The DeSoto Firedome

From the 1930’s to the 1960’s, Chrysler was offering a brand of vehicles called DeSotos.  In 1953, a vehicle was introduced for DeSoto’s premium line called the Firedome.  The Firedome was released just prior to DeSoto’s 25th anniversary as the top series vehicle replacing the Custom nameplate that ceased in 1952.

The first model of the Firedome boasted a Hemi V8 engine that produced 160hp and topped speeds of 100mph.  It could go 0-60mph in 15.5 seconds. This was the first time since 1931 that DeSoto had used an 8-cylinder engine.  The car could seat 6 passengers and was offered in a 4 door sedan, a 5 door station wagon, a 2 door coupe and a 2 door convertible.  It cost $2740 and over 64,000 were produced in its first year.

In 1955, DeSoto dropped its 6-cylinder Powermaster series and added the topline Fireflite series, which degraded the Firedome to an entry-level series. This was not a cheap vehicle for an entry-level series and it came with many more options than the previous Powermaster series.  During 1955-56, the V8 engine remained but went from a 276ci to a 291ci engine. Though it was advertised that the Firedome came with a standard 2-speed automatic transmission, it actually came with a 3-speed manual transmission, though very few cars were made that way.

In 1957, when DeSoto introduced the Firesweep, the Firedome was pushed up-market to a midline series.  The 1958 Firedome’s horsepower was increased to over 300 and a 361ci V8 engine was added.  This allowed the car to top out at 115mph and go from 0-60mph in under 8 seconds.  Even with these great upgrades, sales dropped more than 60%, partially due to the economy and because of some build issues with the ‘57 model.

DeSoto tried to win customers back by offering the 1959 model in 26 solid colors and 190 two-tone finishes, but it was to no avail.  Customers started to hear rumors of the phasing out of the DeSoto line and lost interest in their vehicles.  The Firedome’s production ended in 1959 and in 1960, DeSoto only released the Fireflite and Adventurer.  48 days after their release, on November 30, 1960, the DeSoto line of vehicles was ended after 32 years of production.

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