My 1958 Desoto Firesweep

There were only 700 Firesweep Convertibles built and it is one of only 12 known to exist.

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1958 Desoto Firesweep

1958 DeSoto Firesweep Convertible

Only 700 DeSoto Firesweep convertibles were built by Chrysler in 1958, a mere 12 of which are still known to exist today, this absolutely stunning restoration is one of the 12.

In December of 2011 Tim Fagan one of the previous owners contacted Ken and provided him with an extensive history of the car.  The known history starts in 1966 when the car was not much more than a rolling “barn find” covered in dust, dirt and straw.  Stripped of its engine, transmission and many other parts it was dry and practically rust free.  In 1985 William and Tim Fagan of Fort Wayne, IN rescued the car still in “barn find” condition.  Over the next 22 years Tim brought the car back to life.  In his care the car was driven extensively thought the Midwest collecting numerous awards at major DeSoto shows.  It also became a fixture around town as Tim provided it for use in parades and various public events when he wasn’t taking the family for a ride to the local ice cream shop.  Tim put the car up for sale in 2007 and it passed through a succession of owners until it was acquired at auction in May of 2011 by Ken Nagel and became part of his exceptional collection where it remains today.   

Several interesting touches distinguish this glorious finned Fifties example of automotive art, most notably its extremely rare Spring Edition exterior chrome trim package which includes the filler panel in the side “sweep” (as in Firesweep) and chrome stripes on either side of the rear license plate, a steering wheel-mounted Benrus self-winding watch and one of the rarest factory options offered by any manufacturer; a 162/3 rpm record player, accompanied by the original records sold by Chrysler dealers, along with a record order form.  Power comes from the original 350/280 HP “Wedge” engine, offered in DeSoto, Dodge and Plymouth models only in 1958 and mated to an optional 3-speed push-button Torqueflite transmission.

It was the Jet Age. Test pilots and astronauts were flying ever higher and faster, and America was reaching for the stars.  Automotive designers infused their creations with aircraft-inspired names and styling cues, but the trademark feature from 1957 to 1961 was the tailfin, and nobody did it better than Chrysler’s Virgil Exner, whose “Forward Look” designs convinced Chrysler president Tex Colbert to adopt Exner’s daring vision. The ads said it all: “Longer, Lower, Wider.” Chrysler delivered on those promises with cars sporting massive steel wings that seemed ready to carry them into flight, and technical innovations that made them, as Chrysler also promised, “three years ahead of their time.” In fact, the new DeSoto had every appearance of being able to fly. Huge tail fins that actually aided stability at high speeds soared majestically from the rear fenders and terminated at a set of triple lens rocket launcher taillights.  For those with a vivid imagination, an illusion of jet propulsion was created by dual oval exhaust ports in the back bumper. On cold mornings, Desoto’s left convincing looking vapor trails.

The DeSoto make was founded by Walter Chrysler on August 4, 1928, and introduced for the 1929 model year. It was named after the Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto. Chrysler wanted to enter the brand in the mid-price class competition with its arch-rivals General MotorsStudebaker, and Willys-Knight.

Shortly after DeSoto was introduced, however, Chrysler completed its purchase of the Dodge Brothers Company, giving the company two mid-priced makes. Had the transaction been completed sooner, DeSoto might not have been introduced.  Despite being a successful mid-priced line for Chrysler for most of its life the De Soto marque was officially dropped November 30, 1960, with slightly over two million built since 1928.

DeSoto's failure was due to a combination of corporate mistakes, quality control and external economic factors.  It was Chrysler's own brand management in 1950s, which pitted each of the five marques (Plymouth, Dodge, DeSoto, Chrysler and Imperial) against each other that did the greatest damage to DeSoto and ultimately to the company itself.  That, along with the economic downturn in 1958, spelled doom for the DeSoto brand.

 

 

 

Source

http://www.mecum.com/auctions/lot_detail.cfm?LOT_ID=SC0511-107370&entryRow=4&GROUP_ID=10058

