1 of 19 Remaining: 1956 DeSoto Fireflite Pacesetter

1956 would be the one and only year that DeSoto was invited to pace the field at the annual Indianapolis 500. This was always a big deal, with the chosen manufacturer making a limited number of duplicate cars for sale to the public. The Fireflite convertible was selected for this honor and received some special appearance features to set it apart from the rest of the crowd. This edition looks to have been meticulously restored, although no reference to that being done is made. It looks too perfect to be original after 118,000 miles. Owned by a collector and located in Guilford, Connecticut, this work of automotive art is available here on Hemmings Classifieds for $169,9000. Our compliments to Barn Finder Larry D for sending this tip our way!

Indianapolis Speedway president Tony Hulman said the ’56 Fireflite was “chosen unanimously by the track committee because it delivered outstanding performance and had superb handling characteristics”. These indeed were impressive cars, both in appearance and performance. Chrysler’s “Forward Look” autos were born in 1955 but would reach their pinnacle later in the decade as fins and wings would dominate much of the styling. The Indy Fireflite was deemed the “Pacesetter” model, but no official production figures seem to exist. The National DeSoto Club believes it to be between 390 and 426 cars, while other sources say as few as 100 copies. Wild About Cars says that 186 were produced in addition to 1,299 non-Pacesetter Fireflite convertibles for 1956. DeSoto built 111,422 cars overall that years, the second biggest year in its history.

By looking at a beautiful machine such as this, it’s hard to believe that the DeSoto brand would only be around another five years. The 1956 model year came with a few innovations, such as the adoption of 12-volt electrical systems on all DeSotos and the advent of the pushbutton automatic transmission which would be standard on this senior level car. The Fireflite was DeSoto’s top-of-the-line model except for the Adventurer, which was only offered as a 2-door hardtop.

The Pacesetter public cars that were offered by dealers on a limited basis looked exactly like the automobiles supplied to the speedway, except they were not factory lettered like the real deal. We believe that lettering kits were stored in the trunk and the buyer could choose to add them at his/her discretion. Photos provided of the seller’s car show it with and without the Indy 500 lettering, so adding or subtracting them was not permanent.

According to Chrysler historical documentation, there are only 19 of the Pacesetters remaining and this car is one of them. It was built in February 1956 and carries the gold/white color combination that these cars were known for. The body, paint, chrome, trim, and glass all look spectacular, and it looks like it just rolled off the assembly line. The gold vinyl top and brown tweed cloth upholstery hardly look used, with the seller mentioning the former has been replaced included the clear plastic rear window.  It comes with all the power gizmos that Chrysler offered back in the day, including an under-dash record player (I always wondered how well those things really worked).

The seller says the engine under the hood is a freshly rebuilt dual-quad 341 cubic inch Hemi engine that puts out 320 hp. I was under the impression the 341 was reserved for the Adventurer hardtop and the Fireflites went with the 330 Hemi. But perhaps the 341 was used to make the Pacesetters even more special. This car is said to have appeared at several shows and special events and has been scored as high as 390 out of 400 points in receiving the AACA Senior Grand National Award (I wonder what they knocked 10 points off for).

This is a beautiful car that would make a great addition to any collection, if you have the financial resources to acquire and maintain it. With only a handful of these cars remaining in existence and this one possibly being the nicest left, it’s hard to put a price tag on the value of a machine like this. As the adage goes, “something is only worth what someone else will pay for it.” Truer words were never spoken.


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  1. alphasud Member

    With cars and trucks costing over 100K these days doesn’t seem like so much of a stretch to own a rare collectible. Beautiful car with a real attention to detail. America built the best cars in the world during this period. And to top it off. She’s got a Hemi!

    Like 11
  2. RGSmith1 Member

    Ah the memories! I had a DeSoto Firedome 2 Dr ht. Blue and white. Great handling for such a big car. Had some great times in that beast. Still miss it after all these years.

    Like 5
    • ADM

      I saw an episode of Highway Patrol, where a driver spun a ’55 Imperial 90 degrees, when he was blocked by the police. Good scene.

      Like 2
  3. George Louis

    Great looking car!!!! I wonder who made the record player and also how many cars were ordered with the record player and did they include a record with the player?

    Like 3
    • Lance

      The were made by CBS and called ‘the highway hi-fi’. Failed due to malfunctioning records. Mopar dropped them by 1957. Too much warranty work. Peter Goldmark invented them.

      Like 9
      • George Louis

        Lance: THANK YOU for the update on the record player. I am sure others appreciate the info as well!!!!!

        Like 1
  4. Will Fox

    A beautiful restoration for sure. I can’t complain of a single blemish on this majestic beast. However, the seller is dreaming as to the price he wants. They say a car’s value is what someone is willing to pay for it. The seller has had this car for sale for quite some time in Hemmings, which tells me most who see it laugh at his price. He may have spent $169,900. on the restoration, but that does not equate to it’s value. I can see $85K-$90K but that’s it. Until he come down in price, he is going to have to hang on to this for quite some time.

    Like 2
  5. Jack

    I know the owner. He has an amazing collection. All Number 1 cars.

    Like 4
  6. JohnD

    Great car. Just love it. That said, how about abandoning the “only XXX remain” foolishness. Unless you have checked every garage and barn in the whole world, you can never know that. That makes it a lie. . . .

    Like 4
    • mikey tee

      John ,when you know that xx number of cars were built and you know that a certain number are destroyed you can say that only a number remain and be accurate

      Like 2
      • JohnD

        But we don’t KNOW that a certain number were destroyed. There may be assumptions, but no one knows it. This is not a Chrysler turbine car, about which we would have exact numbers.

        People say these things to try to make cars seem more rare. This one is rare enough. Pumping it up just hurts the seller’s credibility, IMO.

        Like 1
  7. Bunky

    Beautiful car.
    My late Brother in Law had a ‘51 Dodge Coronet with an under dash record player. Worked great in the driveway. On the road- not so much.
    They were built by Motorola- which is where Motorola got it’s name. (Think Motor car/ Victorola) Amazing that they have kept that name all these years.

    Like 5
  8. NW Iowa Kevin Member

    What a difference 16 years makes between my ’40 S7 Deluxe and this garage queen beauty. I’d love to own it but too many strikes against that idea, live on a dusty farm on a heavily travelled gravel road 2 miles from US 18. I just don’t care for convertibles. And anyway, the price is 100 grand too high.

  9. Pauld

    I read somewhere that this was the fastest stock car in 1956.

    Like 1
  10. JoeBob

    I’ve always admired 56 DeSotos, (Jimmy Stewart’s ride in “Vertigo”) and this one is immaculate. But the pace car graphics don’t appeal to me. I realize it makes the car rarer and more valuable, but I’d like it better without all graphics.

    Like 1
  11. John Boehler

    I had a ’55 four door Firedome sedan wih a manual three speed and no power equipment. It was a great car. I wish I still had it.

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