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!