Stored Since ’70: 1950 DeSoto Custom Suburban

A car “built for owner satisfaction”, the 1950 DeSotos were slightly restyled but it was more of a refresh than a major change. Those of us who were fans of the tv show, Happy Days, will have memories of a car like this 1950 DeSoto Custom Suburban 9-passenger sedan when we see these rare cars. This one can be found here on eBay in Marion, North Carolina with an unmet opening bid of $2,500. I almost hate to feature this car until I can somehow get over the urge to want to buy it.

Howard Cunningham – Tom Bosley – in the 1970s tv show, Happy Days, had a 1948 DeSoto Deluxe Suburban so it was slightly different but still unmistakable for those of us who grew up watching that classic show about the 1950s. Arguably, the most famous episode featuring his car was one where it gets modified for a drag race, that clip can be seen here on YouTube. That was such a great show, at least for its first two years before they went with a live audience and everyone started playing to the crowd rather than the camera. Back to this DeSoto…

You can see the slightly-redesigned rear fenders and tail lights on the 1950 car compared to the 1948 version in Happy Days. For being more than two decades before federally-mandated 5-mph bumpers, this car sure has giant and plain bumpers. DeSotos were second only to Checker for taxi duty in this era and I’m sure those big, round bumpers helped keep body damage to a minimum. As if this car wasn’t cool enough, it has rear suicide doors!

This really looks like a solid car and the seller mentions that it only has light rust and the floors and rockers are solid, although there is a rust hole in the spare tire compartment. The interior is huge but unfortunately, there are only two photos showing the interior. The only rear interior photo shows that area with the rear seats folded down which was a nice feature of these cars. The seller has known this car since 1970 and it has been inside that whole time. They have a lot of spare parts including an entire extra engine and transmission that comes with the sale.

The engine that’s in the car now is a Chrysler L-Head 236.7 cubic-inch inline-six which would have had 112 hp and 195 ft-lb of torque. Weighing in at well over two tons, you know that 112 hp isn’t a lot of power for today’s roads but this car wasn’t about speed, at least other than in episode 32 of Happy Days. The seller said that this engine was running a year ago after they cleaned the gas tank and installed new fuel lines and a fuel pump. Now it isn’t starting but I’m sure most of us could get it going again. Have any of you owned a DeSoto Suburban? And even more important, are you a fan of Happy Days?


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  1. LARRY

    Aaaayyyyy Mr C mash the gas!!…nice car and beautiful line’s you cannot beat these older cars for style. And if not satisfied with the I6 there’s plenty of room for a v8 of choice

    Like 2
  2. FordGuy1972 FordGuy1972 Member

    Interesting car, a big ‘un for sure with a 140 inch wheel base. The seller states it has three rows of seats, not quite as the extra row are jump seats. Looks pretty solid, the factory roof rack looks good on top and everybody likes those toothy grilles. I can’t see this going for a lot of money, though. The DeSotos, Chryslers and Plymouths were well built but before Virgil Exner styled the Forward Look cars, these were fairly dull looking. Still, it appears to be a complete car and with all those extra parts, you could have a nice cruiser for maybe not a lot of money. Gotta admit, it is different.

    Like 2
  3. Del

    One of those ugly Chryslers where the President of the company designed the car so that he could wear his Fedora while driving it.


    Like 1
    • bone

      nice comment !

    • Dave is NOT hideous. True that Mr. Keller designed them so that a gentleman could wear a hat…and many real gentlemen still do…including myself…and it’s one of the many reasons why we buy vintage automobiles. I can seat 6 guys with fedoras in mine..and wouldn’t want it any other way.

  4. Bob C.

    What a tank. It must be like riding in back of a Checker Cab.

    Like 2
  5. hatofpork

    I’m headed for the station with a pack on my back
    I’m tired of transportation in the back of a HACK
    I love to hear the rhythm of the clickety clack
    To hear the lonesome whistle see the smoke from the stack
    And hang around with democratic fellows named Mac, so
    Take me right back to the track, Jack

    Choo choo-Choo choo-cha boogie
    Choo choo-Choo choo cha boogie
    Woo woo-Woo woo-cha boogie
    Take me right back to the track, Jack

    I’m always reminded of this late-’40’s lyric when I see one of these. These cars define the word “hack” for me (as applied to taxicabs)

    Like 1
    • Mountainwoodie

      Louis Jordan was the man!

