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Forward Looker: 1955 DeSoto Fireflite Sportsman

1955 was a pivotal year for the Chrysler Corporation, heralded by the arrival of Virgil Exner’s “Forward Look,” the first range of cars from the company that had been truly styled rather than designed around engineering dictates. Things got even more dramatic with the 1957 models (“Suddenly, it’s 1960!”), but the first Forward Look cars were lookers indeed, and in my opinion few were prettier than DeSoto’s new top-of-the-line Fireflite Sportsman two-door hardtop. This all-original example may have seen prettier days, but it runs and drives well and would be fairly easy to return to its former glory, making it seem like a good amount of car for its $11,900 asking price. If you think so, too, you can find it on eBay out of Lakeville, Connecticut.

The DeSoto shared the larger of the company’s two basic bodies with Chrysler and Imperial. The Imperial and the hot new Chrysler 300 existed on an entirely different plane, but compared to the standard Chryslers, I feel that the DeSoto has cleaner front end styling and better integrated taillights, and the Fireflite adds an extra dose of ’50s flair with its unique two-tone treatment on the bodysides. It’s hard to tell what the original color combo was on this car, although in a few spots what looks like a reddish or burnished copper color can be made out on the roof and sidespear—at least I think it’s a color, not just surface rust! There’s certainly plenty of that, too. What there isn’t apparently, is any rust-through or serious structural issues that the seller deems worthy of mention, although I’d want to be sure.

The ’55 DeSotos were really ready to take “flite;” here is the Fireflite hemi V8, distinguished by a Carter four-barrel carburetor for a total output of 200 horsepower. This was mated to a Powerflite automatic transmission, operated via the Flite Control lever on the dash (at far right in the linked photo). This car sounds pretty healthy mechanically; the seller testifies that it’s driven regularly and that “It starts and runs quietly, accelerates nicely, shifts properly and stops easily.” A good amount of important maintenance work is described as well, so this could be a fun cruiser right out of the gate.

Seeing the turquoise accents in this interior, I’m rethinking my conviction about the two-tone paint—I must have been seeing rust, because there’s no way this car would have been red outside and turquoise inside! The dash looks pretty straight, but I don’t think I’d want to handle that steering wheel too much, and I expect that the cover is concealing leather upholstery that needs replacing. That’s an original dealer-installed air conditioner, by the way.

The chromeography is strong on this handsome coupe! There’s plenty that can be done cosmetically to spruce it up, but the good news is that the body is extremely straight, the chrome looks pretty nice, and most of the trim is intact. With solid mechanicals, I think it’s rare and pretty enough to be totally worth it—what do you think?



    Drivetrain…suspension…interior…wheels…paint…the works.
    The car should be redone with the worship of that sick front grille being the focus.

  2. Sam

    Awesome cruiser! Pearl white with bronze roof and side spears, nice tan leather interior, Kelsey Hayes wires, lower it a tad….good times.

  3. On and On On and On Member

    My dad’s family were De Soto folks. I spent time as a kid back in the 50’s riding in these. They were cool well built and thoughtfully designed cars. I could stare at the grill for hours……………………P.S. I miss Howard’s commentary. I know he would have had something to say about this one. Come on back buddy.

  4. Neil

    I’m curious – says the engine has been run – but looking at the photo of the engine bay the drive belts – certainly for the A/C compressor and the dynamo – all seem to be missing???

  5. Harvey Peever

    Chrysler put out some plain looking and plain ugly cars in the late 50’s and into the 60’s but not this one. She’s pretty.

  6. Brian B

    Great car but a pretty steep price

  7. Rustytech Member

    I agree this was and is a great car. Problem is it needs lots of work, and it ain’t going to be cheap, especially it there are leather seats under those covers. In its current condition, I’d drop no more than $7k. I’d give this the 3 tone treatment. Antique white with turquoise spear and black top.

  8. Ben T. Spanner

    My Father bought a 1955 Desoto Firedome (lower trim level than the Fireflite) in January 1956. Two tone green. Green interior. No ac (North Eastern Ohio). The dash did not have the pod mounted clock. It could haul butt, but the typical mid 1950’s brakes were iffy.

    I955 Fords, Chevy’s and Plymouths rusted quickly in the salt belt. The Desoto didn’t. Maybe because we had water and drains in the garage, and I, as a 10 year old, washed it frequently.

    This was the first car we had with power steering and brakes. Both were touchy with very light operation. Its stable mate until 1958 was a 1951 Dodge Diplomat 2 door hardtop with Gyromatic. Two entirely differnt cars which were only 4 years apart.

  9. Dwight

    I “learned” to drive a six cylinder automatic 1960 Ford Falcon. After I scheduled my Ohio driver’s test…the Falcon decided to blow a head gasket. I then had to take our other car…a blue and white four door version of the 1955 Desoto Fireflight for the test. Slide that beast into the parallel parking test on the first try…with ease. Love that car…the shift lever on the dash, the get up and go, the “back seat.” Unfortunately I was out of town working when my Dad decided to trade it in on a new 1968 Chevrolet Biscayne. The dealer only allowed him $200 trade in value. I would have given him more than that! It only had one small rust hole in a rear quarter…the size of a quarter. Other than that the paint was beautiful…thanks to my paste waxing the beast several times a year.

  10. chad

    rode in the back seat of our parents 2 doors (1955) cuz my 4 yrs older sis had played w/the handle on a 4 door & the folks hadda pull over’n walk back to pick ‘er up at road side. Never had a sense of smell (musta knocked ‘er head then?). Can’t remember -she was a straight As student all the way thru college.
    But, I tell ya what, we had 2 door cars from then on till we 2 could understand/follow directions~

  11. Brent Sponsler

    I remember when I was seven 1956 my dad bought one that was Salmon and grey. We went from Ohio to Rhode Island. Family of 5 and we made it alive!

  12. DrewP

    I second, third, and fourth the no-belts issue under das hood, plus, imagine using that steering wheel “daily”……….

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