The DeSoto was an American automobile marque, manufactured and marketed by the now-defunct DeSoto Division of the Chrysler Corporation from 1928 to 1961. The DeSoto logo featured a stylized image of Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto. The De Soto marque was officially dropped November 30, 1960, with over two million vehicles built since 1928. Chrysler wanted to enter the brand in competition with its arch-rivals General Motors, Studebaker, and Willys-Knight, in the mid-price class. Shortly after DeSoto was introduced, however, Chrysler completed its purchase of the Dodge Brothers, giving the company two mid-priced makes. Initially, the two-make strategy was relatively successful, with DeSoto priced below Dodge models. Despite the economic times, DeSoto sales were relatively healthy, pacing Dodge at around 25,000 units in 1932. In fact, when DeSoto first came out in 1929, it broke the first-year sales record, with 81,065 cars sold, and was not beaten until 1960 by the Ford Falcon.
However, in 1933, Chrysler reversed the market positions of the two marques in hopes of boosting Dodge sales. By elevating DeSoto, it received Chrysler's streamlined 1934 Airflow bodies. But, on the shorter DeSoto wheelbase, the design was a disaster and was unpopular with consumers. Unlike Chrysler, which still had more traditional models to fall back on, DeSoto was hobbled by the Airflow design until the 1935 Airstream arrived. Aside from its Airflow models, DeSoto's 1942 model is probably its second most memorable model from the pre-war years, when the cars were fitted with powered pop-up headlights, a first for a North American mass-production vehicle. (The Cord 810 introduced dashboard hand cranked hidden headlamps in the 1936 model year.) DeSoto marketed the feature as "Air-Foil" lights.
After wartime restrictions on automotive production were ended, DeSoto returned to civilian car production when it reissued its 1942 models as 1946 models, but without the hidden-headlight feature. Until 1952, DeSoto used the Deluxe and Custom model designations. In 1952 DeSoto added the Firedome with its 276-cid Hemi engine. However, in 1953, DeSoto dropped the Deluxe and Custom names and designated its six-cylinder cars the 'Powermaster' and its V8 car remained the 'Firedome'. At its height, DeSoto's more popular models included the Firesweep, Firedome, and Fireflite.
The DeSoto Adventurer, introduced for 1956 as a high-performance hard-top coupe (similar to Chrysler's 300), became a full-range model in 1960. In 1955, along with all Chrysler models, De Sotos were redesigned with Virgil Exner's "Forward Look." DeSotos sold well through the 1956 model year. That year, for the first and only time in the marque's history, it served as Pace Car at the Indianapolis 500. For the 1956 update Exner gave the DeSoto soaring tailfins fitted with triple taillights, and consumers responded by buying record numbers.
Introduced in 1956 as a sub-series of the top level DeSoto Fireflite series, the Adventurer was originally marketed as a limited production two-door hardtop, and available in a white/black/gold color scheme only. The first Adventurer came with a hi-output 341 cubic inch Hemi V8, dual exhausts and custom appointments and trim. Standard trim included dual outside side mirrors, gold wheel covers, radio, electric clock, padded instrument panel, windshield washers, full instrumentation, and heavy duty suspension. A total of 996 cars were sold in its first year.
This very nicely restored car is one of just 32 known to have survived out of the 996 built in 1956. While it would technically be called an older restoration due to the passage of time since it was restored, the car still presents as a freshly restored car, having been used carefully and sparingly since restoration. The Adventurer is tour de force of 50's styling elements and one of Virgil Exner's most beloved designs. There are so many great styling cues on this car I could go for hours but those of you who know these cars don't need to be told this stuff anyway.
This is an exciting car and a rare opprotunity to acquire of the best designs from the 50's, an early muscle car to be sure!