(Text by Jim Offner, pictures by John Molseed)
If cars could talk, what would an Adventurer say?
This 1960 DeSoto Adventurer four-door sedan might have a story or two to tell. It was sitting outside a parts store in downtown Waterloo, Iowa, and Doug Wubben–a genial resident of nearby Independence, Iowa and the man who brought it back to life–was happy to tell his tale of restoring the car.
First, a little backstory on the model. The Adventurer came into being in 1956 as a subset of DeSoto’s top-of-the-line Fireflite series. The Adventurer was first marketed as a limited-production two-door hardtop that was available only in white-and-gold and black-and-gold color schemes and fitted with a high-output 341 cu in Hemi V8, dual exhausts and custom appointments and trim.
Standard equipment included dual side mirrors, gold wheel covers, radio, electric clock, a padded instrument panel, windshield washers, full instrumentation and heavy duty suspension. DeSoto sold just short of 1,000 units in that first-year run.
This model, one of 11,597 produced in the Adventurer’s final year, is a rare four-door sedan that was offered only in 1960. Wubben has been working toward getting the car back to original condition. Even the wire wheels are similar to OEM versions found on the Adventurers that rolled out of showrooms more than a half-century ago.
Wubben said he found this car some four years ago, in a corn crib outside Fargo, N.D. He didn’t know how long it had sat idle, but said it was “a piece of junk.” As you might surmise from the photos, he has made quite a bit of progress; even so, the restoration process is ongoing. There’s nary a square inch of rust to be found, although Wubben said that when he found the vehicle, oxidation was in full throttle.
It’s not the first DeSoto restoration Wubben has taken on. He recently sold a rare, two-door Adventurer coupe to a buyer in Sweden. “I don’t have any attachments to these cars,” he said.
His wife, on the other hand, says she might want to hang onto this beauty.
And what a car it is, in its shiny jet-black paint. Wubben said he has rebuilt the original 383 cu in power plant; as of the day these photos were taken, he’d put just 250 miles on it.
If cars could talk, what would this Adverturer say? More than likely, thanks. And thanks to the skilled hand of an Iowan who loves to restore old metal, more such Adventures are sure to come.
Great photos, and a great job on the DeSoto. I’ve liked the Mopars of that vintage since I was way too young to drive. A neighbor of ours had a black 1960 Chrysler 4 door when I was 3 or 4, and I always thought it was a cool car….much more interesting than our Beaumont and VW Bug, or the Ramblers my parents’ friends drove.
What’s with what appears to be a toggle switch marked ‘BRAKE’ underneath the transmission push-buttons? On other push-button Chrysler automatics, there’s a nearby slide lever for ‘PARK’. Is this the same thing and, if so, how’d they devise the ‘park’ function on this one so it appears to be just a switch?
I think that the switch is the remote control toggle for the mirror on the left front fender. If there would have been a right side mirror too, there would be a matching toggle on the other side of the steering column. I suspect that the “brake” label may apply to the parking brake handle right below the dash at that spot.
Edit – a check of the brochure on Old Car Brochures shows that the hole over the “brake” label should have been filled with a red indicator light for the parking brake, and the mirror toggle should have been mounted farther left. I wonder if the car was originally not equipped with a remote mirror and the owner elected to do a retrofit without punching a new hole in the dash.
As for the tranny controls, I was wondering aloud the other day when the Torqueflite got the park lever, because my 59 Fury lacked one. It does not appear that the park lever was there in 1960 either. According to Allpar, the aluminum case A-727 came out in 1962 and was the first to use a parking pawl. This would then be the older A-488 Torqueflite with the cast iron case and no “Park” function aside from the parking brake.
My 1960 Plymouth didn’t have a parking lever, nor did the parking brake work. No biggie in pancake-flat Chicago. I carried a heavy section of angle iron in the car in case it needed stoppage. The 1964 Dodge taxis that I worked on had the parking lever, as I recall, but in 1965 all Chrysler products were required to adopt the standard shift quadrant. I liked the pushbuttons.
For whatever it’s worth, my 63 Valiant had the Park lever. Aside from “automatic” I have no clue what transmission it had though.
The compacts got their own version of the three speed Torqueflite when the Valiant was introduced in 1960, and that was the first Chrysler automatic to get a gear lock (Park). The big Torquefltes got it in 1962, and the two speed Powerflite disappeared after 1961 without having ever gotten that feature.
Ah, that explains it. The ‘Park’ slide lever came later and the hole above ‘BRAKE’ should contain the brake warning light but it has been, incorrectly, filled with the remote mirror toggle, which should have been mounted to the left of the light switch.
