Call it CC Effect if you will, but I found yet another virtually-extinct Forward Look artifact on eBay. It’s another first for Curbside, a 1958 De Soto Firesweep sedan. Not only is this RARE, with a mere 7,646 examples produced, but it’s a single tone in a Firesweep-only knock-out color, and it is claimed that it has had “NO RUST!……EVER!” (Capitals and periods theirs). OK–you’ve got my interest–let’s move in for a closer look . . .
This Firesweep is the bottom of the De Soto line for ’58. It is built on the Dodge chassis, and uses the so-called “B-engine” found in the Dodge Custom Royal, but with a 2 bbl. instead of a 4 bbl. carburetor. The front end differs from the other, higher-priced De Sotos–some might call it less attractive (or worse).
A look of “calculated aggression”. Now compare to . . .
I prefer #2, but both have their charms.
Interestingly, the brochure never shows the Firesweep front end! (Maybe Chrysler Corp. hoped no one would notice.)
That rear though–out of this world!
This Firesweep was priced at a seductive $2999 with PowerFlite transmission (our featured car has the better TorqueFlite, which adds $40). I can just see the screaming newspaper ads, telling shoppers that they can drive out in a genuine, brand new DE SOTO for $2999!! (A price with a “2” handle seems like so much less than a “3”–anything to lure you in!) By contrast, a top-of-the-line Dodge Custom Royal retailed at $3250 to start. A similar Chrysler Windsor began at $3349. This was when brand prestige actually meant something.
Now let’s talk about that paint color. The listing states that this is a repaint, but I believe it is the correct color, based on these paint chips. However, it’s possible that the roof and sweep-spear were originally a contrasting color (as seen in the brochure). This is because I have a theory that the solid color models did not have the lower sweep-spear molding, as shown on this photo taken of a parked De Soto in New York City circa 1960:
Or was the side molding optional, and available on the single-tones as well?
Like the ’57 Plymouth we featured recently, the survival rate on these is equally abysmal. A website exclusively devoted to 1957 De Sotos (with a registry) shows that out of about 117,000 cars produced that year, only about 819 are accounted for. And a lot of those are the highly desirable Adventurer and convertible models. So the sedans are virtually extinct. I would expect a similar pattern for the ’58 models.
I have a used car price chart from 1964, and De Sotos were worth a good chunk less than competitive cars from 1958, because they were orphans now. A ’58 Firesweep was only worth $275, while an Olds Dynamic 88 could fetch $350. The aforementioned Dodge Custom Royal was still worth a whopping $425! So if your De Soto needed any major repairs (as it inevitably would), it made more economic sense to just junk it and get something newer.
As Fats Domino would sing three years before, “Ain’t that a shame . . . !” And it kind of is. There is something about the industrial art and design of this period that can be described as “barbaric beauty”, “creepy fascinating”. . . we just don’t have the words. So many of the original examples of the cars have disappeared, and they can never be made again. That’s what makes cars like this De Soto precious to me.
It’s like, when I was about Kindergarten age, I used to watch the 1958-59 Felix the Cat cartoons on TV. There was something about the whole aesthetic–the background music, the futuristic space ships, rockets, and fantasy adventures, that somehow appealed to me. So I decided to make my CC club name “Poindexter” after the intelligent, respectful, but sometimes mischievous nephew of the villainous Professor. And if the Professor drove a car, I could see him behind the wheel of a contemporary ’58 or ’59 Imperial, couldn’t you? Gigantor and Speed Racer were two other cartoons that had this same kind of appeal.
So cruise on, insolent chariots of a bygone era–may there always be gleaming or patina’d survivors for us to see and drive!
Chrysler sacrificed its previous ergonomic tendencies for the Oh Wow in ’57. From ’49 to ’56 their instruments were easy to read and controls were easy to find. ’55 was probably the peak, with the simple dash lever for PowerFlite and non-glare surfaces. In ’57 most of the controls were tacked on below the dash, and the instruments were more about fancy shapes than readability.
You mean like the ‘55 Plymouth with the oil and ammeter gauges placed in front of … the passenger!
A picture ….
Love it! The single color does a nice job of letting the car’s shape come through without distractions.
That color is mystifying, though. Some other cars identified as Rose Beige look a lot more beige and a lot less pink. I found another 58 DeSoto color called Spring Rose. It says Firedome and Fireflite only, but with Chrysler back then there were many variations through the year including “Spring Special” packages and colors, so who is to say it wasn’t offered at some point. I also found another picture of a single color car with the bottom trim piece.
Poindexter in the cartoon dredges up some really early memories for me!
I was going to add that with a repaint, anything can happen (but the comment editor was wonky).
