Pushes A Lot Of Buttons: 1956 DeSoto Garage Find

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This car not only pushes my buttons, whomever buys it and drives it gets to push buttons as well! It’s located in Phoenix, Arizona where it was recently removed from more than 30 years of storage in a garage. The seller has cleaned it up and checked some things out, and is now selling it here on craigslist for $5,400.

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“That’s not the same car, you say!” Actually, it is, after it’s been nicely cleaned up! The seller tells us the car has been an Arizona car since at least the early 1960’s, but possibly for it’s entire life. The paint is brittle but can shine up (as you can see). Chrome is “fantastic” and that old license plate adds just the right character. Personally I think this car does a great job of appearing sporty despite being a four door.

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Pretty doggone straight sides, don’t you think? I even found you a replacement tailight for that broken lens. I love the detailing here; not too much, not too little — just right! Those beautiful wide whitewalls are brand new from Coker Tire. The seller seems delighted over the car’s condition when they say “All the lights outside and inside work, including the turn signals and dash and dome lights. The power windows still go up and down. Even the original radio still plays!” Sometimes I wonder why folks sell cars (my track record of selling cars I think I’m going to isn’t very good).

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The dashboard looks like it belongs on a sports car, apart from the push button transmission controls on the left, anyway. The seller tells us that the dash is in nice shape, and that there’s even an extra chrome horn ring, gauge cluster and dash parts. I think the upholstery and carpet are probably only good for patterns, but at least they are there.

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Well what do you know! Air conditioning in 1956! Who knows if it can be restored or not, but I’d sure try — how literally cool!

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Unfortunately, the 331 Hemi is locked up at the moment, although, of course, we are told it was driven into the storage location originally. The seller has squirted oil down the holes, but has done nothing else to try to free it up. Given the generally nice condition of the rest of the car, I’d be surprised if it was abused before the car was taken off the road, which based on the license plate was 1972. I really do like this one, and honestly, once I made it running and safe, I don’t know that I’d even restore the interior–I’d just enjoy it!

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Comments

  1. Capt Doug

    A sympathetic springs, foam padding and relatively original looking seat restoration would not really be very much $$ and if the engine can be revived with modest effort this car is a wonderful addition to any full size garage.

  2. Dave Wright

    One of the cars I mourn selling was a 56 Desoto convertible Indy pace car. It was 2 tone gold with georges chrome and leather.,….I bought it from a junk yard near Salt Lake about 1981, needed a rear quarter panal but had a great running Hemi ………..should have kept that one.

  3. Fred W.

    Not likely the engine will free up after 45 years off the road, but otherwise a nice car. The “trunk” A/C was common back then and surprisingly there are vintage air companies that can supply you with a brand new one or just the under hood components.

  4. Howard A Member

    This car, I don’t believe was an Az. car. ( not sure where the plate came from) This car was advertised by a car dealer in Cal. last year,( with no plate) nowhere near as clean. It appears some one bought the car, cleaned it up, never got it running, ( or did and it froze up) it sat for a while, and someone re-cleaned it. The a/c is pretty crude. It sucks hot air from the center vent and blows cold out the other 2 vents in the rear package tray. Really nice car, but that hemi, IDK. A person may want to go another route. Since I’m an old fart, I’d even consider a big flathead 6, even though, ’54 was the last year for the 6 in a DeSoto. This particular hemi is a heavy, oily, gas gulping slug, not like the fire-breathing hemi’s at Bristol today. You’d have a nice car for low investment.

    • rmward194 Member

      The plates are AZ plates from 1972. Whether or not they were always on this car is another thing. The seller states it was found in a “North Phoenix” garage, but much of what is considered North Phoenix today didn’t exist in 1972. I live in North Phoenix and not many homes are that old.

    • Bill McCoskey

      Howard — That A/C unit is a Mark IV aftermarket set up. The 2 round ducts on the top are the intake ports, the center rectangular port is the cold air output, just like an original Mopar Airtemp unit would be.

