DeSoto was a car brand from the United States, which belonged to Chrysler Corporation from 1928 to 1961,
DeSoto offered passenger cars that were technically and stylistically similar to the respective Chrysler models. In addition, under the brand name heavy trucks, which were built outside the US, especially in Turkey. Their production lasted until 1978.
The DeSoto brand was founded on August 4, 1928 by Walter P. Chrysler. Founded in 1925, Chrysler Corporation was only represented in the US market with the Chrysler brand for the first three years of its existence. In contrast, General Motors drove numerous brands that covered very different price segments; At times, up to 10 brands belonged to the General Motors Group. This development was followed by Chrysler with the establishment of the brand DeSoto in 1928. DeSoto was positioned in a cheaper market segment than Chrysler. In this way, Chrysler could be present in the mid-range range without compromising the reputation of its own brand, which was associated with high-priced cars.
Shortly after the introduction of the brand DeSoto Chrysler also took over in 1914 founded car manufacturer Dodge Brothers Inc, which was also located in a market segment below Chrysler. As a result, Chrysler Corporation now has two mid-priced brands. Some reports claim that Chrysler would have renounced the DeSoto founding if the acquisition of Dodge had been possible
In the early years, Chrysler's two-brand strategy was relatively successful in the middle class. In the first model year, DeSoto produced 81,065 vehicles. That was a record for a newly founded US automobile brand. This success lasted for almost 30 years. Despite the global economic crisis remained DeSoto sales relatively stable in 1932, emissions of Dodge were exceeded by about 25,000 vehicles.
In 1933, the group positioned DeSoto closer to the Chrysler brand, with the intention of increasing the distance to Dodge, thereby improving Dodge's sales. This realignment meant that DeSoto 1934, the streamlined Airflow design assumed that this year for the top brand of the group as Chrysler Airflow debuted. The design was as progressive as it was polarizing. It proved too ambitious for the American market, so neither the high-priced Chrysler version nor the slightly cheaper and shorter DeSoto Airflow were successful. DeSoto's situation was particularly problematic compared to its sister brands. While Dodge and Plymouth offered no Airflow versions, but had only conventionally designed vehicles in the program, Chrysler could at least partially compensate for the weak sales of its Airflow conventional models, which had the mark in parallel program. In contrast, DeSoto in 1934 was the only company brand to offer exclusively Airflow models. This led to a dramatic drop in sales; 1934 DeSoto produced only 13,940 vehicles, about half of the previous year's output. From 1935, the conventionally designed Airstream models appeared, which helped to make up for the deficits.
The 1942 DeSoto model (S10) was the first mass-produced car with pop-up headlights in the North American market. pop-up headlights had it for the first time in 1935 as the Cord 810 designed luxury car. Folding lights were only offered in model year 1942. Another design feature of the 1942 was a grille with vertical chrome struts. They remained - in various forms - to 1955 as a special trademark of all DeSoto models. Chrysler provided the DeSoto in two trim levels - "Deluxe" and "Custom" - and there were two wheelbases 121.5 and 139.5 inches (3086 and 3543 mm). The chassis were available in a variety of configurations, including a short wheelbase business coupe, two- or four-door limousines with short or long wheelbases, up to seven-seat long wheelbase taxis. The 237 ci (3.8 l) engine produced 115 hp (86 kW). The demos of the model year 1942 were only produced for a few months. As early as the beginning of 1942, DeSoto, like all other North American automobile factories, ceased production of civilian vehicles due to the war. Overall, fewer than 25,000 vehicles, created today - not least because of the pop-up headlights - are among the most sought classics.
Since 1937, the Chrysler Corporation used the brand name DeSoto in export markets for light and heavy commercial vehicles. These were initially trucks from overproductions of the sister brands Dodge and Fargo, which were sold with a changed brand name in South America and Southeast Asia.
After the end of the Second World War, the brand name DeSoto sporadically found itself on trucks manufactured in Argentina, Australia, Great Britain, Spain and Turkey by local Chrysler branches. From 1964 to 1978, Askam, a former Istanbul- based subsidiary of Chrysler Corporation, produced trucks with the brand name DeSoto. The use of the brand ended in 1978, after Chrysler had sold its shares in the company.