According to the article, the first Adventurers came with dual outside mirrors. Evidently, that had stopped by 1960 (if the feature car is correct). Given Chrysler’s severe lack of quality control at the time, one wonders if the remote toggle came from the factory in the wrong hole, or maybe a dealership did it.
The earlier TorqueFlites did not have a parking pawl in the transmission because they had the old Chrysler parking brake that worked on the driveshaft, rather than on the rear service brakes. The older parking brake made a parking pawl in the transmission redundant, although by the same token, using the parking brake as an emergency brake could have some expensive consequences.
The “BRAKE” indicator refers to a parking brake warning light that was in that spot originally. The parking brake is activated by the floor pedal on the far left, and locks the driveshaft behind the transmission. There is no parking pawl on these old torqueflite automatics.
Love the DeSotos, although it’s getting painfully obvious that after 1958 DeSoto’s place in line with Chrysler’s styling department was completely as an afterthought. Take that year’s Chrysler and add whatever necessary to justify the different hood badge.
Yup. In a way Chrysler got lucky with the 1956-58 designs because they allowed pretty distinct brand identities despite minimal sheetmetal differences. For example, compare the 57-58 Chrysler 300’s front end to that of the DeSoto’s — they had a dramatically different look despite sharing the same front fenders.
> If cars could talk, what would an Adventurer say?
Eh, Buy Me!!!1!
Very sharp car, but isn’t showing it here somewhat odd? Professionally `restored’ trailer queens owned by businessmen who `have no attachment to these
milch cowscars’ and presumably up for sale are plenty on the web. Craigslist or similar would be more appropriate for such a cowcar.
They Both Came From Canada, “Buy Me” If Houses Could Talk, what would they say?” aired here on HGTV
i love the 60 chrysler-esque tail boomerang lights
It was found along the curbside and is definately a classic. I’m grateful it is being restored and grateful to see a car that I had never heard of, much less seen.
I love these nearly final DeSotos, but have to agree with Syke that they were certainly an afterthought. The model selection was really pared down to three body styles – 4 door sedan and hardtop and a 2 door hardtop. No wagons, no convertibles. And just the Adventurer and Fireflite models. Which was quite a turnaround from 1959 where DeSoto offered 4 models (and offered a convertible in each of the 4).
My initial reaction is to give the owner a full salute for pouring the kind of money he must have spent into a DeSoto 4 door sedan. I would expect that a guy could be more likely to get his money back out of one of the 2 door hardtops or even maybe a 4 door hardtop. But the lowly sedan would probably be the least desirable of all, save the fact that it is a high-end Adventurer. A very nice car.
The DeSoto I really like is the ’59. I actually prefer its looks over the ’59 Chryslers.
The interior color scheme is fascinating. You’d never see anything that lively in a contemporary premium-priced car. Have we become too serious?
No, just cheap.
Agree with you on the ’59 DeSoto. The ’59 Chrysler facelift was “too busy” and cluttered up the forward look. The ’59 DeSoto’s biggest saving grace with the rear quarters. Too bad DeSoto was one of two makes (Edsel being the other) that saw sales drop from the disasterous 1958 MY. DeSoto’s fate was sealed in 1959. Dealer obligations or not, in 21st century hindsight it does make one wonder why Mopar even bothered to field the 1961 car. The swansong model should’ve been the 1960. At least it looked pretty good and still offered a few models and a 383.
I have in a box of photographs a picture of a 1960 White over thin-mint-ice cream greetn 1960 Adventurer sedan like this one. It was off of Missouri Hwy. 19 between Center and New London, Mo. I took the shot in June of 1982. It was for sale then, and was a very clean set of wheels.
The dash mounted mirror that this Desoto has is something that I miss on modern cars.
The 60 Plymouth wagons we had when I first started driving had their rearview mirrors dash mounted also.
I’m sure they didn’t win any safety awards with that placement, but for me they sure gave a great field of vision both thru the windshield ,and to the rear.
My being 6’2 in height might have something to do with it?
The tiny rubber Dagmar ‘bumperettes’ on the corners of the front bumper don’t do anything to improve the appearance of the front end.
Hey, not every model looks good with Dagmars. I like them small just the same.
“If cars could talk, what would an Adventurer say?”
To quote the closing line from 1958’s Auntie Mame, “Oh, what times we’re going to have; what vistas we’re going to explore together.” Perfect, huh? The DeSoto Adventurer conjured up so many exotic vistas, it had to have been one of the greatest automotive model names ever. It was a sad end to a proud marque to see its limited edition coupe/convertible debased into a mudhen 4-door sedan, even it’s dash lifted from a Dodge. It’s often been said that the last true DeSoto was the 1959, the ’60 and remnant ’61 being mere shadows of the upscale Chrysler design.
