Tuesday, February 17, 2015

1954 DeSoto Diplomat Custom Sport Coupe

"Here's beauty that keeps its promise! One glance at this excitingly new DeSoto and you can imagine yourself behind the wheel — in luxurious comfort — proudly in command of the road."

Here is a car from Canada that you couldn't buy in Canada. Assembled in Windsor, Ontario, just south of Detroit, our pictured DeSoto was solely built for Chrysler's export markets. 

Presumably, Cuban DeSoto owners traveling to mainland America were in for a surprise when they came across a DeSoto there. The American and Canadian models sported a wider "grin" up front and powerfully bulged rear fenders. In fact, they were utterly different cars, based on the bigger Chrysler platform. The DeSoto on sale in Cuba merely looked like a DeSoto: technically, it was a 1954 Plymouth Belvedere Club Coupe with a DeSoto front end bolted on. Commonly known as "Plodges", these cars combined the cheaper Plymouth body with a „branded" front end, so that Chrysler dealers abroad were able to sell upscale Dodges and DeSotos at competitive prices. 

With a wheelbase of 114 inches (2,89m) and an overall length of 193.5 inches (4,91m), the Plymouth-based export DeSotos were more than half a meter (21 inches) shorter than their American counterparts that stretched over a whopping 214.5 inches (5,45m) on a 125.5 inch (3,19m) wheelbase. Considering Chrysler's pricing policy and import taxes, Cuban customers had to pay more money for a smaller car. Not surprisingly, quite a few smart Cubans brought their DeSoto as a "used car" from the U.S. to the island. Key West was just a short ferry ride away.

Notwithstanding, even in DeSoto "disguise", the Plymouth based export model did look actually quite imposing, and much more elegant than your common Plymouth sedan. Only the proportions weren’t really stunning: the high cabin was a tribute to an already three-year old platform, descendant from the infamous "Keller boxes". In a time when customers longed for stylish “longer and lower" looking cars, this was a serious disadvantage. But help was on the way: already next year, Chrysler’s "Forward Look" models, styled under the lead of Virgil Exner, should catapult Chrysler styling to the top of the buyer's wish lists.

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