While I’m here, here is the car ID’d to have the rose beige paint.
Wow Jim, I never would have imagine putting Orange as a two-tone accent color with the Rose Beige, but somehow that really works to my eyes. Especially with the outlandish Forward Look (I mean that in a good way).
Nice looking car.
Here is a 58 Firesweep with a spring special trim package that looks like the same color, whatever it might have been. Today’s car appears to lack the anodized side insert and the chrome bars on the decklid, but the color is right.
This looks like the kind of car the guys on coldwarmotors on YouTube would find, but it would have been sitting in a field for 55 years. 🙂 I like the rear quarter trim on ’58 Desotos, especially the Adventurer.
Yep, Scott from coldwarmotors is quite fond of those older Mopars.
The Firesweep front end looks a lot like the 1958 Dodge Coronet, so maybe it wasn’t shown in the brochure for that reason. Chrysler didn’t have enough time or money to be building, let alone styling, so many variations on the same body shell, I guess.
The headlights looking virtually identical to the Dodge was my thought, as well. But they ‘are’ slightly different, so they did spend extra money to create them. A typically Chrysler thing to do.
If I am not mistaken, I believe the entire body was taken from the Dodge – I think the rear doors in the sedan were a bit shorter in the Dodge/Plymouth version of the body than in the Chrysler/DeSoto version. They then De-Soto-Ized the Dodge front end. I wonder how many people noticed. With DeSoto sharing showrooms with Plymouth most of the time you wonder how there was that much space between the two offerings.
All 1957 Chrysler Corporation cars (except, perhaps, for the Imperial) shared a common front door. That made it easy to swap front clips, if necessary. (GM would duplicate this cost-effective trick with its 1959 models, which all were designed around the Buick front door.)
Looking at photos of the Fireflite sedan, it appears as though the rear doors are the same length as those of the Firesweep.
The front clip is from the Dodge. The full-width chrome “brow” is thicker than that used on the Dodges, no doubt in order to help hide this. The sheet metal ahead of the front wheel appears to have been modified to accept the standard DeSoto front bumper.
The extra wheelbase on the “senior” DeSotos is ahead of the front door. It appears as though DeSoto simply mated the Dodge front clip to the DeSoto body. (Also note that the roofline of the Firesweep hardtop coupe is clearly shared with other DeSoto hardtop coupes, not the Dodges or the Plymouths.)
Yes – that is a Dodgsoto.
Sorry, I’m late to this party, but as for wheelbases and bodies, as far as I know, Plymouth/Dodge/DeSoto/Chrysler all used the same basic body. Plymouths were on a 118″ wb, but to get a Dodge, they tacked on four inches in the back, pulling the rear axle out a bit beyond the C-pillar. On this ’58 Firesweep, you can really see that extra bit of gap between the rear door cutout and the rear wheel opening. You didn’t get any more interior room, as far as I know, but it made for a longer trunk compared to a Plymouth, even if that extra space was up over the rear axle hump.
To get to the 126″ wb of the senior DeSotos and Chryslers, they simply made the front end longer, tacking on that extra 4 inches of wheelbase ahead of the cowl.
You can swap a ’57-58 Plymouth/Dodge front end, but not a DeSoto/Chrysler, because of the longer fenders/hood. As a result, the Firesweep, and ’58 Windsor, used Dodge fenders and a hood, and then mated the DeSoto (or Chrysler) grille to it.
The Firesweep was supposed to be a “smaller” DeSoto. Ironically though, the DeSoto grille didn’t mate up well to the Dodge fenders, so it jutted out about two inches too far. So the result was a car on a 4″ shorter wheelbase, but only 2″ shorter overall because of that jutting bumper/grille.
For ’59, the Firesweep and Windsor got their own fenders, so they looked more like “proper” DeSotos and Chryslers.
Growing up, I always thought these late 50’s Chryco products were just ugly. But seeing them today at 54…..I might have to have my eyes checked again. 🙂
I love it. I remember seeing these in colors like this after we arrived in the US, and being both dazzled as well as a bit perplexed.
Needless to say, it did not take me long to figure out the reality of these vintage Chryslers, with their shared windshields and so many other similarities. Mix and match.
What a nice looking old car.
Interestingly, I saw a DeSoto in the wild, in this color, a few months ago. I don’t know much about them, so can’t judge model and year, but the color looked the same. A brief glance gave me the impression that it was in excellent condition, with an apparently smooth, rust-free body. Perhaps it has led a charmed life.
