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Home/Technical Info/DeSoto/ 11. Car Models Described/
DeSoto in the Post-War Era - Gone But Not Forgotten


The 1955 DeSotos were a radical and awesome departure from the stodgy cars of the previous years.
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With the end of the war, DeSoto's plans to convert back to a civilian economy were fraught with difficulties. Materials shortages and labor problems, plus the work of converting plants, delayed 1946 model introductions. Finally, in March of that year, the postwar DeSotos arrived.

While for the most part identical to the 1942 offerings, the latest DeSoto was different from a styling standpoint in a number areas. Changes included new front fenders with conventional, exposed headlights, redesigned grilles, doors, and bumpers, and updated ornamentation.

The Suburban 9-passenger taxi/limo was a late addition to the line, arriving in November 1946. The initial postwar series was carried forward to 1947 and 1948 and the first part of the next calendar year as an early 1949 model.

The updated 1949 S-13 models were delayed in production due to labor unrest in the tooling plants during the summer of 1948. They finally appeared as second-series 1949 models, and these newly-styled automobiles were advertised as "The Car With You In Mind."

This fresh-for-1949, post-war look would continue in production for the 1950, 1951, and 1952. It was updated in 1953 and 1954 model year, but not significantly. To be fair, there were a number of styling refinements within this period which paralleled those found in the DeSoto's Chrysler-brand counterparts, but overall DeSoto fell behind the competition, which was updating on an almost annual basis.

The DeSoto "FireDome V-8," with hemispherically-shaped combustion chambers, was introduced in 1952. This new engine helped reinforce DeSoto's image as a state-of-the-art car company.

The following year, 1953, marked the division's 25th anniversary, and this was celebrated by creation of the Adventurer show carwrought by Italian coachbuilder Ghia, but based on a near-standard DeSoto chassis. A number of new options appeared that same year, including air conditioning and real chrome wire wheels.

For model year 1954, the lack of styling improvements finally caught up, and DeSoto sales declined dramatically. This was despite introduction of the "PowerFlite" two-speed, fully-automatic transmission. This new gearbox, although a huge technical improvement, was priced $45 less than the semi-automatic unit it replaced. The Adventurer II concept, with even sleeker design work by Ghia, was proclaimed by the public a "Car of the Future" whenever it was seen at new car shows.
 
A major turning point in the fortunes of the division occurred in 1955 as Chrysler's highly-promoted "Forward Look" debuted. This new styling resulted in an 85 percent sales boost for DeSoto. The all-modern styling erased the stodgy appearance of the past, replacing it with designs with a new, youthful flair. Even
three-tone paint treatments were added for extra buyer appeal. These "Styled-For-Tomorrow" models helped lead the corporation to a banner sales year, and it was hard to imagine that DeSoto had but six years to live.

In 1956 the Adventurer nameplate was seen on a production car for the first time. This was DeSoto's shot at the enthusiast market, shared with such magical Mopar models as the Chrysler 300, Dodge D-500 and Plymouth Fury sport coupe. DeSoto offerings for this year were characterized by a slight styling facelift, front and rear, with a new emphasis placed on the height of the tailfins.

In 1957 the DeSoto was redesigned again with even more of an upwards tailfin sweep. Such styling, coupled with a lower body-side color sweep panel, served to enhance the car's length and beauty. Sales climbed over the previous season, but not to the same degree as the other Chrysler products.

Disastrous sales  in 1958 stunned DeSoto management as production plunged—more than 60 percent—to a level not seen since the dark days of 1938. None of the Big Three had anticipated the recession that struck full force that year, and upper mid-price cars took the brunt of the sales hit. It was so bad that Chrysler corporation closed the famous Wyoming Avenue factory in Detroit, and it would never reopen.

Separate body/frame construction was in its final year when the 1959 DeSoto line was introduced. The low-production Adventurer, which came only fully-equipped and custom-finished in specific colors, was still offered. But sales continued to decline, and Chrysler management decided that there was no choice but to integrate DeSoto assembly with those of the corporation's other automotive divisionsprimarily Chrysler. Already, some observers were predicting the demise of DeSoto.

DeSoto soldiered on into 1960, with production quartered, alongside that of Chrysler, in the Jefferson Avenue plant. The unit-body method of construction was the primary engineering advance of the year, but even that could not offset an additional 40 percent sales falloff over the low 1959 totals.

On the last day of November 1960, production of the 1961 DeSoto ceased, and the famous brand came to an end. Noted always for solid value and regarded as a marque "Built to Last," the proud DeSoto nameplate, affixed to 2,024,629 vehicles since its inception, was gone.

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The 1946 DeSoto Custom Convertible was the best looking 1946 model.

1947 DeSotos were essentially the same as 1946 cars as this 4-Door Sedan illustrates

The 1948 DeSotos were 1946 and 1947 all over again. Here is the long wheelbase 4-Door Sedan.

For 1949 the DeSoto Carry-All broke some new ground along with new styling.

In 1950, DeSoto introduced the Sportsman 2-door hardtop.

While 1951 DeSotos were identical looking to the 1950 models, new engineering features were offered.

The ground-breaking DeSoto "FireDome" Hemi V-8 bowed in 1952. Unfortunately the cars looked just like the 1949-51 models except for "8" or "V8" as a designator.

1953 saw a styling update, that left the public yawning.

The 1954 DeSoto Firedome Sportsman now sported a 170 HP Hemi V-8, but sales declined across the board.

1955 saw a dramatic change in styling with an emphasis on performance. Many say the '55 was the best-looking DeSoto ever produced.

The 1956 DeSoto upped the styling ante with tail fins and more HP.

The 1957 DeSoto may be the high water mark for post-war cars. It sold extremely well and the Adventurer made 1 HP per cubic inch!

1958 DeSotos were cleaned up '57s, but the Recession collapsed DeSoto sales.

1959 DeSotos were merely '58s with warmed over styling. But with the recession continuing sales were dismal, even though the Adventurer line now offered a 4-door hardtop.

In 1960, DeSotos were Chrysler Windsors with different grilles, trim and tail lights. That marked the end of the brand.

Though 1961 DeSotos were offered at the beginning of the model year, it was a half-hearted attempt and the car was dropped at the end of the intro month.

 

 

 

 

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