Wednesday 30th November 1960
The De Soto marque, founded by Walter Chrysler in 1928, was officially dropped, just forty-seven days after the 1961 model year was announced. It was named after the Spanish explorer Hernando deSoto. Shortly after DeSoto was introduced, however, Chrysler completed its purchase of the Dodge Brothers, giving the company two mid-priced makes. Had the transaction been completed sooner, DeSoto never would have been introduced. 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. However, in 1933, Chrysler flipped the 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 pop up headlights, a first for an American mass-production vehicle. DeSoto marketed the feature as “Air-Foil” lights “Out of Sight Except at Night”.In 1953, DeSoto dropped the Deluxe and Custom names and designated its six-cylinder cars the Powermaster and its V8 car the Firedome. At its height, DeSoto’s more popular models included the Firedome, Firesweep, and Fireflite. At the time of the announcement to discontinue the marque, warehouses contained several million dollars in DeSoto parts, so the company ramped up production in order to rid itself of the otherwise unusable parts. Chrysler and Plymouth dealers, which had been forced to take possession of DeSotos under the terms of their franchise agreements, received no compensation from Chrysler for their unsold DeSotos at the time of the formal announcement. Making matters worse, Chrysler kept shipping the DeSoto backstock through December 1960; much of this was sold at a loss by dealers eager to be rid of the cars themselves. The DeSoto name survived on a line of heavy trucks built overseas, particularly in Turkey.