It provided a striking contrast to the modern vehicles that surrounded it as it was stopped, in all its giant finny pinkness, temporarily disabled at an intersection. I felt for the driver, but, because traffic in my lane was moving because I was not stuck behind him, I had to resist the urge to stop and snap a photo and offer assistance or condolences.
By the time I stopped at the store and got back to where the pink finny beast had stalled, traffic had cleared. Because it was only about 10 minutes, it seems that the driver had sorted things out and got his charge back in motion.
Thanks for informing me about these colorful relics of a bygone era. It’s hard to imagine these things aging well with economic factors and road salt working against them, so it is very memorable to spot one in action.
We had a family friend who was a pharmacist. He sprung for the top-of-the-line De Soto four-door sedan and loaded it up with power accessories, A/C, speed control et cetera. New to the public was the CB radio. He had one installed and his wife had the base unit. This gent has survived poliomyelitis but was left with one leg that remained in a brace all of his life and with gait ataxia. During the summer he would rent a cottage in the Catskill Mountains of New York for his wife and daughter. On weekends he would leave the pharmacy to his assistant and make the trek. When he got off the N.Y.S. Thruway at Interchange 20 and would start the winding road climb on Route 23A, he would call his wife to tell her that he had left the Thruway. If he were not at their summer rental within a specific allotted time to travel, the plan was ot call him and then the State Police to help him. So, he drove a luxuriously equipped tank and used a CB radio that had fast become the darling of truck drivers – who could also come to his aid if he needed it. Communications – how important they are to us.
The sight of fuzzy dice inevitably makes me wretch.
Here’s a pic of my pink 1959 Imperial Crown 2dr. It features electric swivel seats and Mirrormatic, power windows, etc.
I’ve owned it for 33 years now. Forward look Mopars are awesome!
Any particular reason the car was photographed at a cemetery?
I love the sheer exuberant style of cars from this era. It was exciting going to the shops and seeing an American car among all the sedate Austins and Vanguards, and the slightly less sedate Holdens. Especially if it was a less-common import, rather than the locally-assembled Fords and Chevrolets, or the Chrysler Royal. They captured the spirit of the age perfectly, from a child’s point of view anyway!
What a shame Chrysler had quality issues with these. I wonder how things might have turned out if management had insisted on maintaining quality, and allowed these to debut for ’58?
Here’s my all original 1954 desoto firedome with a hemi
This has been in my family since 1954 grandfather father now me there has been 5 generations of family members that have ridden in her she is old but runs like a champion
Here’s my all original 1954 desoto firedome she has been in the family since 54 grandfather’s then dad now me we have had 5 generations of family in her she is old but runs like a champ
If you were trying in vain to post a picture, you may need to decrease the file size to find success. I hope we get to see your car.
My favorite Forward Look Mopars and IMO the cleanest are the 1957-58 Chryslers and Desotos (but make the latter a Fireflite or Firedome to avoid the Dodge-like front end of the Firesweep).
Jim Benjaminson’s 1996 book on Plymouth and DeSoto verifies your guess about two-tones. The text doesn’t mention it, but the pictures show two-tone cars with both chrome strips and a solid black car with only the top strip.
The lower strip was optional on ALL 1955-56 Firedome and Fireflites, and also on ’57, ’58, ’59 Firesweeps. Rose Beige leaned toward tan, Spring Rose brought back the more vibrant 1956 Shell Pink. The 4 door sedans in Firesweep used the Dodge doors (painted metal window frames,Firedome, Fireflites used anodized aluminium frames on same basic door shell), would love to write much more, owned many of the ’55-’61 DeSotos and Mopars, but vision problems make comments slow work, covid delays keep delaying second surgery.
Prior pic my ‘original ’56 Fireflite dad bought new. This, my same shade pink ’59 Imperial, ’59 original, even captive air tires, Fireflite wagon, and my black ’66 Imperial. also one of my ’67 Imperials, bottom, the 1st 300 S Cabriolet built after I did restoration work on it
I own a cosmetically tired 1955 Plymouth Belvedere, mechanically runs and drives very strong. I drive it a couple of times a week just to exercise it’s 241 V8 that has NEVER been opened up. I love explaining to the young what a ” 3 on the tree” is all about. Yup, Forward Look cars in any form or body style are very cool. There is more to life than a ’55 Chevy.
Here is a copy of a Plymouth ad from 1955, and how it was awarded the ” …..Most Beautiful Car In America” . I love displaying this ad alongside my ’55 Plymouth, the Chevy guys go nuts….one individual who frequently appears a various car shows in the Seattle area in his very nice 1955 Chevy accused me of making up the ad and refuses to believe it’s validity….sounds like a case of ” my head is bigger than your head !!! “…lol !!
Here is that ad.