      Once these were everywhere in New York City even when I was a kid in the very early sixties……they are awesome tanks and this would be just the kind of tank my 16 year old self would have gladly paid a couple of hundred dollars for and dragged home.

      I wish I would still do that. Too much incoming flak would surely result. And dont call me Shirley!

      Like 2
  6. Dovi65

    Nice find. The DeSoto ‘Burbans are my favored DeSotos. It doesn’t matter that it’s not a big HP hemi, I’m about the journey, not the destination. Tho a more modern driveline with a bit more oomph wouldn’t hurt my feelings too much! Hopefully this one finds a good forever home

    Like 2
  7. Greg Y

    I had a friend in high school who drove his parents 1950 Desoto sometimes…it had that very odd Fluid Drive semi-automatic transmission. We thought the car was ugly as sin even then and the transmission made it seem like a wuss with the six cylinder L-head engine…but it was free to use and the folks bought his gas :)

    Like 1
  8. Rich Nepon

    I got picked up every summer day in the 50’s, for camp in a version of this for years, in Allentown Pa. Probably a taxi but I don’t recall any markings. I do remember the jump seats.

  9. BR

    Big Happy Days fan, and we had an all blue ’47 DeSoto Suburban replete with third row seats, radio, roof rack, Prest-O-Matic transmission, and fresh air heater. I actually got my first speeding ticket in it.

    Like 3
  10. Ken

    Groucho wouldn’t steer you wrong.

    Like 3
  11. Dave

    It never ceases to amaze me that many sellers attempt to market cars whch do not run, which are in deplorable condition….rusted, moth infested etc…which will require 10’s of thousands of dollars and months of restoration. Would they try to sell their home in such condition? I think not ! It is not a very intelligent way to sell something. In other words, one makes something, anything…presentable and functional before marketing the item !!

    Like 1
    • BR

      They are just flippers out to make easy money with little or no effort. And you know how I feel about flippers…………….

      Like 1
  12. Johnmloghry Johnmloghry Member

    My dad had a 39 Dodge with jump seats. They were designed a little different than these though, they were round and faced each other, it was 7 passenger which meant my one year older brother and me had to stand up behind the drivers seat one on each side of the car. It was solid black with grey interior. Sure wish I had it now. Great memories.
    God bless America

    Like 2
    • Bill McCoskey

      Those round jump seats is a dead give-away that you dad’s Dodge was built to the New York City Taxicab specifications.

  13. Ken

    Regarding the Happy Days clip: The guys who brought over the speed parts (two heads for a straight six engine?) obviously have no idea where to put them.

    The show was great for two seasons,and then they ruined it by shooting before a live audience, abandoning the 1950s pretense and turning Fonziemania into an annoying national obsession.

    Like 4
    • BR

      Clueless actors. Even more clueless to engine detail were the writers and producers. However, estimated that only 2% of viewing audience were true gearheads that would have caught it, it didn’t matter.
      Did you catch Fonzie wiping off the brake spring tool on top of the tool box?

      Like 1
      • Ken

        Yeah. You definitely need one of those when you’re installing a dual carb manifold. 😎

        Like 1
  14. Frank

    Brings back memories of NYC Taxis of my childhood! This DeSoto and I were born in the same year!

  15. Ken

    Seems Howard Cunningham switched his allegiance to Studebaker in 1956.

    I didn’t know Golden Hawks could fly.

    Like 2
  16. Richard Gugenberger

    My aunt and uncle had a Hotel in the upstate NY , they had a Desoto just like this one it was used to pick up guests at the train station also served as a Taxi. The Hotel burned down and the Desoto was traded for a 1959 Plymouth Fury .

  17. Scotty Gilbertson Staff

    Auction update: this fantastic project car sold for $2,500 with a single bid! Which one of you bought it?!

    Like 1
  18. On and On On and On Member

    Awesome buy. Congratulations to the winner. You’ve got a real car there. My Dad had a 49 sedan when I was 4years old. remember it well. Drive it in good health for many miles of smiles.

    Like 1
  19. Jay B

    Been waiting for this one.

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