1959, 1960 DeSoto Adventurer

Things got worse for 1959 and 1960 DeSoto Adventurer models. Chrysler relieved DeSoto of its own headquarters and plant in 1959. The entry-level Firesweep had always been built by Dodge, but now the Firedome, Fireflite, and Adventurer were assembled at a Chrysler factory. Quality control was improved, but rumors of DeSoto's demise grew, and the division could ill afford to retain Adventurer's full exclusivity. For the first time, the car appeared in the fall brochure. "Pure gold... in ride, pride and pleasure," said the spread.

Exterior color options for the 1959 DeSoto Adventurer included black (shown here) and white pearl.
Exterior color options for the 1959 DeSoto
Adventurer included black (shown here) and
white pearl.

Gold anodized wheel covers and aluminum side sweeps were again reserved for the Adventurer. They contrasted with available black or white-pearl exterior colors. To simulate grained leather, the coupe's roof was covered in "Leather-tone," a textured vinyl-base paint in matching body color. No other DeSoto got the gold and white vinyl upholstery with "Nylon Casino Corde" inserts. Fireflite and Firedome could, however, be ordered with new swivel front semi-buckets. They were standard on Adventurer and touted in a DeSoto press release as "the greatest seating development in automobile history."

Stiffened rear springs were the only Adventurer suspension advantage. Like all '59 DeSotos, it was offered with a load-levelling rear air suspension, another failure that ended with standard shocks being retrofitted.

Most significant. Adventurer's dual-quad engine was now available in any DeSoto model, even the Firesweep wagon. Pictured in the brochure painted a gleaming gold with red valve covers and accessories, the "Fabulous Adventurer Engine" was priced from $142 in the Firesweep to $108 in the Fireflite.

­This V-8, a bored version of the Firesweep's 361-cid, shared its 383-cid displacement and 10.1:1 compression ratio with the standard Firedome and Fireflite engines. But it had a special camshaft and valve gear, and a modified distributor. It was rated at 350 bhp, 25 more than the single-four-barrel version standard in the Fireflite. Acceleration remained strong, with the Adventurer's 0-60 mph time again in the low 10-second range.

Prices increased to $4427 for the coupe and to a hefty $4749 for the convertible, but Adventurer production rose slightly, to 590 hardtops and 97 convertibles. That total was just three short of the 1959 300-E, which had finally relinquished its hemi V-8 for a 380-bhp 413-cid wedge. The Chrysler coupe cost $892 more than the Adventurer hardtop, and the letter-series ragtop listed for a full $1000 more than the DeSoto convertible.

Chrysler publicly denied it, but by the start of the 1960 model year, DeSoto's fate was all but sealed. The division dropped any pretense that the Adventurer was a special performance model. In fact, all top-trim-level DeSotos were now "Adventurers." The only other models were called Fireflites. Both were offered as two- and four-door hardtops and a four-door sedan, all with unibody "Fleetwing" styling on the Firesweep's previous 122-inch wheelbase.

The 1960 DeSoto Adventurer could be ordered with an optional Ram Charge ram-induction system.
The 1960 DeSoto Adventurer could be ordered with
an optional Ram Charge ram-induction system.

Fireflites came with the 295-bhp 361, Adventurers the 305-bhp two-barrel 383 from the '59 Firedome. A four-barrel version of this engine was an $85 option on Fireflites and a $54 feature on Adventurers. Called the Mark I, it was fitted with dual exhausts and was rated at 325 bhp. In a final bow to its high-performance past, the Adventurer could be ordered with a ram-induction system that used specially tuned manifold pipes and two four-barrel carburetors. Called the Ram Charge option, this $283 extra was exclusive to the Adventurer and boosted its 383 to 330 bhp at 4800 rpm.

Adventurer prices ranged from $3579 for the four-door sedan to $3727 for the hardtop sedan. DeSoto production sunk to 26,081 units, of which 11,597 wore the Adventurer badge. Independence took another hit with the creation of the Chrysler-DeSoto-Plymouth Division.

Even model distinctions dissolved for 1961, when the once-proud line consisted of nothing more than a two-door coupe and hardtop, both badged simply "DeSoto." Powered by a 265-bhp 361-cid V-8, the garish-grilled cars bowed on October 14, 1960. On November 18, Chrysler issued a 165-word statement announcing that DeSoto was ceasing production. Just 3034 had been built for the '61 model year.

There were intermittent reports that the marque would resurface. Motor Trend featured drawings of a proposed DeSoto version of the '62 Dodge Lancer compact. With a V-8 engine, it was to have been a real high-performance threat. The name of the this flight of fancy was, in a cruel twist, the "Adventuress."

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