DeSoto’s First Year for the Popular “Powerflite” Automatic Transmission

4/16/2019
Tad Burness
Though DeSoto had semiautomatic Fluid Drive transmissions since the 1940s, Powerflite automatic transmissions were new for DeSoto in the 1954 models, which was a $189 option.
 
Styling was similar to the 1953, with minor changes. Note the attractive dash and instrument panel, with large round speedometer and smaller round gauges -- the style seen in several Chrysler Corp. cars of the mid-'50s. Twenty-four different exterior color combinations (two-tone) were available, and in the following year (1955), dazzling three-tone color schemes were available on the totally restyled Mopar cars.
 
1954 was the final year for a six-cylinder DeSoto. V-8s would rule in 1955, with V-8s standard or optional in most American-built cars.
 
Chrysler Corp. built DeSotos from mid-1928 (1929 Model K) until 1961. In 1930 and '31, there was also a DeSoto straight-8.
 
 
And from late 1935 to 1948, DeSoto was a major builder of taxicabs.
 
My first car, in fact, was a well-used late-1935 DeSoto ex-San Francisco taxi, repainted a dull black over the original bright-orange paint, and missing its grille. It only cost me $15, as the car lot was supposedly "giving it away" (advertised in newspaper ads as "Price Free!"). The catch? Each person wanting the car had to draw straws, and the longest straw won. Mom and a few of her friends from her real estate office drew straws. One of her realtor friends won, but said he'd have to have $15 "for his trouble." But it was still a bargain!
 
As I drove the DeSoto off the Redwood City, Calif., car lot, the dealer said: "It used to be a taxi. It jumps every time the phone rings."
 
As DeSotos have been missing from the automotive scene for almost 45 years, all of them are collector's items now.
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