1956 DeSoto Sportsman Hardtop - SOLD
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It has been recently and expensively restored with cost apparently being no object, because the paint, the bodywork, and the chrome are just spectacular.

If you’re younger than about 55 years old, “Desoto” is probably nothing more than a punchline from the TV show “Happy Days.” But in the 1950s, owning a Desoto was a big deal. It was Chrysler’s #2 brand, like GM’s Buick, and as a result, they could do a lot of exciting things that the more conservative guys at Chrysler wouldn’t and the more affordable guys at Dodge couldn’t. Awesome cars like this 1956 Desoto Fireflite Sportsman hardtop are the proof. By stealing Virgil Exner away from Studebaker and giving him $100 million to work with, Desoto built one of the most attractive cars of the ‘50s. Still big and covered in chrome, it neatly avoids the big, heavy, ponderous look of Buicks and Mercurys, and with HEMI V8 power, it was one of the most potent machines on the road. If you were a guy who’d made it and didn’t mind being a little flashy, the Desoto was the right choice.

This one is repainted in correct Shell Pink and Iridescent Gray, one of the signature color combinations shown in period catalogs and advertising. Maybe you’re not man enough for a pink car, but that doesn’t mean the Desoto isn’t manly. With the gray roof and sweep-spear trim, this is one fantastic-looking machine and it definitely has some swagger. It has been recently and expensively restored with cost apparently being no object, because the paint, the bodywork, and the chrome are just spectacular. Exner’s redesign delivered big in ’55, and in ’56, they added a set of modest fins that really finished the look of the “Hundred Million Dollar” cars. Up front, there’s a tidy mesh grille and cool vertical parking lights integrated into the bumper guards, all of which were changes for the better. Quality was superior as well, and you get doors that close with a very reassuring mechanical finality, excellent fit and finish, and a lot of stainless and heavy chrome that looks expensive. It’s not over-done (this is the ‘50s—was such a thing even possible) but in comparison to its competitors, this Sportsman looks lithe and trim, not bulky.

The interior was likewise restored to as-new condition with white leather and that funky pink brocade cloth with silver threads (which is how it’s described in the brochure). It’s expertly finished and looks very much as it would have in 1956, with an elegant, upscale impression that works extremely well with the two-tone bodywork. It’s bright and airy inside, but it’s not pastel overload thanks to the black carpets and dashboard. The white dashboard gives it a twin-cockpit feel even with a wide bench seat and we love the clock perched there on top. The big wheel is largely for style, as the car came with standard power steering, and it gives a clear view of the white-faced gauges in the dash. Most everything has been restored, although we believe the gauges are original and show some very light signs of age and the radio powers up but does not receive stations. Large knobs control the secondary controls and feel substantial and expensive, giving the impression that the $100 million was well spent where it matters. The back seat is big enough for adults and while the hardtop roofline is sporting, it doesn’t get claustrophobic in back. The seats are firm, the carpets are virtually unmarked, and the headliner remains in excellent condition, all hallmarks of quality work and excellent care. The trunk is upholstered in handsome gray carpets that are neatly fitted with proper bindings and it includes a full-sized spare that’s never been used.

Chrysler built a dizzying array of Hemi V8s in the early 1950s, with the Desoto Fireflite getting a 330 cubic inch variant good for a rather substantial 255 horsepower. The mid-sized Hemi makes great sounds and a big fat whack of torque, 350 pounds’ worth, to move the big coupe without much difficulty at all. Wearing corporate silver engine enamel, it’s beautifully detailed under the hood, with correct hardware throughout, from the heavy-duty air cleaner to the proper spring-style hose clamps to the unusual generator/power steering pump assembly. With a big Carter 4-barrel carburetor and dual exhaust, it moves like a much smaller car and it feels quite contemporary in its performance. It isn’t fussy, even when it’s cold, starting quickly and idling quietly at about 600 RPM. Squeeze the throttle and it moves out smartly and you may not realize that you’re still running on only two barrels. Push through the rather noticeable stop in the pedal travel and you’ll open the secondaries and the big coupe lunges forward, suddenly finding another 50 or 60 horsepower. It’s a lot of fun. You’ll note a new wiring harness, fresh battery, and other disposables under the hood, and you’ll look forward to opening it up at shows to happily answer the question, “That thing got a Hemi?” Yes, yes it does!

The 2-speed PowerFlite automatic transmission is about as close to indestructible as a thing with moving parts can be. It doesn’t suffer for lack of a passing gear with all that torque on tap, and once it shifts into high gear at about 12 MPH, you feel like you could accelerate forever. Someone spent the time to tweak this one, because the shift is clean and smooth, not jerky like most PowerFlites, and with 3.45 gears out back, it just loafs along at modern highway speeds in relative silence. The chassis shows off a rebuilt front end, new exhaust system with stainless Magnaflow mufflers that sound wonderfully aggressive, and exactly zero evidence of previous rust or rot repairs. There’s a light dusting of undercoating, surely applied to keep it low maintenance rather than to hide any problems, and every stamping mark and seam is clearly visible. New shocks, rebuilt brakes, fresh lines and hoses, and a fresh gas tank out back make this a car that’s ready to show or travel as you wish. And nothing looks better on a ‘50s Chrysler than those gorgeous chrome wire wheels (which were not made by Kelsey-Hayes as most people believe) and wide whitewall 235/75/15 wide whitewall radials.

The price guides are going to lie to you about the value of this car—several have already changed hands at auction for more than six figures. It is arguably the pinnacle of Chrysler’s ‘50s styling before the Forward Look took over and few mid-50s cars drive better. There is easily twice the asking price wrapped up in the restoration, which is truly spectacular, making this a car that you will be proud to own and drive. The only question remains: are you man enough for a pink Desoto? Call today!

Vehicle: 1956 DeSoto Sportsman Hardtop
Price: SOLD
Stock Number: 115045
Mileage: 84,390
VIN: 62050020
Engine: 330 cubic inch HEMI V8
Transmission: 2-speed automatic
Gear Ratio: 3.45
Wheelbase: 126 inches
Wheels: 15-inch chrome wire wheels
Tires: 235/75/15 wide whitewall radial
Exterior Color: Shell Pink over Iridescent Gray
Interior Color: Pink and white fabric and vinyl
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