Thursday, November 17, 2016


1932 Desoto Coupe

Color photographs by the author

The author attended the 27th annual ‘Autumn Get-together’ hosted by the Good Guys Rod & Custom Association at the Alameda County Fairgrounds and spied this very rare1932 DeSoto Standard Coupe.

Chrysler Corporation announced the formation of the DeSoto division in May 1928, and the first new 1929 Desoto cars rolled out of the former Graham-Paige factory building on Lynch Road  the west side of Detroit  in July 1928. DeSoto automobiles, named after the mid-16th century Spanish explorer 9and discoverer of the Mississippi River) Hernando de Soto, were envisioned by Chrysler its mid-priced line positioned between Chrysler and Dodge.

The first three years DeSoto offered both eight- and six-cylinder powered models, but after 1931 sales dropped by 50%, the all-new 1932 DeSoto was only offered with 211-cubic inch inline six-cylinder engines which produced 75 horsepower that nearly matched the output of the eight cylinder engine.  
Note the similarity of the 1932 Desoto grille to that of the Miller 91
The restyled 1932 DeSoto featured a beautiful “barrel style” grill that mimicked those of the Miller 91-cubic inch race cars which dominated American Automobile Association (AAA) speedway racing from 1926 to 1929. The Deluxe models featured dual horns alongside the grille, dual taillights and dual windshield wipers. All DeSotos featured a striking windshield design which appeared to be split but was in fact a single piece of safety glass.

Mechanically, the 1932 DeSoto featured “floating power” a system by which the inline six-cylinder engine was suspended at three points in the chassis to isolate vibration, Lockheed hydraulic brakes and an optional (for $20) “freewheeling” transmission. By pulling a lever the vacuum actuated system pulled the clutch pedal to the floor any time when the driver lifted their foot from the accelerator.   DeSoto print advertisements claimed that the new cars provided a “new thrill” with “effortless driving.” 
The United States was entering the worse years of the Great Depression and DeSoto prices were low a 2-door coupe like the one  photographed sold for $695.
This one had the Deluxe dual taillights and wipers, but not the horns.  

DeSoto utilized the services of two famous Indianapolis racing drivers in promotion of the all-new car.  Peter DePaolo the 1925 Indianapolis 500-mile race winner and holder of the record for the fastest 500-mile race ever run at 101.127 miles per hour (MPH).
DePaolo left the DeSoto factory on March 15 1932 on a ten-day 3000 mile promotional tour which was climaxed by a 300-mile speedway run. DePaolo later toured dealership across the country with the $22,000 working model DeSoto assembly line which was twenty feet long and four feet wide and actually produced tiny model DeSotos. 
Prior to DePaolo’s March 1932 departure Detroit Mayor William F Murphy looks over the DeSoto miniature factory. Murphy later served as Michigan Governor, United States Attorney General and as a justice on the United States Supreme Court   Photo appears courtesy of the Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University

The following year retired racing driver Harry Hartz the 1926 AAA champion was employed by Chrysler to drive a 1933 DeSoto Sedan cross-country. The unusual part of the promotion was that the sedan’s body had been reversed on the frame; the driver sat in the same position but looked out through the enlarged rear window. Surprisingly, engineers found that the DeSoto’s fuel economy improved by 20 percent.
Interestingly the lives of these two DeSoto drivers intersected as DePaolo’s seven-year old speed record was broken by Fred Frame in his victory at the 1932 ‘500’ as he drove a car built and owned by Harry Hartz.

Unfortunately DeSoto sales did not improve from 1931 with just 25,096 cars built for the 1932 model year. Like the rest of the auto industry sales fell even further in 1933 with just over 22,000 DeSotos built. For 1934 Chrysler introduced the aerodynamic Airflow, which Hartz used to set 32 new national speed records at Bonneville Salt Flats, but the DeSoto Airflow was a sales disaster with just of 14,000 sold in 1934.

 Coming soon we will take a look at an example of the first post-World War Two DeSoto.

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