Historic Car Brands

De Soto


In 1928, Walter Chrysler launched the De Soto brand, named after the explorer Hernando De Soto, who led the first European expedition into what is now Florida, Alabama and Georgia. De Soto cars were positioned at the lower end of the Chrysler range, to compete with GM’s Oldsmobile and with Studebaker, Hudson and Willys.


1932 De Soto Sedan – Lars-Goran Lindgren


It was a busy year for Chrysler, who also took over the Dodge Bothers business and launched the Plymouth brand as well.

The De Soto brand was launched with a 3.2-litre, side-valve, six-cylinder engine that had rubber mounts. The car also had four-wheel hydraulic brakes.


1937 De Soto Airflow straight-eight engine


In 1930, the six was joined by a 3.5-litre straight-eight that was launched with 70hp and eventually increased in size to 6.3 litres and 150hp.

Originally priced below Dodge branded cars, De Soto was moved up-market, to help improve Dodge brand volumes.


1935 De Soto Airflow SG Business Coupe – Greg Gjerdingen


The 1934 De Soto shared Chrysler’s streamlined bodywork, but on a shorter wheelbase than Chrsyler’s Airflow models. It was not a marketing success and was replaced in the following year by the Airstream models.


1941 De Soto Custom Coupe – Lars-Goran Lindgren


In 1939 came independent front suspension; a choice of two sixes and a column shift.  Vacumatic, semi-automatic transmission was an option on 1941 models.

In 1942 De Soto aped Cord’s design for pop-up headlights: ‘out of sight except at night’  ran the slogan.


1942 De Soto Custom – Steve-Brown


Post-War De Sotos were basically 1942 deluxe and Custom models, but without the headlight feature and with fender Ines blending into the door panels, a la other Chrysler shapes.


1949 De Soto Custom Sedan – Lars-Goran Lindgren


The straight-eight gave way to Chrysler’s ‘Hemi’ V8 in 1951. From 1953, six-cylinder models were designated Powermaster and the V8s were Firedomes. V8s outsold sixes by around two to one.


1956 De Soto Firedome two-door hardtop  – C Z Marlin


The tail fin craze was adopted by Chrysler in 1955 and De Sotos scored big ones. The six was dropped from the De Soto lineup, other than for the thinly-disguised Diploma model, based on the Plymouth.


1956 Plymouth – De Soto coupe utility – SV1ambo


In Australia the De Soto Diploma coupe utility was launched in 1956.

The De Soto Adventurer was introduced in 1956 as a high-performance coupe, along the lines of the Chrysler 300 and powered by the 5.6-litre Hemi.


1960 De Soto Adventurer – Alf van Beem


1957 was a big year for De Soto, with sales of 118,000 cars, but the was followed by a disastrous 1958, when sales plummeted to less than 36,000. The cause was very poor quality control.

New wedge-head 5.9-litre and 6.3-litre V8s were introduced in 1959, but that did little to improve sales.

By late 1960 it was all over for De Soto.


1961 model year De Soto Fireflite – Stephen J Brown


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