1957 DeSoto Fireflite Sportsman Sportsman
Sales - Design/Build - Restoration
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We probably wouldn’t have the Big Three today without Virgil Exner''s work at Chrysler. The Forward Look cars that he penned for 1955 were revolutionary and instantly made everything else on the market look like yesterday’s news. Just one look at the spectacular Fiesta Red flanks on this Fireflite Sportsman will convince you that while excess was still in fashion, it was knowing where to put it that was important. This Desoto has received a frame-off restoration that is absolutely breathtaking in person. The bodywork is exceptionally well done (and it has to be with those giant fins, there’s nowhere for inferior work to hide), and the car is magnificently presented. Gaps and panel fit is exemplary, and the doors close with a solid thunk that no modern car can match. The Fiesta Red paint is deep and lustrous, which is obvious even in the studio photos. Look at the reflections and you’ll see no distortions or orange peel in the finish, just an incredibly uniform, glossy expanse of red. The gray top is the perfect contrast to the red, more sophisticated and even futuristic than the more typical white used on some of its competitors. And again, the finish is brilliant, with just the right amount of metallic in it to re-create the jet age 50s.
When talking about any car from this decade, it’s impossible to avoid discussing the chrome. On a car like this, the restoration of the trim is often the most expensive part of the job, so it’s always smart to buy a car where all that work is done. On this one, the bright pieces have been refinished to great condition with incredible detailing and impressive depth of finish. Those massive bumpers have been restored to new condition, and all the chrome and stainless detailing throughout glitters like jewelry. Even the twin Dagmars on the lower front bumper, which were unique to the Fireflite, have been finished to better-than-new condition. And the car also carries dual antennas on its rear fenders, which was the height of fashion in the late 50s.
In 1957, the horsepower races had already started, and Chrysler was at the head of the pack with their Hemi powerplants. In the Desoto Fireflite, it was a 341 cubic inch Hemi that used a single 4-barrel carburetor to make a very stout 295 horsepower, enough to push these gorgeous cars to more than 125 MPH. The engine bay in this Fireflite is beautifully restored and finished to concours standards throughout. The engine is correctly finished in corporate silver with red lettering on the unique Hemi valve covers. The massive air cleaner assembly dominates the engine bay, which was necessary thanks to the Hemi''s improved breathing. Correct finishes, materials, and decals have been used throughout, from the heater housing on the firewall, to the hoses and clamps, to the reproduction battery. Quality control stamps have been duplicated, and even in here the paint has been buffed and finished. A correct generator still makes the electricity and the wiring harness is an accurate reproduction. Taking this car to a show and NOT lifting the hood should be a crime.
The standard transmission in the Fireflite Sportsman is a 3-speed TorqueFlite feeding a 3.36-geared rear end. The rest of the chassis is spectacularly detailed, from the Fiesta Red floors to the satin black frame and all the correctly finished parts in between. Up front, you’ll find Chrysler''s familiar torsion-bar front suspension, which has been fully rebuilt and rides like a hovercraft. True-dual exhaust was part of the program for the Fireflite, and a complete system has been fabricated to factory specifications on this car, giving it a subtle, yet authoritative voice. The rear end rides on restored leaf springs and damped by new shocks that match the originals in color and function. A new gas tank hangs out back, ensuring that you won’t have fuel problems down the road. And the wheels are comprised of gorgeous chrome wires that spin 15-inch wide whitewall radials.
The eye candy doesn’t stop at the exterior. Chrysler stylists fine-tuned every aspect of the car to match the Forward Look styling, and that meant the interior had to be exceptional. It is. With two-tone red and gray seating front and back, it ties in brilliantly with the exterior color scheme. Everything inside this car is new, from the subtle gray carpets to the gorgeous headliner accented by chrome top bows. The dashboard incorporates a lot of pure 1950s style, from the massive steering wheel to the textured metal panel that surrounds the gauge cluster. The first of the pushbutton controls that made Chrysler famous are found to the left of the steering wheel, and I kind of dig the dashboard-mounted rear-view mirror. The original AM radio still lives in the dash, but a powerful modern JVC head unit has been hidden in the glove box, along with speakers hidden throughout the passenger compartment. The trunk has been restored to new condition, with a new trunk mat and a full-sized spare tire that''s complete with cover. And, for a medium-priced car in 1957, I bet this Desoto made its new owner feel like a million bucks.
The sale of this smooth DeSoto includes Chrysler Historical Services documentation.
I’m flat-out blown away by how much I like this car. Usually when you hear Desoto you think of some frumpy, brown sedan. Then you get a look at this movie star and all you can think about is what it would feel like to be behind the wheel and unwinding the powerful Hemi on a long, straight section of highway. Desoto died in 1961, but they enjoy a very strong support network and with their Chrysler connection, parts are plentiful and easy to find. They’re also considerably harder to find than their Dodge and Plymouth siblings, which will make this Fireflite the hit of any show, even the Mopar Nationals. Given the choice between this and, say, a 1957 Chevy, I know which one I''d prefer!
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