(first posted 10/4/2012) Quite recently, the wife and I went to our weekend house for the city-wide garage sale.
I got our items arranged bright and early Saturday morning. Shortly after the Mrs. came outside, I happened to look up at the street. My jaw dropped. Grabbing my camera, I told the Mrs. that I’d be back. I walked up the street thinking it was a Dodge, but then I realized there were too many letters on the hood: This was a DeSoto!
I cover a lot of ground in my day job. During my travels to some very obscure locations, I’ve found some amazing automobiles, including quite a few that I’ve captured but not yet shared. Still, I have never seen a DeSoto in the wild—let alone just a few hundred feet from my front door!
As I started snapping pictures, the owner came over to chat (that’s him closest to the DeSoto’s left rear fender). He was happy about my picture-taking, and I told him about Curbside Classic. Later, I realized I hadn’t asked his name, so I’ll call him Steve, since he reminds me of someone I once worked with.
“Steve” had just taken his DeSoto to the car wash, hence the moisture around the perimeter of the car. He had found the car in a barn, about eight years ago. At the time he acquired it, the rear quarter panels were a little rusty and the floor pans had some crispy areas, but it ran. He has since repaired the corrosion and repainted the DeSoto in its original colors. He said the car isn’t perfect: The chrome around the tail lights is pitted, and he also painted the rear bumper to stave off deterioration.
Nothing has been done to the DeSoto’s 325 cu in (5.3-liter), 245 gross hp engine other than rebuilding its two- barrel carb. The car’s odometer reads 93,000 miles.
DeSotos were products of Chrysler’s company-wide Forward Look, and the 1957 models featured the marque’s second restyling in three years. In an effort to gain market share, DeSoto offered the entry-level Firesweep, built on Dodge’s 122″ wheelbase, at a base price of $2,777; 1957 Firedome, Fireflight, and Adventurer models rode a 126″ wheelbase.
Steve said he likes having a four-door sedan. Evidently, other DeSoto buyers agreed: With 17,300 units produced, the four-door Firesweep was the second most-popular 1957 DeSoto model, outsold only by the Firedome four-door sedan.
Just how big is this 122-inch-wheelbase DeSoto? Next to a new Chrysler minivan, it has an obvious and wonderful presence about it. Indeed, this DeSoto adds a new dimension to the “longer” and “wider” part of the old “longer, lower, and wider” advertising slogan.
I know which of these two I’d rather have parked in front of my house….oh, did I mention that later, it was?
While talking to Steve, I learned that he also has a ’66 Ford F-100 with a three-speed (doesn’t somebody else around here have one?) bolted to a 352 cu in (5.8-liter) V8. When he said he was thinking of upgrading it with overdrive, I told him that my ’63 Ford Galaxie, with a three-speed and overdrive, was just down the street if he wanted to see the setup.
Steve went to get his 17-year-old son, and they arrived soon after. Here’s where he parked in front of my house.
We looked the Galaxie over for a while before once again inspecting the DeSoto.
Among the ’57 DeSotos, the base-model Firesweep had a unique front appearance. The car in this ad lacks the chrome strip along the lip of the hood, and the headlights appear to be set more in their own pod.
Although Chrysler introduced the awesome TorqueFlite transmission in ’57, our featured car has the two-speed PowerFlite transmission, which Steve says has performed flawlessly. According to my research, a comparable ’57 Dodge with the same transmission and 325 cu in V8 could do 0-60 mph in 9.5 seconds—not too shabby for a 3,675 lb. (1,670 kg) vehicle!
The ad seen above touted the DeSoto’s comfortable ride, which was as expected. But was the DeSoto itself a comfortable car? Let’s take a look inside…
Steve told me he loves driving his DeSoto, and that it is indeed quite comfortable.
Here’s a view from the driver’s side. Note the assortment of gauges, something that was pretty scarce in many American cars of the ’60’s and ’70’s.
Steve told me he doesn’t seek to own a show car. What he does seek is to have a presentable-looking driver in fairly original condition. He stated that he feels quite fortunate in that regard since so much about this DeSoto is original, including the jack and the spare-tire cover. In instances where he’s had to deviate from original parts, he has sought out material that is reasonably close to the original, as in the case of the trunk mat.
Overall, I say, “Job well done!”
In the pieces submitted both under my own name and my former “Jack Lord” pen name, I have been excited about many of my finds, and certainly this one ranks in the top two or three. One reason why is that I was really enamored with what this car was. What also helps is the way I found it; a bit like deer hunting from my patio. But more than anything, this is one of the few times I have been able to relate the story of the car itself. As the banner on this web site states, “Every car has a story”.
One final thought: As Steve drove by to pick up his son, he encountered–directly in front of my house–a red ’65 Corvette convertible. Guess which one my eye followed?