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1954 De Soto

10/18/2019
Tad Burness
Though De Soto had semi-automatic Fluid Drive transmissions since the 1940s, Powerflite automatic transmissions were new for De Soto in the 1954 models, 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 De Soto. V-8s would rule in 1955, with V-8s standard or optional in most American-built cars.
 
 
Chrysler Corp. built De Sotos from mid-1928 (1929 Model K) until 1961. In 1930 and '31, there was also a De Soto straight-8. And from late 1935 to 1948, De Soto was a major builder of taxicabs.
 
My first car, in fact, was a well-used late-1935 De Soto 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 De Soto off the Redwood City, CA car lot, the dealer said, "It used to be a taxi. It jumps every time the phone rings."
 
As De Sotos have been missing from the automotive scene for many years, all of them are collectors items now.
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