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1 of 500? 1955 DeSoto Fireflite Coronado

The Desoto brand had been a part of the Chrysler lineup since 1928. But in the 1950s, it was sandwiched between Dodge and Chrysler in the pecking order and ended up having the same fate as Ford’s short-lived Edsel – too many choices in a crowded market. The 1955 DeSoto was redesigned along with the Chrysler as part of the “100 Million Dollar Look” and was also bold in appearance. This ’55 DeSoto Fireflite is also a Coronado, a mid-year special edition that came with a unique paint combination and leather upholstery. It was once owned by a famous songwriter but has been in storage for the last decade. Located in Burbank, California, this nice but non-running DeSoto is available here on craigslist for just $2,200. Thanks for the neat tip, Pat L.!

One source suggests that just 500 copies of the Fireflite Coronado were built in 1955. Only offered as a 4-door sedan, the Coronado received a tri-color paint scheme (black over white and turquoise was the selection on the seller’s car). The autos had special badging and used leather materials on the upholstery, moving the DeSoto closer to Chrysler in trim (the Coronado option cost just $172 extra in 1955 dollars). Like all other Fireflites, the Coronado had a 291 cubic inch “Hemi” V8 under the hood that produced 200 hp with a 4-barrel carburetor and automatic transmission.

As the story goes, this DeSoto was once owned by Allee Willis, who was known for developing several musical hits as well as the theme song for the TV show, FRIENDS. We don’t know her period of ownership, but Willis passed away in 2019 at the age of 72. We’re told this car has been in storage for the past 10 years. The seller has listed this car on behalf of a friend, and it’s also being offered via an auction by the Willis Wonderland Foundation, but the seller will have to provide a link to that as we can’t find it online.

From what we can tell, this auto is in pretty fair shape for its age, but it’s not running. We assume it was parked way back when for reasons other than a mechanical issue. So, getting it to run again could be fairly easy or a great big pain. Despite its celebrity status, this looks like a quality automobile that deserves to get back on the road. They don’t make ‘em like this anymore!

Comments

  1. Bo

    It’s a weird ad. $2200 seems like a pretty good deal. But the ad says the car is currently in an auction with a current bid of $2150?
    I don’t know enough about these cars to know how expensive they are to get back on road but at $2200 for what appears to be (from the limited pics) a clean-ish car, this seems like a great way into the hobby with what could be a very stylish car.

    Like 13
  2. ronbo97

    Despite what the text reads above or what the craigslist ad says, it appears that this is an auction on the Willis Foundation website. Here’s the link:
    https://williswonderlandfoundation.betterworld.org/auctions/willis-wonderland-kitsch-auction-2023/items/allee-s-beloved-1955-desoto-fire

    Like 5
  3. Terry

    The thing I remember most about the 55 DeSoto was the one year automatic transmission selector on the dash to be replaced with the push button selector in 56.
    55-56 Chrysler products were good looking and the hemi was a hot item. Nice find.

    Like 13
    • Mark Switzer

      Not many of those ’55 s around these days ! However , the ’55 & ’56 Chryslers were basically , the same with only minor changes like bigger taillights and as mentioned in the comments , a pushbutton transmission which was new for 1956. Also worth noting , 1955 was the last year for the six volt battery .

      Like 1
  4. Connecticut mark

    Is that weird Al Yankovic?

    Like 2
  5. CCFisher

    Chrysler created DeSoto after failing to acquire Dodge from the Dodge family after the founding brothers passed away. In a strange twist of fate, Dodge became part of Chrysler just before DeSoto sales began, leaving Chrysler with two mid-priced cars, a situation it never fully resolved.

    Like 10
  6. Trey

    More than 500 Coronados were built.

    Like 2
    • Henry Davis Member

      I think that’s right Trey. I’ve got a 54 Coronado, and the story I heard is that Coronados were just a trim option released in time for the NYC Auto Show. They were only around for half of the year, but they sold as many of ’em as they could get orders for. I’ve seen as many as 4 of them at a single car show in Florida, so doesn’t seem they are all that rare.

      Like 3
  7. Rally Ace

    Fair price now at $3500. Mechanical parts are not difficult to locate. If I did not already have too many cars I would bid on it, even with it 3000 miles away.

    Like 5
    • RICK W

      Learned to drive on a55 Black DeSoto Firedome. Have loved them ever since. But I believe the Coronado🤔 was also offered as a two door hardtop. The Black, white and turquoise combination could be switched around! 🎵 It’s Delightful 🎶It’s Delovely 🎵It’s 🎶DeSoto 🎵 !And tell them Groucho sent you!

      Like 1
  8. Carbob Member

    Well I’ll be gobsmacked. I had a Coronado for a while back in the 90’s. It actually is a fairly rare car. If I remember correctly; that white, black and turquoise color combination was exclusive to the Coronado. Those were the only colors that you could get. You could however choose how they were arranged on the car. Mine was turquoise for the main body; white roof and black side panels. And as Terry said it had a stubby little dashboard mounted gear selector to the right side of the steering wheel to operate the two speed Powerflite transmission. Nice performing vehicle with a fairly powerful Hemi that was kind of on the luxury side for its day. One thing that was a bit hard to get used to though, was that the power steering had zero road feel. Other than that I liked it a lot. I’m not going to be doing any more restoration projects so I’m not going to bid. But if it was running I’d be tempted. GLWTS.

    Like 3
  9. charlie Member

    DeSoto advertised “full time power steering”, unlike the GM Saginaw system which operated under pressure, so you had road feel otherwise. Friend’s father had one, reminded me that it was really a Chrysler underneath (and many body parts, like doors, and roof) but if he had one his boss would think he was “uppity”. It was fast, and solid, and comfortable at 80 mph all day – if only the tires were. Put bias look radials on this and GO!

    Like 2
  10. mountainwoodie

    Now THATS funny,

    Like 0
  11. William Maceri

    My dad had a 55 Desoto he bought new. I was born that same year. I don’t remember too much about it, in those days dad would get a new car every two years. His was a funky color combination, it was black on the sides with a coral color on the hood, trunk and roof. The interior had cloth seats, they were also the same colors of the exterior, they were black fabric with a silver metallic looking plastic highlighs and that coral trim in vinyl a border to the black. I guess the industry had to get all those two tone gimmicky color combinations out of its system. I’m not a big fan of two tone paint. Chrysler has always been known for it’s OTT colors and styling that clearly was just a Chrysler thing. It reminds me of the 55 Dodge trim called the LaFem, or something close to that. The Lafem was obviously aimed a women buyers, it came with two tone paint, lilac and white with matching interior. They were not a big hit even with matching female features, beyond the pain combination, there was a matching umbrella and purse to go with it. The LaFem lasted just one year before it was discontinued due to poor sales. At the end of the Desoto run their styling was really too close to the Chryslers of that period. In the 61 final year the Desoto even shared the canted headlights and rear fins with unnatural looking chrome housing of the back up lights. As the author pointed out, the public was overwhelmed with too many options that really weren’t too different from one another. Add American car buying public was shifting its attention to the new compact size cars. Enter the Ford Falcon that sold in the millions, Chrysler’s Valient and the Dodge Lancer sold very well. They did well in fleet sales with municipalities nationwide. And the Chevrolet Corvair, we all know what happened to the Corvair. But the Valient/Lancer hung around through the late 70s. and the Falcon is still a Ford brand in other countries. The DeSoto and the Edsel didn’t do well due to the 58 model year recession and because of the lack of their distinction. Due to the eroudiing of the Big Three market share all we see now are models being discontinued. That all started with the 73 oil crisis, and if that’s not enough, the UAW is trying finish the Big Three off with the un

    Like 2
    • RICK W

      I personally thought the final 61s (3200 produced) were the most striking of all DeSotos along with 61 Imperial LEBARON they went out with FINS soaring high as the grand finale to Exners OTT excess. Proposed 62 DeSoto styling was much like the disastrous 62 Plymouth and Dodge. Strange how Dodge quickly came out with Custom 880 which was much like 62 Chrysler.

      Like 0
    • RICK W

      The Dodge LaFemme (1956) started out as a concept aimed at women and had a companion aimed at men (which never made it to production. The LaFemme was actually a three tone combination, adding Grey to the two colors you mentioned.

      Like 1
    • Trey

      I think there are a lot of your conclusions that are more grounded on memories versus facts.

      Like 2
  12. Richard

    If this car spent its life in CA, and is relatively rust-free, it would likely be restorable at a reasonable cost.
    I’ve always loved the “Forward Look” Chrysler products. The DeSoto version would be especially rare.

    Like 0

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