      The first generation hemi engine is a great choice for these cars as it’s got loads of torque to handle it’s weight, and spare engine rebuild parts are fairly easy to find. If the car was in Arizona for most of the time, it’s probably a simple case of ring lock from sitting. It will take time, but if the cylinders are filled with oil and allowed to sit long enough, it should “unstick” the rings. That said, it can also mean the rings will no longer seat well, and the engine may burn a bit of oil with use. With a dry climate, it’s unlikely moisture build up in the crankcase would have caused the cylinders to rust to the point where the pistons are rusted to the cylinder walls.

      I’ve used a mix of 50% ATF and 50% Liquid Wrench [non-aerosol version], and it’s freed up engines that have sat for 50+ years, with no oil burning problems after the fact.

      If the car has sat in a humid area, or the engine had problems with coolant leakiing into the crankcase, since the pistons are aluminum alloy and the cylinders are steel, a type of corrosion from the dissimilar metals can begin once the original coating of oil on the cylinders & pistons goes away, and rust forms from excessive moisture, to the point where the ferrous oxide from the rust contacts the pistons. This causes a galvanic action between the metals — it often looks like a white crusty material.

      Those of us who have had British cars of the 30s thru the 70s equipped with Girling aluminium [aluminum] rear brake cylinders will be familiar with this problem, the wheel cylinders were aluminum, the pistons inside were steel. Most of the pistons became hopelessly frozen in the cylinders. Even 100 psi of compressed air would rarely free the pistons!

  5. Todd Zuercher

    Although the plates look like they’re from 1972, I’d bet $1 that they’re actually ’73 plates. Arizona didn’t issue year-specific plates in ’72 – they’ve been on a multi-year cycle for many years:

    http://www.azplates.com/pass1956-05.htm

    Unlike a lot of other states that used to issue new plates each year. And those plates were kept in use for many years as long as the vehicle was kept on the road. The ’73 plates on my ’69 Bronco were in use up until the mid-90s when I went to a personalized plate. So it’s hard to know how long it’s been off the road.

    Howard A. – it sure looks like that plate is on the car in its as-found condition – covered with dust. We Phoenicians know a layer of dust like that can accumulate quickly here in the desert!

    The CL ad states it was found in a north central Phoenix garage – which was the north end of town in the ’60s. I live about 1.5 miles from this car and my house was built in 1960.

    If anyone wants me to check this out – I’m close.

    Now back to our 118 degree day here – I’m thinking maybe I should go take the non-A/C old buggy out for a cruise!

    • Howard A Member

      Hi Todd, I thought that too, but here’s the ad, from Ga. sorry, not Cal. dated March, 24, 2015. I think it’s the same car. https://www.carsforsale.com/vehicle/details/5470351

      • PaulG

        Not the same car, but the GA ad has some good underhood pictures…

      • Todd Zuercher

        Agree they’re not the same car. Eastern car has different colored instrument panel and an additional instrument (likely an altimeter) on the dash pad.

  6. Old geezer

    This is a nice car but it’s still a 4 door sedan. Buick was already building 4 dr hard tops by 1955 and with much better engines (nailheads)
    The sedans do not bring enough money to justify any restoration. Beautiful well preserved samples can be easily purchased at auctions for around 10-12k, making this car a risky investment at best.

  7. Wayne

    Can never understand why you Yanks disdain 4 door sedans. Much more practical and generally a better proportioned profile, but to each his own. There’s no accounting for taste.

  8. Roger Meisenbach

    Two other reasons this is not the GA car: (1) this car is turquoise and white; GA car is pale blue and white. (2) this car has what was considered an aftermarket AC unit even though it could have been installed on a new car by a dealer . . . it simply cooled and recirculated inside air . . . the GA car has a factory-installed AC unit with exterior air scoop intakes vented to the trunk-mounted evaporator (a fresher idea). Anyone needing a complete factory AC unit for ’55-’56 Mopar, contact me.

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