The 1950-1959 DeSoto Automobile & The DeSoto Motor Corporation

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The DeSoto Motor Corporation
Division of Chrysler Corporation
Detroit, Michigan

The 1950 DeSoto line arrived with sleeker rear ends and two new body styles. New was DeSoto’s first hardtop convertible called the Custom Sportsman. The Custom Sportsman was priced at $2480.00. DeSoto then moved the DeLuxe Woody Wagon up to Custom trim and replaced it with an all steel body by mid year. Despite the lack of sufficient change in the 1950 DeSoto over the 1949 DeSoto production soared to 134,000 units. This was an increase of 45% over 1949.

1952 DeSoto
1952 DeSoto

1950 models included a S-14-1 Deluxe in four body styles and a S-14-2 Custom in eight body styles. A six cylinder with 236.6 cubic inches rated at 112 horsepower was the only engine available on the 1950 DeSoto.

1950 DeSoto Advertisement
1951 DeSoto Advertisement

The 1951 DeSoto six cylinder was beefed up to 250.6 cubic inches. This increase only added four more horsepower for a total of 116 HP. Styling was touched up again for 1951 with more chrome. Production decreased to 106,000 units due mainly to the Korean War and the beautiful new look to Hudson and Kaiser.

In 1952 DeSoto introduced it’s first V-8 engine called “FireDome”. It was an overhead valve Hemi-head design rated at 160 horsepower with 276.1 cubic inch displacement. This new powerful engine put De Soto into the new horsepower race. Even with the new V-8 only 88,000 units were produced in 1952.

1952 DeSoto Advertisement
1953 DeSoto Advertisement

Two new models were produced by DeSoto in 1953. The first was a S-18 Powermaster in 5 different body styles, a Club Coupe, Sportsman Hardtop, Sedan, 8 passenger Sedan and a Wagon. The Powermaster was equipped with a six cylinder 116 horsepower engine. A second new model called the Firedome was produced in six different body styles all similar to the Powermaster. With one exception, a beautiful Convertible Coupe.

The 1949 to 1952 body shells were modestly reworked once more in 1954. The FireDome V-8 horsepower was increased to 170, but the big news for 1954 was the two speed Powerflite, Chrysler’s first fully automatic transmission. This transmission would be used up to 1961.

1954 DeSoto Advertisement
1955 DeSoto Advertisement

In the early 1950’s styling chief Virgil Exner was hired by DeSoto and his influence on design first appeared on the 1955 DeSoto. Much bolder and fully up to date new Exner styling and more powerful engines turned things around for DeSoto in 1955. Top of the line was a new Fireflite model, with the Firedome now the bottom of the line. These two restyled models appealed greatly to the consumer, boosting DeSoto production in 1955 to 115,000 units.

More changes on the DeSoto Hemi engines appeared in 1956. The Firedome engine increased to 230 horsepower and the Fireflite to 255 horsepower. A wire mesh grille replaced the familiar grille teeth. However, the big styling change was the modest tailfins on most Chrysler products. DeSoto also introduced three four door hardtops in 1956 following GM lead in 1955.

1956 DeSoto Advertisement
1957 DeSoto Advertisement

The 1957 DeSoto were superbly engineered and strikingly styled. 1957 DeSoto model line up included the low priced Firesweep, the mid-priced Firedome and their high end Fireflite and Adventurer. All equipped with V-8 hemi engines of 245, 260, 270, 290 and 345 horsepower. All 1957 DeSoto automobile were big, heavy and powerful cars.

The 1958 DeSoto’s were much like the 1957 DeSoto except for the quad lights, slight changes to grille and trim. At $4369 the 1958 DeSoto Adventurer Convertible was the most expensive DeSoto ever. The Chrysler Hemi was a costly engine so DeSoto switched to a cheaper engine on most of their automobiles starting in 1958. 1958 was the first and only year for Bendix Fuel injection, a $637.20 option with very few takers.

1958 DeSoto Advertisement
1959 DeSoto Advertisement

A sharp national recession in the early 1950s marked the beginning of DeSoto’s end. The entire line up returned in 1959. A line up that included Firesweep’s, Firedome’s, Fireflite and the popular Adventurer. Body styles produced that year numbered about 6 for each model. Engines ranged in horsepower from 295 to 350. To sum up the 1950s for The DeSoto Motor Corporation it had to be the Hemi and tail fins.

Rumors of DeSoto’s demise began cropping up in 1959 and it effected sales. Only about 50,000 units were produced which was less than half for the 1957 DeSoto production year. DeSoto was not down and out by the end of the 1950s. It still had two good years left.

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