The mid-1950s were an exciting time for the Chrysler corporation highlighted by all-new Virgil Exner 'Forward Look' styling accented by two-tone paint schemes, chrome brightwork, jet-inspired design cues, and tall tailfins. The performance was equally impressive, with overhead valve V8s and Hemispherical combustion chambers, twin four-barrel carburetion, and event Electronic Fuel Injection by the late 1950s. In 1956, it would have been hard to imagine that within five years, despite the stylistic and technological advancements, DeSoto would be history.
The Firedome had been apart of the DeSoto model lineup since 1952 serving as its top-of-the-line model. In 1955, new designs and sheet-metal were introduced, the six-cylinder line was dropped, and all DeSotos now came with V-8 engines. The Firedome was relegated to the other end of the lineup spectrum, now serving as DeSoto's entry-level model. The 1955 version was offered as a sedan, convertible coupe, Sportsman Hardtop, Special Coupe, and station wagons. The Special Coupe was dropped for 1956, with all low-price hardtops now designated as Sevilles, and a four-door pillarless model joined the lineup. A four-door Sportsman was also a new addition. Prices rose by approximately $300 over the previous year, a new 12-volt electrical system was adopted, and new front bumper guards incorporated parking lamps.
The DeSoto lineup received all-new styling for 1955, so changes for 1956 were minor, most visibly by a new perforated mesh grille with a prominent 'V' in the center. There were chrome-plated headlamp hoods and full-length bodyside molding. In the back were redesigned taillight clusters, tail fins, and a large, V-shaped emblem on the rear deck. Firedomes were distinguished from the other models in the series by their nameplate on the front fenders.
Standard equipment included independent parking brake, safety rim wheels, constant speed electric windshield wipers, all-weather headlights, full-time power steering, Orilow shock absorbers, center plane brakes, and Super Highway taillamp clusters. A unique color sweep pattern and chrome-plated bolt-on-type rear fins were optional on the station wagons. A color sweep two-toning side trim was optional on hardtop models. Power brakes, power steering, power front seat, Air Temp air conditioning, Conditionair, power radio antenna, Solex safety glass, whitewall tires, and Hi-Fi record player were optional on all models.
The Firedome and Fireflite were powered by overhead-valve V8s with a 330.4 cubic-inch displacement, hydraulic valve lifters, and five main bearings. The Adventurer had a 341.4 CID OHV V8 with 320 horsepower. The Fireflite had a four-barrel carburetor and delivered 255 horsepower while the two-barrel version in the Firedome delivered 230 horsepower. Only the Ffiredome came standard with a three-speed column-mounted transmission, however, the Fireflite was able to be fitted with this transmission, although not many buyers opted for it. An overdrive transmission was a $108 option on the Firedome, and the PowerFlite automatic was a $189 extra.
All 1956 DeSoto models rested on a 126-inch wheelbase platform. Sedans and sportsman had a 217.9-inch length while the two-door body styles measured 220.9-inches in length.
The Fireflite model had similar body style options to its Firedome sibling, additional brightwork, more standard features, and a plusher interior. The Adventurer, similar to the Chrysler 300B, was an exclusive hardtop coupe with just under 1,000 examples built in 1956. It had a special high-performance engine, dual exhaust, and custom finish and appointments.
The Firedome was the most popular body style in the DeSoto lineup, with nearly 78,000 examples sold accounting for approximately 71-percent of DeSoto's total 1956 production. The sedan was the most popular with 44,909 examples sold, followed by the SeVille Hardtop with 19,136. A total of 2,950 were station wagons. The most exclusive was the convertible coupe with 646 sales.By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2020