Skip to main content

1956 DeSoto Fireflite news, pictures, specifications, and information
Convertible Pace Car
 
On January 11th of 1956 DeSoto announced it had been selected to pace the 1956 Indianapolis 500 Race. DeSoto chose a Fireflite convertible featuring special interior and exterior trim features. The car was equipped with an Adventurer 341 CID Hemi motor, producing 329 horsepower. A heavy-duty transmission and stiffened suspension completed the performance features. All this allowed the Pace Car to reach a top speed of 144 mph. The interior and exterior were sprinkled with liberal amounts of gold trim, all of which were later used on the 1956 Adventurer. The Pace Car was often referred to as a 'Pacesetter,' a name conceived by DeSoto management. Because the Pace Car was never designated as a separate model, no accurate production records exist. It is believed that no more than 500 were produced, with only about 35 remaining today.
Convertible Pace Car
 
This limited edition Pace Car, which is one of 25 remaining, from a production thought to be as few as 100. It is equipped with a rare 15 jewel 'DeSotomatic' self-winding steering wheel clock and a 16 2/3 RPM Highway Hi-Fi Record Player.

The DeSoto Indianapolis Pace Car Convertible was distinguished by its DeSoto Adventurer Gold paint and forward look emblems.

The car standard equipment included DeSoto's first pushbutton transmission and a 350 cubic-inch HEMI V8 producing 255 horsepower. The base price was $4,356 and weighed 4,070 lbs.
Convertible Pace Car
 
This 1956 DeSoto Indianapolis Pace car was a Fireflight convertible, which was distinguished by being trimmed with a DeSoto Adventurer interior, gold wheel covers, grill, and medallions. This example is one of approximately 25 remaining from a production run thought to be just over 100 vehicles.

This car is equipped with a rare 'Desotomatic' 15 jewel self-winding steering wheel watch made in Switzerland by Benrus. It has the first in-car highway Hi Fi record player available only from Chrysler Corporation. Music plays for nearly 45 minutes on one side of the record.

1956 was the first year for DeSoto's pushbutton powerflight transmission and the pace car was fitted with a dual quad 341 cubic inch Hemi V8 producing north of 320 horsepower. All pace cars were painted Gold and White, with a base price of $3,565.
In 1955 the DeSoto Fireflite was wider and longer than previous DeSoto models. It came equipped with a V8 engine and PowerFlite automatic transmission. Multiple colors were used to highlight design details such as the fang-shaped panels. The windshield was DeSotos first wrap-around design. The interior was new and slightly radical with a dual cockpit gull wing theme. The PowerFlite automatic was operated by a Flite-Control lever located on the dashboard. There was ample space to accommodate six adults comfortably. The bench seats were long and comfortable, available in leather upholstery. Under the hood lurked a powerful V8 engine producing 255 horsepower. It could propel the car from zero-to-sixty in less than eleven seconds with a top speed of 110 miles-per-hour. This was more standard horsepower than most other manufacturers were offering on their vehicles.

The DeSoto was more than an exercise in design it was a unique riding experience. For the driver and passengers the engine and road noise was practically not existent. The suspension was smooth and there was comfortable performance. It was a lot of car for the money. The 1955 DeSoto's sold extremely well with over 114,765 examples produced, the best for the company since 1946. For 1956 DeSoto continued to climb the automotive industry ladder reaching 11th place in total production with 110,418 examples. However, this trend was temporary for the company; in five years time it was out of business.

In 1956 a gold and white Fireflite convertible was the official pace car for the 1956 Indianapolis 500, a prestigious responsibility. The word 'DeSoto' adorned the doors, painted in large block letters. On the raceway was a fitting slogan, 'DeSoto Sets the Pace.'

For 1957 the DeSoto appearance was modified with the help of Chrysler Corporation's head stylist, Virgil Exner. The design was bold and radical with tail fins, dual oval exhaust, and triple lens taillights. At speed, the tail fins served a purpose by improve stability. The versatility of the Fireflite was expanded with the addition of a station wagon. The cars built during 1957 were spectacular in design but poor in quality. Some of the models leaked and were unable to keep the rain out of the vehicle during a storm. Other had defective transmissions, power steering units, radiators, and a slew of the other problems. Many were prone to early rusting. This was the down fall that DeSoto endured and ultimately, unable to recover.

The DeSoto Fireflite was an exquisite car with bold styling and proven performance.

By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2007
CHRYSLER BRAND CELEBRATES 90 YEARS OF STYLE, ENGINEERING INNOVATION AND GROUNDBREAKING PRODUCTS
September 22, 2015 , Auburn Hills, Mich. - Chrysler Six, Airflow, Imperial, New Yorker, 300 and Town & Country are just some of the nameplates that mark the rich history of the Chrysler brand. 2015 marks the 90th anniversary of Chrysler, which was founded on June 6, 1925, by Walter P. Chrysler. Chrysler represents more than a brand – it symbolizes the people behind the products, and the influence of its founder can still be felt today. Walter P. Chrysler built a company and a bran...[Read more...]
MECUM KANSAS CITY AUCTION RETURNS TO CONVENTION CENTER DECEMBER 4-6
• Event to Feature 750 American Muscle Cars, Classics, Hot Rods and More
Walworth, Wis. – November 24, 2014 – Mecum Auctions returns to the Kansas City Convention Center Dec. 4-6 with an estimated 750 classic and collector cars expected to cross the auction block. The consignment list of cars, representing 15 states, includes a selection of American muscle cars, classics, hot rods, Resto Mods and more. 'We look forward to returning to Kansas City next month,' said...[Read more...]
ROMANCING THE ROAD
The Rolex clock is ticking and race teams are preparing for another extraordinary three days of racing at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. From August 15-17, 550 of the world's most rare and valuable race cars, ranging from a 1911 National 40 that raced at the inaugural Indianapolis 500 to the awesome ground shaking Can-Am machines from the 1960s and 1970s, will provide a colorful 'history lesson come-to-life,' with a chapter added for featured marque Maserati...[Read more...]
RARE REUNION: CHRYSLER CONCEPT CARS GATHER AT AMELIA, 2014
Nine rare and important Chrysler Concept Cars from the forties, fifties and sixties will be presented together for the first time at the 19th annual Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance on March 9, 2014. From the two-seat Chrysler Thunderbolt roadster and the dual-cowl Chrysler Newport of 1941 through the radical 1963 Chrysler Turbine car, Amelia's Chrysler Concept Car Class shows the genesis of the styling and engineering philosophy that summoned Chrysler's industry-changing 'Forward Look...[Read more...]
RARE CHRYSLER LA COMTESSE CONCEPT APPEARS AT AMELIA 2014
After decades in obscurity Chrysler's La Comtesse Concept Car will re-debut at the 19th annual Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance on March 9, 2014. The Fifties introduced new automotive chemical and paint technologies that helped summon a sea change in the way cars were purchased. It was a subtle component of Detroit's marketing equation, but color had risen near the top of the car buyer's priority list. The important fact was that women invariably chose the color of the new family car....[Read more...]
Adventurer
Airflow
Airstream
Firedome
Fireflite
Firesweep
Model CF
S-11 Series

Image Left 1955 Fireflite1957 Fireflite Image Right
© 1998-2016. All rights reserved. The material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.