Saturday, July 3, 2010

1951 DeSoto Custom Sportsman

"No other car rides like a DeSoto."

What looks quite beaten-up and bare of all chrome trim, was once the top-model of Chrysler's appealing sister brand: DeSoto's first "hardtop convertible". Hardtops were all the rage in the early 50s, and although different companies claim the invention of this new bodystyle, it was GM who brought it first to mass production. In 1949, when Desoto presented its first new postwar lineup, three GM brands already offered "hardtop convertibles". When DeSoto added a hardtop to its lineup in 1950, customers could order a "hardtop convertible" from any of the five GM brands.

The facelift for 1951, pictured here, had a restyled body with the new "Dollar-Grin" front grille that should become a trademark for DeSotos throughout the 50s. DeSotos were based on the long Chrysler bodies and sported a 125,5-inch wheelbase. Despite being bigger than most of their competitors, DeSotos looked quite plumb and heavy, and were no match for their rivals from Cadillac, Buick or even Chevrolet, who managed to present the longest and lowest looking cars in the early 50s.

Throughout 1951, DeSotos had to rely on sluggish 6-cylinder engines, and consequently the big cars weren't exactly sporty. The introduction of the new "FireDome" V-8 engine (a version of Chrysler's acclaimed new "FirePower" Hemi engine) injected new life in the otherwise similar looking lineup for 1952. When you see a DeSoto in Cuba, you can easily tell its model year: 1951 models have script lettering above the grille, while 1952 models sport the DeSoto name in block letters.

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