http://remarkablecars.com

HISTORY OF 1958 DESOTO FIRESWEEP CONVERTIBLE SERIAL #LS1-18369  

  • PRE - 1966 - Car literally stripped of engine, transmission, radiator and all components under hood-all cables and hoses were just cut and left hanging.(heater box and trans. cross-member removed as well)
  • 1966 - ALVIN KRENZIEN of Norfolk Nebraska bought car out of barn on bill of sale from property owner - brought home and put in garage. Alvin did not do any work on the car.
  • 1982 - Ernie Arteaga of New Mellie Missouri bought car from Alvin and towed home to Missouri(wrote on deck lid in marker-car in tow) - put in garage at his home(Ernie did not do any work on the car)
  • MAY 1985 - William P. Fagan purchased car from Ernie for $2,500 again on bill of sale with 66,741 miles on odometer
  • May 14 1985 - Bob Myers of Bob's Towing and starting service with a flatbed to Missouri to pick up car. The car was put in storage building in Fort Wayne, IN.
  • July 1985 – The car was towed from storage building back to William Fagan’s home.
  • July/August 1985 - Kurt Uhen, Tim Fagan and Jamie Davis removed 413 engine and torqueflite transmission from a low mileage 59 New Yorker Sedan and installed it in the 58 Firesweep,re-installed hood, and replaced broken windshield with one obtained from a 59 Chrysler Saratoga 2dr hardtop at Clark's auto parts in Wabash, IN. Cleaned out car and removed white seat covers that covered original seats.
  • Fall 1985 - Installed transmission cross-member from a 59 FS cvt. at Old Cars for fun yard in Indianapolis-member was a little too short and wouldn't draw up completely.(car sat until around August of 1986 in William Fagan's garage)
  • Fall 1986 – Car was hauled to Tomkinson
  • Late 1986 / Early 1987 - while at Tomkinson Rick Heller(technician) and Tim Fagan did:
    • Serviced engine and transmission and got running
    • Complete overhaul of brake system
    • Complete overhaul of front-end parts and installed new shocks
    • New exhaust
    • Rick took trans cross member home cut in half, extended it and welded back together.
    • Replaced heater box and hoses, repaired blower wiring
    • Replaced bad wiper motor with variable speed one from 59 NY parts car.
    • Replaced bad rear-end gears with higher ratio ones from 59 NY parts car.
    • Went through entire electrical system
    • Drove downtown and had new white top installed and white boot made at Seat Cover Center and drove back to Tomkinson
    • Stripped car of all trim, bumpers etc.
    • Tomkinson body-shop re-painted entire car in its original "Pearl White" - no rust repair was needed, only minor dent at left rear taillight mount area.
    • Installed 4 new wide-whitewall bias ply tires
  • Spring 1987
    • Re-installed all trim, replacing bad pieces as needed
    • Installed re-chromed front bumper and added front bumper guards (guards from 58 FF sedan parts car)
    • Installed rear bumper borrowed from my 58 sedan as cvt.s was bent on left end.
    • Installed upgraded fender mirrors from 59 Ny parts car
    • Reinstalled tail amp assemblies-all NOS lenses
    • Rebuilt rear antenna set
    • Replaced cvt. top motor and all hoses with new (purchased from Andy Bernbaum in Massachusetts)
    • Installed spotlight in driver's door
    • Installed new black carpet and pad from Pro Antique Auto Parts
    • Installed new cardboard trunk panels
    • Had Jim Taylor of Allen County trim shop recover armrests, recover dash and replace section of red vinyl along front of front seat (rest of original seats ok)
    • Swapped 4pieces of window edge trim with pieces from our 59 Dodge Cvt. as Dodge's were chrome and Desoto's were black paint.
  • August 1987 - Drove 58 to 2nd Annual Nat. Desoto club convention in Arlington Heights, Illinois
  • Met Alvin Krenzien who owned car from 66-82
  • Took 2nd place in class
  • Had photos taken that would appear in collectible automobile magazine in 8/1988 and in 3 other hardback books by auto editors of consumers guide, one being Great American Convertibles
  • Headlight switch went out on way to show, replaced after return home
    • Sept.1987 - Drove 58 to Indianapolis for Hoosier Auto show in infield of 500 track
    • Drove car around track
    • Took 2nd in Chrysler class
    • Generator went out while at show, borrowed one from Mike Noe who lived nearby in Frankfurt, Indiana
  • June 1988 - took trip to Waxhaw, North Carolina stopped at Imperial Motors in Campobello, S.C and bought an excellent original trunk mat for 58 out of a 58 FD sedan for $5.00.
  • 1988/1989
    • Had Jim Taylor of Allen County Trim shop make beautiful red boot cover
    • Purchased aluminum inserts from a guy who removed them from 58 FS hardtop as he didn't like them and installed on cvt.
    • Purchased deck lid strips from Brooks salvage in Louisville, Kentucky off 58 FS 4 door hardtop (had to map out hole locations on parts car and then on cvt. to install)
    • Installed re-chromed rear bumper guard / extensions from 58 FF sedan parts car.
    • Drove to Detroit for 4th annual NDC convention(8/1989)- car took 1st in class
    • Purchased rocker moldings (3rd part of spring trim), but, never installed them
    • Bought Delphos El Par emblem at Auburn, Indiana swap meet for $5 and installed
  • Late-1990 - Purchased original 58 FS 350 cid engine from Lynn Dunsworth in New Mexico and had shipped to Fort Wayne.
  • 1991 - Sent two-tone green steering wheel from 58 FF sedan parts car to automotive specialties in Florida and had it restored and coated in Red & Black, also installed deeper FF chrome horn ring. (All FS's came with a mono-tone rubber wheel, this one was black)
  • Completely re-machined and rebuilt 350 from Fs 2-door as well as 4-barrel carburetor for it. Had hardened valve seats installed to burn no-lead gasoline.
  • July/August-installed rebuilt 350 4-barrel in cvt. restoring car to correct engine, kept 59 ny power steering pump.
  • August 1991 – Tim Fagan hosted the 6th annual NDC convention in Fort Wayne, IN. Had 102 Desoto’s at show a record that has only been beaten once since. Cvt. took 2nd in class.
  • August 1993 - August - drove 58 to Dayton, Ohio for 8th annual NDC convention, cvt. took 3rd in class.
  • 1994-2005 - 58 served as symbol for our Automotive Service Center, appearing in ads, local business events and being Santa's arrival vehicle for mall.
  • 1997 - Drove 58 to Terre-Haute, IN for 12th annual NDC convention and cvt. took 1st in class.
  • 1998
    • Replaced white cvt. top with black at Marquart's Custom Creations (Marcus Marquart)
    • July/August - Drove 58 over 3,500 miles on trip traveling to Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Hershey and Valley Forge and attended 13th annual NDC convention in Valley Forge, Pa - 58 took 2nd in class.
    • Labor-Day weekend - drove 58 in 1st ever non Auburn / Cord / Duesenburg portion of parade of classics in Auburn, Indiana. This 58 was selected after submitting photos for approval directly to Chrysler in Detroit who ran it and participated "Great Cars and Trucks event/show” at Kruse auction park after parade also sponsored by Chrysler.-no trophies just participation plaque.
  • 1999 - Labor-day-participated in same Auburn event as 1998,but,this time sponsored by Dodge
  • 2003
    • Drove 58 to its last NDC convention with Tim Fagan in Frankenmuth, Michigan and placed 2nd in class-was another twin 58 FS white cvt. from Wisconsin there as well. 2005
    • Lead funeral procession for William P. Fagan on 5/28/2005
  • 1987-2007 - Car participated in countless local shows, parades, weddings, dances, family events, was election car in parades for Ed Rousseau who was our county commissioner who used to be a Desoto dealer, drive-in movies, ice-cream runs and just nice evening drives-we drove 58 a lot as it was a member of the family.
  • 1/31/2007 - Sold to Bob Schmidt of Branson, Missouri
  • 2/2007 - Bob Schmidt sold car at a profit to his friend Jess Ruffalo in Wisconsin. Jess died shortly after buying car and his family finished restoration.
  • 2007 - Ruffalo family had following done:
    • Complete strip and repaint from original white to red.
    • Restore and paint undercarriage
    • Add record player-actually not an option for 58,but, it is nice
    • Add steering wheel clock-not a FS option, but since previous upgrades to FF wheel it fit in. Clock will not fit in shallower FS wheel center.
    • Removed spot-light from driver's door
    • Replaced black vinyl center section in seats with patterned sections
  • 2008 - Ruffalo family sold at Barrett-Jackson to David Wilson from Texas.
  • May 2011 - Ken Nagel purchased at Mecum auction in Indy
 

