1958 DeSoto Adventurer

The 1958 DeSoto Adventurer had challenges to overcome. Buyers quickly learned of some serious flaws in that flashy new sheet-metal of the DeSotos. Early rusting, especially around the headlights and rocker panels, plagued all '57 Chrysler makes. Some cars suffered torsion-bar failure, which left front ends sagging. Water leaked through the front-door trim panel, and on models like the Adventurer, rear-bumper exhaust outlets burned and peeled surrounding chrome.

Among exterior changes for the 1958 DeSoto Adventurer were a slightly changed grille and sidesweep.
Among exterior changes for the 1958 DeSoto
Adventurer were a slightly changed grille
and sidesweep.

Such problems, in addition to the recessionary economy, contributed to a Chrysler sales decline for '58, DeSoto plunging by more than half to 49,445. The midprice market shrunk, and DeSoto was squeezed further by new high-buck-priced Dodges and lower-cost Chryslers.

The '58 Adventurer bowed on January 5. Its grille was altered slightly, the side sweep now surfed up the rear tail-fin and included an anodized aluminum triangle, and the exhaust outlets were pinched.

Change was more drastic under the skin. The complex hemi engines were suddenly a costly extravagance, so Chrysler began switching to cheaper wedgehead V-8s -- though the flagship Chrysler 300-D retained its hemi.

The '58 Adventurer shared with Firedome and Fireflite models a 361-cid wedge that was easier to tune and weighed 60-pounds less than the hemi. In standard form, the dual-quad Adventurer version had 345 bhp, 40 more than the four-barrel Fireflite. Compression was 10.25:1, compared to 10.00:1 in Fireflites, and the Adventurer got a hotter camshaft and heavier valve springs, dual-breaker distributor, cooler spark plugs, and 1/4-inch larger exhaust piping. Axle ratios ranged from 2.92:1 to 3.91:1.

Optional on the '58 Adventurer was a Bendix fuel-injection setup similar to the system offered on the 300-D, Dodge Super D-500, and Plymouth Fury. It churned out 355 bhp, but was fraught with problems and cost a hefty $637.20. Fewer than a dozen units are believed to have been installed on Adventurers -- all eventually factory recalled and replaced by carburetors.

The 1958 DeSoto Adventurer featured a 361-cid wedge that was easier to tune.
In lieu of a hemi, the 1958 DeSoto Adventurer
featured a 361-cid wedgehead that was
easier to tune.

While Adventurer's engine was still markedly different than other DeSotos', its suspension was not. Motor Trend reported that the '58 used the softer Fireflite ride components, though the Adventurer's front sway bar was apparently thicker and there was an extra rear leaf spring. The magazine also said stiffer export" shocks and springs were optional.

"Our approach to designing the Adventurer was to have a car with an appeal of its own," George Gale, assistant chief engineer for DeSoto, told Motor Trend. "Not a competition car -- but performance-proved transportation that would be pleasant to drive every day of the year."

The Adventurer was again marketed as a limited-edition model. Prices increased to $4071 for the coupe and to $4369 for the ragtop, and production dropped to just 350 hardtops and a mere 82 convertibles. DeSoto's overall health was in terminal decline. Division sales dived nearly 70 percent, to 49,445 -- 13,000 less than Edsel.

For more information on cars, see: