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1959 DeSoto Fireflite Sportsman Barn Find!


In the late 1950s, the auto industry was witnessing the collapse of the Edsel, Ford’s ambitious effort that flamed out after little more than two years on the market. Fewer noticed the decline that DeSoto was experiencing over at Chrysler, which would come to an end after 33 years. They were good cars, no worse yet no better than anything else that Chrysler produced. This 1959 Fireflite Sportsman was part of the noble effort to keep DeSoto afloat and has survived with its original paint intact after staying in a barn for 30 years. The finned Mopar can be found in Albany, Oregon where the no reserve auction here on eBay stands at $15,100.

The DeSoto automobile was named after the Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto who discovered the Mississippi River in the 1500s. DeSoto the car was built by the DeSoto Division of Chrysler from 1928 to 1961. During this time, more than two million DeSoto vehicles were assembled for consumption in North America, a far cry more than the Edsel saw. Many contribute to the decline of the DeSoto to things becoming too crowded at Chrysler with so many similar cars across multiple makes.

In 1959, there were four separate DeSoto lines of automobiles offered, with the Fireflite being one rung down from the top. When you ordered the Fireflite, you got everything that buyers of the lesser Firesweeps and Firedomes got, but also a 4-barrel carburetor with the 383 cubic inch V-8 (325 hp) and the pushbutton TorqueFlite as standard equipment. Everything else was related to more trim and various doodads.

This 1959 Fireflite Sportsman (the designation for a 2-door hardtop) was recently pulled from a covered barn where it had been at rest for at least 30 years. It participated in a car show and then was promptly retired for reasons unknown. It still wears its factory Pearl White paint with surface rust in a few places and great chrome except part of the rear bumper. The rest of the body looks to be in good shape with no further mention of corrosion.

The seller did get the car running after replacing several items but does not go into detail as to how well it does its job now. New parts include the fuel pump, oil pump, and some of the braking system, and the gas tank was cleaned out as well. The wording in the ad is a bit confusing regarding tires and carpeting. They may have been replaced or may have just been ordered; somewhat vague. The car is going to need work on the exhaust system, too. The seller provides before and after photos of the Fireflite i.e. dirt on, dirt off.

Once inside the DeSoto, the original interior is largely intact. The gold and red combination is interesting, but not my cup of tea. The dash and headliner are good, while the front seat has a split in a seam that will need attending to. The aforementioned carpeting will need to be addressed. Not bad though for a 61-year-old car that has been dormant half its life with 88,000 reported miles on the clock.

1958 was a down year for new car sales and DeSoto was no exception. But while the industry perked back up in 1959, the DeSoto continued to slide. Total production was 45,000 autos that year, with 9,000 being Fireflites and less than 1,400 of those the Sportsman hardtop. So, the seller’s car was in a limited company when new and is likely quite scarce today. With the handwriting on the wall, further investment in DeSoto tooling stopped in 1960 with the integration of Chrysler and DeSoto when unibody construction was rolled out for 1960. And just a couple of months into the 1961 model year and the DeSoto was gone.

Due to their lower production numbers, you might think the resale values of DeSotos would be greater than other Chrysler products of the era. They’re not. Hagerty thinks that a top-line ’59 Fireflite could be worth close to $20,000, so this one looks as though it may be coming near to topping out. They’re only original once and I hope the next owner keeps restoration work at a minimum. Despite their declining demand in the late 1950s, these cars maybe some of the best styling work that Virgil Exner did with his Forward Look generation of late ‘50s “spaceships.”


  1. Avatar photo Fahrvergnugen Member

    IMHO the ’59 DeSoto is such a better looking car than the Dodge version, which looks needlessly pissed off. This, classy.

    Attend to the carpet (checking the floors) and address rubber bits, stitch up the seams and stand out in a crowd while enjoying this ride!!

    Like 28
    • Avatar photo Daved

      Your comment has really pissed off my ‘59 Dodge! 😡🤣

      Like 6
  2. Avatar photo Steve R

    What do you know, a seller actually went to the trouble of washing and detailing their “barn find”. Hopefully they will be rewarded for their effort and this will become a trend, especially since this car turned out looking really nice in the pictures.

    Steve R

    Like 40
  3. Avatar photo DETROIT LAND YACHT

    Good looking sled.
    Sleek…and stylish for the era.
    Well done tail fins…and you can see an evolution where they would’ve blended perfectly into the vertical tali lights.

    Like 11
  4. Avatar photo Phlathead Phil 🇺🇸

    Beautiful! And, they WASHED it.

    This car is truly a ‘Time Capsule’ and the stuff legends are made of.

    Hope it goes to a loving caretaker/owner.

    Like 22
  5. Avatar photo Howard A Member

    The memories alone are worth it. The 1st car I remember riding in was my parents ’59 DeSoto 4 door. I don’t remember much, except the ribbon speedo that changed from green to yellow to red( we always wondered what , if anything, was after red?) The old man was a conservative driver, and we rarely saw the red( over 60, I think). Laying on the back package tray, the old man hit the brakes, we’d go flying, unthinkable today and it barely fit in our garage. This is just a fantastic find, and a few ’61’s were sold, even a ’62 was on the books but for the most part, after 1960, Groucho Marx’s bread and butter was gone. “It’s delightful, it’s delovely, it’s DeSoto”. I think the ’57 was his favorite. In case some don’t know who that was, and it’s perfectly understandable, Groucho Marx was huge TV celebrity in the 50’s, when TV was just coming out. People trusted Grouchos word. Help sell most, if not all DeSotos, You bet( your life, was the name of the show).

    Like 22
    • Avatar photo Angel Santiago Saltamontes

      I wish someone had thought (maybe they did?) to see about a DeSoto or Plymouth HEARSE for Groucho’s final ride. I’m sure Otis P. Driftwood, Hugo Hackenbush, Professor Quincy Adams Wagstaff, Rufus T. Firefly AND Julius “Groucho” Marx would have thought this a “capital!” suggestion.
      —Had it occurred to anyone, i think even the Big Guy would have loved it had the rabbi allowed The Duck to fly down at a “secret woid” in the soivice.
      —Ah, DeSoto. Gone too soon, but better you didn’t see, or become, what was on the road ahead.

      Like 8
      • Avatar photo Steve Clinton


        Like 3
      • Avatar photo Bill McCoskey Member

        When Groucho Marx died, they used a modern Cadillac hearse.

        When Walter P. Chrysler passed away in 1940, Chrysler Corporation execs made the wise decision to use a Chrysler hearse. Since they were always very rare, The only one available was a 1934 Chrysler Airflow that had been modified into a side loading hearse. They had the car rushed to Detroit where it was quickly restored for the funeral. More info & photo is available at:


        Like 0
    • Avatar photo Karen Bryan

      “…when you go into your DeSoto dealer, tell ’em Groucho sent you.” We had a car-freak friend who made that phrase his ringtone.

      Like 10
    • Avatar photo DON

      JLTV still occasionally airs the old “You Bet Your Life” show ; and once in a while a Plymouth / Desoto commercial is shown.

      Like 4
  6. Avatar photo Fin Guy

    These fins are millions of miles ahead of the socalled, 57 iconic cheebie.
    Cartoons used these fins and multi level tail lights thousands of times.
    Thats Iconic.
    Had a few Desotos.
    Two tone, should be.

    Like 4
    • Avatar photo Will Fox

      Not sure if you ever saw it Fin Guy, but there was a newspaper cartoon for some years called, “Shoe”. Characters in the cartoon were all birds! Anyhoo, Shoe himself drove a pink & white `59 DeSoto Fireflite! However, in the strip they never directly mentioned what brand that car was; the local seagull was his mechanic and hated working on that old sled!

      Like 12
      • Avatar photo Paolo

        I loved that strip.

        Like 4
      • Avatar photo Major Thom

        Actually, it was driven by the “Professor”, a bird wearing a rumpled tweed suit, not Shoe. And it was referred to in the strip as the DeSoto fairly often.

        Like 4
      • Avatar photo Ed P

        Shoe is still available on Gocomics.com

        Like 3
      • Avatar photo Bill McCoskey Member

        Will Fox,

        Shoe was written by Jeff MacNelly, and was first published in the Washington Post. As a local Washingtonian into old cars [and an owner of a 1959 DeSoto sedan], having seen the 1959 DeSoto in the strips, I contacted Jeff and we met for lunch in DC. If my memory is correct, he lived in Northern Virginia. He never owned a DeSoto, but found the ’59 “fascinating to draw” [his words].

        Like 1
  7. Avatar photo OIL SLICK

    I’m looking for a 57 2-door

    Like 1
  8. Avatar photo Turbo

    I like cheese

    Like 1
    • Avatar photo Paolo

      Are you a man or are you a mouse?

      Like 1
      • Avatar photo Turbo

        My ex wife says I’m a rat

        Like 5
  9. Avatar photo Russ Ashley

    We had a 57 Desoto when the word came out that the Desoto brand would be discontinued. I remember my Dad saying that the value of our car would drop after that. He might have been right but it didn’t really matter as he kept it until it didn’t have any value left, and then he either sold it or gave it away. I was living 250 miles away by then and never did ask what happened to it.

    Like 2
  10. Avatar photo frank orzechowski

    Desoto was replaced by the Chrysler Newport, as a matter of fact the Newport came with a floor mounted gearshift. I remember walking into a dealership and seeing one on the showroom floor. This was the first or second year of the Newport.

    Like 2
  11. Avatar photo ADM

    A 4 barrel 383 with a Torqueflite. It didn’t get much better than that, in ’59.

    Like 1

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