After having been so rudely interrupted by Pearl Harbor, domestic auto production resumed in 1946. GM, Ford, Chrysler and the independents — Packard, Studebaker, Nash, Hudson — had spent the war years building tanks, planes and whatever was needed to ensure victory over the Axis powers. This United Auto Workers song gives an encapsulated history of the union’s efforts to organize Ford Motor and to rally behind the war effort. It really speaks volumes about that extraordinary time.
Initial postwar cars were, essentially, carry overs from the 1942 model year as was this ’47 or ’48 DeSoto sedan we found the other day mouldering away and dragging its tail a bit. It’s impressive in terms of sheer mass and presence — the roof being more than 5′ 6″ above the road) and that front grill is straight out of the deco age.
We think it just hangs around the eastern fringe of Hollywood hoping to be cast in a remake of a film noir of the era like Dead Reckoning starring George Clooney in the Bogart role and Scarlett Johansson in the part Lizabeth Scott (born Emma Matzo — no kidding!) created. Hard core hip-hopper culture devotees should check on this “grill.” Surely, it will soon be the envy of L’il Wayne.
DeSoto was an object of middle class aspirations to move up a notch from lower class Dodge but stopping short of the old money subtext underpinning the upmarket Chrysler. The back end on this one seems to have given way though it may have been intentionally lowered. Tough guys know that a few stiffs in the trunk tend to make a car ride on the low side and draw suspicion which some might think a “dead giveaway.”
In an earlier post we covered this ’49 Packard Custom 8, photographed by Feral Cars Field Scout Davin Seay. It, too, seems to have been designed by adherents of the pontoon school of styling back in New Deal days. Packard was a car for patricians, Cadillac being for the nouveau riche as well as for prosperous, yet showy, ethnic types. While a DeSoto could be had for far less than a Packard, Chevrolet was very much an entry level play.
We’re just nuts about the patina on this, apparently, untouched mid-line ’48 Chevrolet Fleetmaster sedan. It’s noteworthy that all the trim pieces, both bright and body-colored, are right where they should be and all are in undamaged, original condition. We do think those whitewalls and the chrome wheel trim rings are un peu de trop for a car with such unassuming working class roots. Then, again, maybe they’re a reflection of hopes for upward mobility during that ever so optimistic post war era.
The origins of the brand names of these three cars bear addressing. Packard, the oldest marque here, was founded in Warren, Ohio in 1899 by brothers James Ward Packard and William Doud Packard. Chevrolet came next, founded next in 1911. The car was initially a partnership between former Fiat and Buick race car driver Louis Chevrolet (b.1878 in the Swiss canton of Neuchâtel) and GM founder Billy Durant, then on the outs with the company, to build a low priced Ford competitor.
DeSoto is, strictly, the product of marketing. The name on Chrysler’s one-step-down (from Chrysler, itself) and two-steps-up (from Plymouth and Dodge) marque was derived from Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto. This was an obvious attempt to mimic Cadillac, named in 1902 after the French explorer who 200 years earlier, founded Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit. While he’s credited for being the first Westerner to see the Mississippi River back in 1541, de Soto’s resume also includes the destruction of the Inca civilization, introducing plagues of fatal diseases to the New World, not to mention the wholesale massacre of indigenous people. And you thought Jeep’s Cherokee is an example of corporate insensitivity!
Badging on our ’48 DeSoto is a mid-century vamp on Hernanado de Soto’s family coat of arms. That’s a profile of the fun-loving conquistador, himself, above a stylized representation of his crest. Class! See?
DeSoto, Packard, Chevrolet and lots of other makes are chronicled in this Noire Car video guide with a very ‘cool school’ vibe.
We sincerely urge you to purchase this extended wheelbase 1946 DeSoto Custom that has only 76,000 miles. You’ll make the $19K asking price back in a few weeks by renting out this 7-passenger party van of its day for weddings, bar mitzvahs and bank robberies.
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