A Puzzling Car: 1950 Custom DeSoto Custom

Chrysler introduced the DeSoto in 1928 as a mid-priced car. From 1939 until 1952, the Custom was DeSoto’s top of the line model. It came in 2 and 4 door versions and even a long-wheelbase model, the Suburban. This 2 door Desoto, listed on craigslist for $5,000 in Shingletown, California must have an interesting history. One would expect the side mount tire modification to have been applied to the the Suburban model or at least a four door. It runs and drives and appears to be a nice old car. There’s no history provided except that it was a barn find. Pat L certainly found an unusual old Desoto for us with several puzzling features.

The interior looks nice from the one picture in the posting, though not original, or at least not typical. One would expect to see a bench seat with cloth upholstery. Also, there is no back seat. The switches to the right of the steering wheel might look out of place but are actually stock.

Here’s the 109 horsepower 236 CID flathead six cylinder engine looking very original except perhaps for the routing of the fuel line with the inline filter. There’s no oil seepage showing, so perhaps this engine has had some attention, perhaps a rebuild, at some time.

Most folks wouldn’t give this old DeSoto a second glance, except perhaps at the side mounted tires. Some would appreciate the smooth quiet ride but many are underwhelmed by the vague steering, ponderous handling, and leisurely braking. There are some unique and puzzling features on the DeSoto. What sort of car needs side mount spare tires, individual front seats with vinyl upholstery, and no back seat? The tire mounts appear to have been very well done, much like a factory option. From what we can see in the ad, this looks like it could be a nice old driver and sure to get attention with those side mount spares. It would be very interesting to know the history of this old DeSoto. It needs at least chrome and paint but I would drive it just as it is.

Fast Finds


  1. Rock On Member

    Like the photos in the add with the flags attached to the front of the car.

  2. ron bajorek

    is this one of the Old Zippo Lighter Cars? Look for attachments/holes near the roof or on the Frame underneath

  3. whippeteer

    I would drive as is, but eventually upgrade it. Especially redoing the interior. I like the sidemounts.

  4. Ikey Heyman

    What’s going on with the hood? Can’t figure it out….

  5. DRV

    I think a foot was added to it when the fenders with sidemounts were added from another vehicle. That would explane the hood too.

  6. Al

    This Desoto, looks like an Argentinian model with the side-mounts.

  7. boxdin

    It would be nice to have a side view to really see the car.

    • CarNut from Winnipeg Member

      Side pic in the cl ad.

  8. Jim Morris

    I don’t think the hood was extended, I believe it has been cut so that the rear half has panels that open butterfly style to get at the engine, and the front is fixed. They probably took out the hood hinge area when the fender cut-ins were made.

    In pic 2, you can just see a latch holding down the front of the driver side panel.

    In the engine pic, there is a strip running down the center above the radiator hose that would not be there if the hood was open alligator style.

    It says is has no back seat, but is the panel between the trunk and interior also gone?

    It looks like someone made a salesmans car that went into rural areas (2 spares, sturdier seats) with something big inside (caskets?). The bucket seat upholstery seams look to be a more modern style than the era of the car.

    You could probably find the history of the car in old issues of Popular Mechanics or similar mags of the day.

    But its neat!

  9. Pierre STIEVENART

    Twin sidemounts: like wearing a belt and suspenders. I suspect there is a third spare in the trunk!
    I found such a hood ornament on a flea market in France!

  10. GaryC Gary charlton

    Whiskey runner? Naa, too slow. My guess would be a traveling salesman. Shoes, vacuum sweepers, hookers?? Heck I don’t know. Would be interesting to find out.
    Neat old car, BTW.

  11. Bill McCoskey

    In 1950 only a few manufacturers were still offering business coupes without a back seat. The DeSoto used the large Chrysler body, but Chrysler didn’t offer a business coupe. That suggests the DeSoto custom business coupe was probably the largest rear interior & trunk area of all the American cars.

    Many years ago I bought a 1948 Plymouth business coupe from the original owner, The spare tire had been mounted on a swing mount above the rear bumper to give extra room for luggage & Product samples. He sold International Harvester farm equipment, and used accurate 1/8 scale working models of things like the reaper & hay-baler to show farmers how the equipment worked. They were stored in large wooden boxes in the trunk. In buying the car, I tried to buy the samples too, but he had promised them to his grandkids!

    My guess is this Desoto was built by a local body shop to create the dual sidemount tire setup. It’s rather crude in construction, so it was clearly not built by a more professional body company like Derham.

    Back in the 1950 era, the BEST tires rarely lasted 10,000 miles, and with the state of local roads back then, you were lucky to get 5,000 miles between punctures & flats. A salesman working a rural route could easily run up 5,000 miles a month, and having a second spare tire could be the difference between making a couple of sales appointments or spending another day repairing/replacing tires.

  12. RushLakeBob

    Perhaps built as a rural router mail car? Having no back seat and two spares for those gravel country roads make this a good choice for that purpose.

  13. Gary Chittenden

    I just bought a 49 DeSoto Coupe.
    This one does look like it was bastardized to carry some sort of sales samples.
    DeSoto did not offer a business coupe, so the rear seat has been removed. The hood is a mess. I see no reason for this to have been done. The light up hood ornament is a hoot.
    I don’t know if I like those sidemounts. If they were covered and on the seven passenger, that would be fine.

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