1958 DeSoto Firesweep Specifications

Engine Location

Front

Drive Type

Rear Wheel

Production Years for Series

1957 - 1959

Price

$2,890-$3,405

Weight

3660 lbs | 1660.148 kg

Engine  

Engine Configuration

V

Cylinders

8

 

Hydraulic valve lifters

Aspiration/Induction

Normal

Displacement

5735 cc | 350.0 cu in. | 5.7 L.

Valvetrain

OHV

Horsepower

280 BHP (206.08 KW) @ 4600 RPM

HP to Weight Ratio

13.1 LB / HP

HP / Liter

48.8 BHP / Liter

Compression Ratio

10.0:1

Main Bearings

5

Fuel Type

Gasoline - Petrol

Block

Cast-iron

Standard Transmission

Gears

3

Transmission

Automatic

 

Pushbutton TorqueFlite

Optional Transmission

Gears

2

Transmission

Automatic

 

PowerFlite

Production Figures

Total DeSoto Production for 1958

49,445

4-Door Sportsmans

3,003

9-Passenger Station Wagons

1,125

Convertible Coupes

700

Sedans

7,646

Sportsmans

5,635

Station Wagons

1,305

Chassis / Engine Numbers Shown

Chassis Number

LS19633

Engine Number

L-350 38179