After the war in 1946, DeSoto resumed production of civilian automobiles. The vehicles of the model years 1946 to 1948 corresponded technically and stylistically largely the 1942 models; however, the DeSoto range was less versatile than before the war. The design had been slightly revised. The front folding headlights were replaced by round individual headlights, which were embedded in the front fenders. The fenders were less pronounced and went in the front doors fluently in the body. The vehicles had a box frame chassis, an independent front and rear suspension. The six-cylinder DeSoto engines were side-controlled, A semi-automatic transmission of Gyro Fluid Drive with hydraulic clutch, which was operated by means of a tip-toe (push button preselection). In addition to the regular models, DeSoto offered extended wheelbase versions that were used as taxis, airport shippers, and hotel vehicles. These versions remained in the program until 1955.
For model year 1949 presented DeSoto as well as the other Chrysler brands completely redesigned vehicles. They had a pontoon-like structure, which increased the space inside. The models Diplomat and Diplomat Custom, which were derived from Plymouth model series, were designed as export models, which were offered with a 2.8 litre inline six-cylinder engine. In 1951, the Chrysler shock absorbers Airflow were introduced as a technical innovation. In addition to the introduced in the previous year Faux Cabriolet Sportsman, there was now a station wagon, which was offered without wooden planking with retractable rear window. The engine power was already 117 hp. Until 1952 DeSoto used the names Deluxe and Custom as model names.
For model year 1952, a new eight-cylinder engine came into the program. It was DeSoto's first eight-cylinder engine since 1932 and at the same time the first eight-cylinder in V design. The V8 called Fire Dome Eight was based on Chrysler designs. This had a capacity of 276 cubic inches (4,255 cc) and made in the first version 160 hp. The engine had sloping valves and hemispherical combustion chambers. It was produced in a modern semi-automated factory in Dearborn, which performed up to 96 operations using precision machines in 34 steps. The previously unattainable six-cylinder engine with the name Power master whose constructive roots date back to the 1930s remained in parallel until 1955 in the program.
In 1953 the model names Deluxe and Custom were dropped. The six-cylinder models were henceforth called Power master Six and the V8 models as Firedome 8. At its peak, Firesweep, Firedome and Fireflite were among De Soto's most popular models. The semi-automatic transmission was modified by a hydraulic torque converter, which no longer needed any separate oil, but was supplied with the engine oil. With the model year 1954 also the first fully automatic transmission of the Chrysler company, the Power Flite transmission, for DeSoto was offered. As early as 1953, the Coupé Adventurer of Ghia built in Turin as a "dream car". With the decreasing interest in the six-cylinder models, these disappeared from the program. There remained the models Firedome and Fireflite with the V8 engines, which already had more than 200 hp. For exports, the models Diplomat and Diplomat Custom were also manufactured. The 1956 introduced DeSoto Adventurer as a hardtop coupe grew until 1960 to a complete model range on.
With the exception of the export-only DeSoto Diplomat, which was a slightly modified Plymouth from Canadian manufacturing, all 1955 and 1956 DeSoto models were derived directly from the Chrysler vehicles. The DeSoto’s and the Chryslers used the same body shell and had the same wheelbase, while the Dodge and Plymouth models were each 4 inches (10 cm) shorter. New to the DeSoto’s was an electrical system with 12 volts. Outwardly the DeSoto’s resembled the Chrysler Windsor, however, they had independently designed front and rear sections.
For the model year 1956 all DeSoto’s received a facelift. This included a revised front end, in which for the first time since 1942, no vertical struts were found in the radiator grille, but a barred radiator grille, in front of which were two eye-catching, chrome-plated front horns. The rear fenders were also new; they flowed into tail fins, under which on each side three round taillights were arranged one above the other.
The model cars 1955 and 1956 were in competition with the vehicles of Mercury, Buick and Oldsmobile. They sold well for DeSoto ratios. In 1955 over 115,000 copies were sold, the following year it was another 110,000. The sales figures, however, did not match the level of the direct competitors.
