cab, and did transmission testing in this fleet.
I would assume that the UltraDrive, and the later ChryCo bankruptcy probably changed all that.
This story might have some truth behind it. When Chrysler introduced the slant six they made mention in their advertising about the engine being tested in taxi service.
The name of DeSoto was kept alive for many years afterwards on the ID plate on the the drivers side door jamb. My 1980 PU’s ID plate had Dodge-DeSoto-Fargo at the top in big bold letters. My ’67 & ’72 were the same way. Why, is a mystery I never found the answer to.
Chrysler sold DeSoto branded trucks in a number of South American markets, as well as Turkey, for a number of years after the DeSoto car left the market. The Turkish trucks, medium duty with a simplified cab developed in the 60s, are still on the market, or were the last time I checked.
This is true. In fact, De Soto Cab used to contribute durability data to Chrysler Corporation, amassing a great amount of data quickly for many key components and their wear-out milestones due to the rapidity to which cabs rack up their mileage. San Francisco is ideal in this respect; it is a city unmatched for its rough, narrow and traffic clogged streets and freeways. Numerous city blocks are brutal on transmissions and brakes with countless steep grades (more than 20 blocks are at a 35% gradient and 4 have 36% gradients). Incidently, a road surface gradient higher than 36% is undrivable using a conventional vehicle, so any block in San francisco with a gradient higher than 36% is either “crooked” like the famous one block of Lombard Street (Vermont Street is like this as well, see picture) or is a “Cascade” block which is comprised of a series of staircase flights, sometimes attractively interspersed with beautiful park-like terraces (picture attached). Houses on these blocks can only be accessed by foot but even so are highly prized homes.
Failed to add Vermont street. Here it is:
I believe it. As a long-time San Francisco resident, DeSoto (no longer, btw) has always had BRAND new cabs of Chrysler/Jeep/Dodge models you couldn’t even get at dealers, all painted up for DeSoto. San Francisco is an excellent testing terrain so it makes sense.
I thought that all SF cabs are now hybrid, except maybe for some accessible van conversions. The few Durangos I’ve seen in the area (and I don’t think any were DeSoto cabs) were in fact hybrids. Most DeSotos seem to be Prius or Camry Hybrids; I’d be surprised if there’s any 200’s or 300’s in actual cab duty. By the way, I am barely old enough to remember DeSotos, though by the time I became aware of the various manufacturers of cabs, most local cabs were Checkers, with just a few big finned Mopars still running around. I don’t remember seeing other brands until taxis started being re-purposes ex-police cars, first Impalas, then Crown Vic’s.
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