Category Archives: DeSoto

Postwarriors: “the greatest generation” revisited

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.

Delightfullly delovely

Delightfullly delovely and, yes, that’s an AMC Hornet aft of its stern

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.


Bulbosity sans filler cap

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.

Thrill grill

Thrill grill

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.”

Sophie Tucker, your Uber is here.

“Sophie Tucker, your Uber car has arrived.”

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.

Heavy Chevy

Heavy Chevy

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.


Qualifies for Medicare

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!

Hernando's ride away

Hernando’s rideaway

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.

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com.  Include your name, location of the car and some thoughts about the vehicle and we’ll look into getting it posted



MK IX mk’d down

This little beauty has got to go!

This little beauty has got to go!

Not too long ago we discovered a rare and stately 1959 Jaguar MK IX (“mark nine” to us commoners) and posted some photos and a commentary about it which you can read here.

With the bearing of a Rolls and the sporting affect of the Jag that it is, it made a big impression on us but we’re not alone.  Our friends at Bring A Trailer spotted this very car for sale on Craigslist for $11,000.

Seems like a bargain insofar you get so much for comparatively little but the truth is this kitty could use some work to bring it up to snuff.  Still, we like to think that even as a quasi-static piece of sculpture, it has real charm.  If you threw another $20K into it you might be able to drive it around and impress the punters.

One more, we present its sumptuous rear seating/dining area for your perusal.

Tray tables set in the downright position

Tray tables set in the downright position

We mentioned that Kim Novak drove one in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo and found a still from the film to share. Our assumption is that Kim’s Madeleine character threw herself into the chilly waters beneath the Golden Gate Bridge because she just couldn’t deal with her Jag’s dodgy electrical system.  Jimmy Stewart, who drove a ’56 DeSoto (see below) in the film, fished her out most gallantly.

Kimmy and Jimmy

Jimmy saves Kimmy


Groucho sent him

Groucho sent him


MoParmigiana: Chrysler’s “Italian job”

Rattle + Squeaks: musings, ramblings and rants from FeralCars founder Bob Merlis

You got a problem with this?

You got a problem with this?

Big news this week that there’s an agreement for FIAT to buy the remaining 41.5% of Chrysler from the UAW Trust for $4.35 billion.  When Daimler-Benz bought Chrysler (billed as a “merger of equals” but, in reality, a Stuttgart-led putsch that went bad) in 1998, the price was $37 billion. Cerebrus Capital took that smoldering wreck off Daimler’s hands for $7.4 billion in 2007 and left it for dead.  In 2009, the federal government interceded, as it had in 1979, this time putting FIAT into the picture.

Spicy meatball alert!

Spicy meatball alert!

We’ve heard all the Fix It Again Tony jokes for years but the fact is that FIAT’s infusion of technology and management expertise in the person of CEO Sergio Marchionne has made Chrysler profitable and competitive in recent years.

NASCAR will never be the same

NASCAR will never be the same

Chrysler, under Italian leadership, isn’t going away and that should be a source of comfort to MoPar loyalists and especially to thousands of its workers and dealers.  Let’s hope it’s also a good deal per i nostri fratelli Italiani.

Lee pimped Frank's Imp

Lee pimped Frank’s Imp

Which reminds us of Lee Iacocca’s quest for an Italian connection when he was Chrysler’s chairman. Lido’s parents had immigrated from San Marco dei Cavoti and he was so proud of his red, white and green roots that he  joined forces with Frank Sinatra to offer a special Imperial model with The (other) Chairman’s initials on it.  On his watch, Chrysler did a nutty co-venture with Alejandro de Tomaso  that resulted in the awkwardly worded “Chrysler’s TC by Maserati TC.” Yes, that’s an apostrophe.  He  got thisclose to selling Alfa Romeos through Chrysler dealers in a deal with — get this — FIAT in 1988 and, oh yeah, he bought Lamborghini!  Not a Lamborghini but the Lamborghini.  In 1987 Chrysler Corporation,  bought, outright,  Nuova Automobili F. Lamborghini, straight outta Sant’Agata Bolognese.

Could there a minivan in Maserati's future? A pick up?

Could there a minivan in Maserati’s future? A pick up?

Fiat's crown jewel?

Crown of Turin?

Sunday! MoPar/Fiat top fuel eliminator shuts down the competition

Sunday! MoPar/Fiat top fuel eliminator shuts down the competition


Next gen Sebring is looking great!

Next gen Sebring is looking great!

Iacocca’s predecessor? A finance guy name John Riccardo whose parents had immigrated from (see above).  The forthcoming FIAT+Chrysler unified entity may be be called Fiat S.p.A. but these two have been playing footsie with each other for eons.  Anybody remember the Chrysler, Desoto, Dodge and Plymouth Ghia-built (in Turin) dream cars of the early 1950s?

Solid deal


And what about Italo-American Chrysler-powered Dual-Ghia? That same Sinatra guy had one as did Dean Martin and the other Rat Packers.  Check out Dino’s ‘bella maccina,’ here, co-starring in Billy Wilder’s “Kiss Me Stupid”

If the past is any indication, Fiat and Chrysler’s ever evolving relationship is going to be interesting so we’re keeping an open mind and roof about the matter.

Author with pets

Author with pets


Bob Merlis /

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting consideration please send it to   info (at) feralcars (dot)com OR through our Facebook page.













..and tell ’em Groucho sent you

Groucho Marx hosted “You Bet Your Life” in the 1950s, a quiz show that was his excuse to banter with contestants, offering comic quips, lots of double-entendres and featuring  a duck puppet, a carachiture of Groucho, that descended from the rafters with a $100 prize if the day’s secret word was uttered.  DeSoto was the show’s sponsor, a fact highlighted by the catchy “Groucho Sent Me” jingle that was animated in 1956.

We found a sad ’56, mouldering in an industrial park, the other day that would surely have caused Groucho to drop his cigar..


"Needs work"

“Needs work”

..while another soldiers on through the streets of Havana, despite some apparent emissions “issues.”

Groucho sent me to Havana?

Groucho sent me to Havana?

Lastly, we offer a decidedly non-feral Grouchomobile, a top of the line Fireflite, seen at a car show just to illustrate the potential of this flagship of “The Forward Look” of legendary designer Virgil Exner.

Screen Shot 2013-10-26 at 6.45.57 PM

While Chrysler pulled the plug on DeSoto just five years later, ’56 was something of a high water mark. It was the 11th best selling nameplate in the country and that success was celebrated by pacing that year’s Indianapolis 500. Thanks to Michael Rose Productions for this great footage; the DeSoto pace car appears within the first 20 seconds

If you’ve stalked a feral car and would like to submit a photo of it for posting please send it to us:   info (at) feralcars (dot)com                                                                                                                            Include your name, location of the car and some thoughts about the vehicle and we’ll look into getting it posted.