View topic - It’s Mine: 1948 DeSoto Series One Custom Club Coupe

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PostPosted: Fri Dec 08, 2017 3:31 am 
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Joined: Mon Aug 09, 2010 6:43 pm
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From here: http://driving.ca/desoto-2/auto-news/ne ... club-coupe

Calgarian spent six years bringing this Chrysler classic back to life
Robert K. Rooney
by Robert K. Rooney | 15 hours ago

CALGARY — The last thing Dick Besler was looking for when he attended an auto auction in North Calgary in the mid-Eighties was a project car.

“I was looking for a car for one of my sons,” he remembers.

Instead, what Besler brought home was a car that has given him endless hours of pleasure both in the shop and on the road.

“I spotted this DeSoto just sitting there,” he continues. “It was black at the time. It had a cracked block and somebody had tried to do the upholstery and messed it up. Nobody was looking at it.”

Intrigued, he inquired about it and was told it would be auctioned off at 9 a.m. the next morning. When the auction started, he was there with a pocketful of cash and outlasted all the other bidders.

“I hauled it back to my shop and had five people follow the wrecker asking, ‘Do you want to sell it?,” he says, adding with a laugh, “I said, ‘No. I just bought it!’”

It was the beginning of a six-year project to get the DeSoto five-passenger Custom Club Coupe back on the road.

DeSoto was a brand introduced by Chrysler Corporation in the late-Twenties to fit between the premium Chrysler brand and the entry-level Plymouth. When Chrysler acquired the mid-market Dodge brand, DeSoto was ranked below Dodge in the corporate hierarchy. By the late-Thirties, Dodge and DeSoto had switched places.

The 1948 DeSotos were not very different from the ‘42s, which didn’t matter much in the car-hungry seller’s market that followed World War Two. DeSotos were large, well-equipped cars styled, it was said, so even tall people could ride in them with their hats on. The cars, like most Chrysler Corporation offerings of the time, were powered by torquey inline flathead six-cylinder engines. DeSotos came in two lines: deLuxe and the dressier Custom.

“I’ve been playing with cars since I was 14 years old”, Besler says, adding he’s always had a soft spot for the DeSotos of the late-Forties, but had never owned one before the ‘48. His research indicates that his auction find was the second-last DeSoto built in 1948, and was actually sold as a Series One 1949 by a dealership in Alberta. He believes he is the third owner.

The Besler DeSoto needed a lot of work, but the basic material was good since the car had very little rust. Upon further inspection he discovered that it had been painted twice since leaving the factory.

“I stripped all that off, right down to the bare metal, and repainted it the original factory maroon colour,” he says.

The interior upholstery was redone in a late-model GM pickup fabric that is an almost-exact colour match for the original. The dash, steering wheel and door windowsills were redone in the correct faux-woodgrain finish. The rear-wheel skirts and exterior sun visor are both reproduction pieces built to the original pattern.

The first engine to go into the DeSoto was a brand-new Plymouth engine that he found in a small shop on Calgary’s 7th Avenue SE. It was in the basement, so Besler bought some plywood and figured out how to attach the engine to it so he and three others could drag the big iron lump up the stairs. The transmission is the correct type for the DeSoto, but came out of a ’37 Chrysler that was being hot-rodded.

Although the Plymouth powerplant was an L6 similar to the DeSoto’s original engine, it was a bit smaller – 218 cubic inches to 237. Besler also notes that these engines had a cast-iron crankshaft and were prone to bearing failure after 70,000 miles. When he got a chance to buy a rebuilt 250 cubic inch Dodge truck engine from the mid-Fifties, Dick leaped at it. The truck engine has a steel crankshaft, he points out, so there are no bearing worries.

With that being said, Besler had to chase a persistent oil leak. “I’ve had the engine out seven times in the last two years,” he says. The leak, it turned out, was because of a faulty oil pan – not the engine seals.

While the truck engine adds a little sparkle to the coupe’s performance, Besler has added a few goodies under the hood. A factory-original dual-carburetor setup, only available as a dealer-installed accessory back in the day, adds a fair bit of power. The car also has a water-injection system that allows more aggressive timing and reduces knocking.

Other additions to the car include a power steering setup from a mid-Eighties AMC product that bolted right in, and modern Chrysler disc brakes. Both changes make the car safer and more pleasurable to drive.

“It’s a very comfortable ride,” he adds. “It seems to like between one hundred and one-oh-five kilometres an hour, and driving over Rogers Pass last year I got 24.8 miles per gallon.”

That last point is important because, unlike many other collector cars, Dick’s DeSoto gets driven – a lot.

“I put on close to 10,000 miles a year,” he says.

Not many car shows or show-and-shines happen in the Calgary area without Besler’s big maroon coupe making an appearance.

“I have a lot of fun,” he says. “I enjoy talking to people.”


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