Road Trip Classics: 1957 DeSotos – Still Riding in Chrysler’s Shadow

It’s now time to return to the account of my recent road trip to visit my father in Central Georgia. When we last left the story, I was being Passed On The Left by a really nice ’73 Trans Am ‘trailer queen,’ and storm clouds appeared to be brewing on the horizon.

Sure enough, it got more and more overcast as the day wore on, and as I’ve experienced before, the bottom literally dropped out once I crossed the mountain ridges Northwest of Chattanooga, TN.

Traffic came to a virtual standstill as we picked our way around trees down across the interstate and flash flooding across parts of the highway.

As we were creeping along, I caught a glimpse of something interesting up ahead. It took a good 15-20 minutes of careful lane changing in the creeping traffic to sneak my way close enough to identify a semi trailer loaded with 1957 Derelict! Dilapidated! DeSotos!

As I pulled in closer, there was an added bonus: a 1962 Chrysler 300H riding up in front. The two DeSotos on top are FireFlite models  riding on the longer 126″ Chrysler chassis. The four-door sedan in front appears to be painted in Frost White and Capri Blue, and the FireFlite Sportsman two-door sedan in back looks to be dressed in Charcoal Gray and Frost White. There were fourteen different colors available for the FireFlite trim, which could be mixed and matched pretty much any way you wanted. FireFlites received a four-barrel carb’ed 341 c.i.d. (5.6l) V8 engine making 295 hp, which sent power through a pushbutton-controlled TorqueFlite three-speed automatic transmission.

The two cars riding on bottom are FireSweep models (riding on the 122″ Dodge chassis), with a Light Aqua (or Mist Green, hard to tell) two-door Sportsman in back and an all-black FireSweep four-door up front. Power came from the same 341 c.i.d. engine, but with a two-barrel carb, sending its 270 hp through the same pushbutton TorqueFlite transmission as on the FireFlite.

The Chrysler was of less interest to me, but I’ll include the best shot I have of it, which reveals the slant-eyed headlights introduced in 1961.

One could make a strong argument that the 1957 DeSotos represented the very apogee of the brand (at least at the beginning of the model year). The ’57 Adventurer with its “one horsepower per cubic inch” 345 c.i.d (5.7l)/345 hp engine was perhaps second in performance only to its Chrysler 300C contemporary. But even with much going for the brand, it was being squeezed by offerings from above by Chrysler and from below by Dodge—both of which were beginning to creep into the middle-price market at which DeSoto was aimed. It didn’t help that the ’57s had severe quality problems (DeSoto had in part built its reputation on high quality), fast rusting and leaky door seals being just two of the self-inflicted woulds that would contribute to the brand’s death a mere five years later.

We’ve got plenty more CC coverage of the DeSoto and its stormy final years, including Laurence Jones’ pieces on the ’56 FireDome and ’58 FireFlite as well as coverage of a ’57 FireSweep in much better condition than these by Jason Shafer. Not to mention a “guest writer” piece on the 1960 DeSoto Adventurer.

The DeSotos and I eventually made it through the storm and speeds picked back up when we parted company at I-75 with me headed South. I can always tell I’m getting near to Atlanta, because the traffic pace increases significantly. I bet the average speed must hit at least 88 mph—I can even provide photographic evidence in the next episode…