To Mr. Wubben’s credit, a great restoration. But you have to wonder why bother with the time and effort and expense to revive a 4-door sedan. Would love to have seen the coupe he sold to the Swedish guy, though. Even growing up in L.A., these final DeSotos were a rare sight then. Curiously, though, I spotted a ’61 4-door hardtop tooling along in west L.A. a few short years back while visiting my mom, instantly recognizable and in great shape, but probably just about the only one left on the planet.
It’s amazing how DeSoto could go from selling hundreds of thousands of cars (1955-56) to getting nuked within 7 years. I’m guessing the grossly underbaked ’57 Mopar quality issues, the ’58 recession that harmed mid-priced car lines, and pressure from Chrylser models not wanting to abandon their lower-line models doomed DeSoto.
Too bad, because they made some memorable cars in the late ’50’s….
As the author of this post, I had the opportunity to sit behind the wheel of this machine, and the array of buttons and gizmos on the dash brought back flashes of my folks’ black ’61 Dodge 4-door sedan (I’m guessing it was a Polara).
Tail fins are central to my first memories of cars. Of course, with 20-20 hindsight, I see how they represent automotive design’s desperate attempt at one-upmanship — and illustrate an utter lack of self-control — in the late ’50s. But this model seems to convey an air of dignity and restraint that other cars of the era seemed to lack. Maybe designers knew it was one final victory lap for a long-established marqe.
The owner wasn’t looking for any free publicity on his car. I flagged him down, as he was across the street firing up his machine, having come out of an auto body store looking for parts for his project. He seemed to exude a genuine passion for fixing up old cars.
I’m mystified by the contrast between how much work it sounds like the owner put into this car and the quote of him saying “I have no attachment to these cars.” Is that right or did it come across wrong in the editing? Perhaps his passion is the fixing up part and not the car itself?
I am forever thankful for people that bring these types of autos back to life. Again, thank you to the owner and the poster.
Well how’s that for a weird coincidence: I was driving home from work this evening, when a white 1960 Adventurer, identical to the one featured above, went by going the other way…it was right-hand-drive, so probably NZ-new. Spooky…
Interesting, NZ Skyliner as you guys down under got CKD’s from Canada, mostly the DeSoto Dipolmats, the hodge-podge of Dodge, Plymouth with some DeSoto tidbits thrown in . . . .
Speaking of hybrid (design, not power) Mopars . . . . Hawaii received Canadian Dodge Mayfairs (I have seen a ’54 in Mapunapuna) and some Diplomats from the “territory” days . . . .
Dropping stuff off at my sister in law’s house in Ewa Beach yesterday, was a clean ’67 Dart, sitting folorn on the curb underneath a tree with months worth of bird droppings on it . . . spider webs and “chalkiness” on the WSW tires . . . .
In 1960, my grandfather, a small-town high school principal in Tennessee, was a delegate to both the Democratic and National Education Association (teacher’s union) conventions in Los Angeles. He took my grandmother, my dad (then a college student) and my aunt (then a teenager) on a summer-long trip out West, with a month or so stay in LA for both conventions, in a DeSoto (’59 or ’60, can’t recall) much like this one, sending columns back to his hometown newspaper every few days along the way describing their adventures. My dad still talks about the trip (among other things, he managed to sneak into the LA Sports Arena to see JFK nominated–try doing that now without credentials!) and about the DeSoto with the “pushbutton” transmission.
Has anybody ever seen a 1960 Desoto that looks like this one?
Man im working on a 60 desoto right now and cant find tail lights for it if any one can help me it would be awsome firstname.lastname@example.org
I love the fact that Steve Purcell, a comics illustrator, has always depicted the car (pretty accurately, too!) as the official ride of his characters Sam and Max, ‘Freelance Police’…it’s been in all his stuff over the last few decades (comics, graphics novels, video games, and even an animated TV series). The car’s as much of a character as Sam and Max. I imagine Steve Purcell has fond memories of ’60 Desotos!
Me too, Balto! I also always appreciated Jeff MacNelly for penning that pink and gray 1959 DeSoto for Shoe to drive!
Broom Hilda also did a little shopping at her local Plymouth-DeSoto dealer back during the days when they sponsored Groucho Marx in “You Bet Your Life”. She drives a ’55 Plymouth Belvedere from time to time.