Established by Walter P. Chrysler in 1928 as a companion marque to attack the growing mid-price market then occupied by Buick, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, and Studebaker, DeSoto represented a winning combination of features, power, style, and value until the brand was retired in late 1960. During the 1950s, DeSoto was highly popular among upwardly mobile buyers, with the Firedome, Firesweep, Fireflite, and Adventurer. Clearly benefiting from the stylistic genius expressed by Virgil Exner’s “100-Million Dollar Look” design theme that followed his landmark “Forward Look” that revolutionized Chrysler’s formerly stodgy image, the 1955 DeSoto models and facelifted 1956 editions rank among the marque’s greatest hits. Chrysler Corporation’s engineering wizards heightened the excitement with Chrysler’s powerful ‘Hemi’ V-8 engines. Enlarged to 330ci and 255hp for 1956, the ‘Hemi’ was mated to the popular Powerflite automatic. During 1956, DeSoto outsold the “senior” Chrysler line for the first time in its history, providing ample proof of the marque’s appeal. And we have to say, the understated elegance of what were otherwise “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” design cues, have us in full agreement.
This beautifully restored 1956 DeSoto Fireflite Convertible is one of just 1,385 examples produced and continues to benefit handsomely from a high-dollar nut-and-bolt, frame-off restoration. The Fireflite retains its original 255hp, 330ci ‘Hemi’ V-8 engine with a single Carter 4-barrel carburetor and comes with the first year for Chrysler’s pushbutton-operated automatic transmission. This rare, well-optioned car includes power steering, power brakes, power convertible top, power windows, power front seat, and real Kelsey-Hayes chrome wire wheels. Colors are unique and beautiful, including a Plum and Black 2-tone paint finish advertised by the seller as flawless. Less than 1,500 post-restoration miles of use are on the fully rebuilt drivetrain, and the car is stated to be very dependable, running and driving as good as it looks and capable of being driven anywhere. All chrome and stainless brightwork appears very nice and the interior has been completely restored consistent with the rest of the car. Online videos show its last offering by Barrett-Jackson in 2016, when it was bid to $120k.
This Fireflite Convertible is one of the finest products of Chrysler’s DeSoto marque. It has it all – landmark Virgil Exner styling heritage, captivating 2-tone livery, ‘Hemi’ power, real rarity, and a full show-worthy restoration. While certainly a car of its times, this Fireflite Convertible somehow avoids seeming overwrought with the ‘50s excess that belabor so many far more common American cars of similar vintage. Hagerty’s current price guide values these beauties from $51.6k for a good #3, $88k for an excellent #$2, and $136k for a #1 concours example. We’d love to experience this car in person, but for now, online videos will have to suffice. It seems worthy of at least a #2 standing in our opinion and it’s priced in line with this market peg, making it fair market from our viewpoint. While some examples from the Fireflite line do appear at live and online auctions on occasion, the Convertibles were rare when new and scarce today, making it difficult to find meaningfully comparable examples. And ultimately, if some of the comparable cars of the era will slide in terms of collectability, we feel this Fireflite is both rare and beautiful enough to avoid any future valuation skirmishes.