In 1957, the De Soto models, like all vehicles of the Chrysler Group, were completely redesigned by Virgil Exner. The design pattern was now Forward Look. The new bodies of all Chrysler brands were lower and had greatly enlarged panoramic windows. Exner gave the DeSoto rising tail fins, were embedded in the triple tail lights, after which the buyers bought the car in record numbers.
The 1957 DeSoto had an integrated design in two variants: a full hardtop sportsman coupe body based on a Dodge, a four-door hardtop and a conventional sedan. All models were based on the chassis of Chrysler models. Between the two there were variations in the design of the front, especially in the headlight zone, the Sportsman was characterized by two twin- beam headlamps and a less aerodynamic front, while the larger models had the then popular Quad design. At that time, it was customary to give the design of the models a facelift every three years: mouldings, bumpers and other low-cost modifications have been redesigned, primarily through additional bumpers, changes in headlamp shapes, colour changes, gauges, and vehicle interior design. The two 1957 designs were nearly ideal and balanced, so the 1958 model was not necessarily an improvement (especially in the front bumper design).
Despite all stylistic attractiveness, the DeSoto’s of the model year 1957 were in qualitative terms deficient. For all brands of the Chrysler Group, the manufacturing quality had decreased in 1957 compared to previous years. Chrysler management then relocated production of Warren's DeSoto models, Wyoming, to Jefferson North Assembly Plant, Detroit. Here the DeSoto’s were created parallel to the vehicles of the brand Chrysler. The eye-catching intake manifold injection engine from Bendix, which was offered last year, was removed from the program. Nevertheless, DeSoto’s still had model variants with more than 350 hp. That did not lead to the success: The production fell in the model year 1959 on a little more than 45,000 vehicles.
For model year 1960, the Chrysler management merged the previously independent brands Plymouth and DeSoto to the Plymouth DeSoto division. In the same year, the company introduced the self-supporting body for all brands - including DeSoto. This step required large numbers of the investment in the expensive press tools to amortize. The offer range was not limited therefore on the models Fireflite and Adventurer, in stylistic terms, the DeSoto models largely corresponded to the vehicles of Chrysler. They still followed Exner's Forward Look, but here as well as there had very noticeable tail fins, which already began in the front doors and were connected with a continuously rising belt line from then on. Sales continued to decline. In model year 1960 DeSoto sold only 25,500 vehicles.
When the model year 1961 was presented in the fall of 1960, there were already rumours that Chrysler wanted to stop the brand.
With the model year 1961 DeSoto lost its serial characteristics, which recalled the close at Packard. And like the last Packard’s (often derisively mocked as Packard baker), even the last DeSoto had a dubious design. Again, the De Soto was based on the smaller chassis of the Chrysler Windsor, featuring a two-ply grille (each ply with a different surface), slanted dual headlamps, and modified shark-nose taillights. Only a two-door and a four-door sedan were offered. The vehicles were trimmed to the design of the 1960s Fireflite.
Although the decision to discontinue DeSoto was made earlier, the Chrysler had $ 1 million worth of DeSoto parts at the time of the announcement. So, the company once again raised the production to reduce the otherwise unusable parts. Over 3,000 units were still produced. Excluding the internal support and interest of dealers and customer confidence, the DeSoto brand was discontinued on November 30, 1960, 47 days after the model year's 1961 announcement. Chrysler and Plymouth dealers due to their franchise Contracts were forced to accept DeSoto’s, received no compensation from Chrysler for the unsold DeSoto’s at the time of the formal announcement. On the contrary: Chrysler delivered the heaps of DeSoto cars still in December 1960. Many of these vehicles were sold by the dealers with high losses just to get rid of the vehicles.
When sales of DeSoto sank in 1959 and 1960, it was apparent to Chrysler that DeSoto as a brand had too few regular customers to support further developments. When the Chrysler marketing realized that customers would rather buy an entry-level Chrysler than a DeSoto, Chrysler introduced the Chrysler Newport as a 1961 model in 1960, of which they sold 45,000 units in the first year alone. Although countless collectors claim to own the last sold DeSoto, the system of DeSoto's vehicle identification numbers has been changed in recent days, so the "last" DeSoto may have been produced with any number in the second half in November 1960.