Lots of classic cars scream “1950s!”, but few do it louder than the late, great Desoto, former stablemate of Dodge, Plymouth and Chrysler.
Certainly, besides Cadillac, no car wore turquoise paint, fins and greenish weather glass better than Desoto. And while this 1956 Fireflite predates the high-flying fins of the ’57 models, its Virgil Exner-crafted ‘Forward Look’ styling hints strongly at the design direction that followed.
Frankly, this two-tone head-turner looks so good, I don’t know how much more ‘Longer, Lower, Wider’ I could handle. The design is so pleasing, I pity the engineers who had to change it for a car-buying public eager to have the next big thing.
1956 is something of a sleeper year for American cars, coming one year before the explosion of postwar excess that took fins into the stratosphere, put rockets on the back of cars and grafted Jayne Mansfield’s chest onto the front.
Look closely at this Stratford, Ontario relic and you’ll see twin tailpipes peeking from underneath its shapely bumper. That’s to handle the by-products of a 255-horsepower, 330 cubic inch V-8.
The Fireflite was a sales hit for Desoto, which ranked 11th in sales in 1956, a high water mark for the brand. Unfortunately, the writing was on the wall for a make whose roots dated back to 1928. With Chrysler moving from upscale to mid-range in the 1950s following the introduction of the range-topping Imperial, Desoto’s home sales turf was being eroded away on all sides.
Following an abbreviated sales year in 1961, the Desoto brand was put out to pasture – sadly, just five years after this gorgeous example rolled off the assembly line.
With credit to the film ‘Blade Runner’ – “The light that burns twice as bright burns for half as long.”