DeSoto Custom

The DeSoto of 1950 had a glittery glamour that cheered up postwar America. Hailed as “cars built for owner satisfaction,” they were practical, boxy, and tough. DeSoto was a longtime taxi builder that, in the steel-starved years of 1946–48, managed to turn out 11,600 cabs, most of which plied the streets of New York. Despite more chrome upfront than any other Chrysler product, DeSotos still labored on with an L-head six-pot 250cid mill.

The legendary Firedome V8 wouldn’t arrive until 1952. But body shapes for 1950 were the prettiest ever, and the American public reacted with delight, buying up 133,854 units in the calendar year, ranking DeSoto 14th in the industry.

Top-line Custom Convertibles had a very reasonable sticker price of $2,578 and came with Tip-Toe hydraulic shift with Gyrol fluid drive as standard. The austere postwar years were a sales Disneyland for the makers of these sparkling cars, but DeSoto’s roll couldn’t last. By 1961 they’d disappeared forever.

MODEL LINE

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The top-priced Custom line fielded a Club Coupe, two huge wagons, a sixpassenger sedan, a two-door Sportsman, and a convertible. DeSoto’s volume sellers were its sedans and coupes, which listed at under $2,000 in De Luxe form.

INNOVATIVE GEARING

Fluid drive gearbox was an innovative semiautomatic pre-selector with conventional manual operation or semiauto kick-down.

SOLID CAR

Chrysler sold DeSotos on solidity and value for money.

HOOD

Hood is sleek and swish but had to be raised by hand.

TIRES

Convertibles came with whitewalls and wheel covers as standard.

DASHBOARD

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Direction signals and backup lights were offered as standard on the Custom, while options included heater, electric clock, and two-tone paint.

CHROME INTERIOR

There’s more chrome than instruments; by 1952 the dashboard would have chrome dials.

MID-RANGE MODELS

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DeSoto’s role at Chrysler was much like Mercury’s at Ford and Oldsmobile’s at GM —to plug the gap between budget models and uptown swankmobiles. ’50 DeSotos came in two levels of trim: De Luxe and the plusher Custom, at $200 more.

CHUNKY YET REFINED

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The DeSoto’s rump was large, round, and unadorned, and trunk space was cavernous. The Custom Convertible was clean and elegant enough to be seen cruising along the most stylish boulevards.

REAR FENDER

The DeSoto body shape still carried hints of the separate fenders of prewar cars.

HOOD ORNAMENT

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Optional hood ornament was one Hernando DeSoto, a 17th-century Spanish conquistador. The ornament glowed in the dark.

TOOTHY GRILLE

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The mammoth-tooth grille dominates the front aspect of the DeSoto but would be scaled down for 1951. 1950 models are easily spotted by their body-color vertical grille divider, unique to this year.

SPLIT WINDSHIELD

Flat glass split windshield was parted with a chromed center rod on which the rear-view mirror was positioned.

SHARED UNIT

All ’50 DeSotos shared the same lackluster straight six.

ENGINE

The side-valve straight six was stodgy, putting out a modest 112 bhp.

ADVERTISEMENT

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During the 1950s, car advertising copy became extravagant, relying more on hyperbole than fact. This DeSoto promotion was no exception.

S P E C I F I C A T I O N S


MODEL DeSoto Custom Convertible (1950)

PRODUCTION 2,900 (1950)

BODY STYLE Two-door convertible.

CONSTRUCTION Steel body and box-section chassis.

ENGINE 236.7cid straight-six.

POWER OUTPUT 112 bhp.

TRANSMISSION Fluid drive semiautomatic.

SUSPENSION Front: independent coil springs; Rear: leaf springs with live axle.

BRAKES Front and rear drums.

MAXIMUM SPEED 90 mph (145 km/h)

0–60 MPH (0–96 KM/H) 22.1 sec

A.F.C. 18 mpg (6.4 km/l)

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