1942 DeSoto

The 1942 DeSoto boasted unique Airfoil headlights.
The 1942 DeSoto boasted unique Airfoil headlights.

With 1941 having been a big year for new body designs from most U.S. automakers, 1942 was destined to be a big year for styling face-lifts, and the 1942 DeSoto was no exception. Typically, grilles widened, fenders stretched, and a little more chrome was added to cars in top trim levels.

DeSoto was right in step with the industry trend. To its year-old "Rocket" bodies it added some new touches that were common to other 1942 Chrysler Corporation products, plus a few that were highly distinctive.

Perhaps the most talked-about feature on the new DeSoto was its "Airfoil" headlights. Squarish doors hid the lamps until an underdash lever rotated the covers upward and turned on the lights. Though hidden headlights had been used on 1936-1937 Cords, they were still very much a novel idea at the time.

The hideaway headlamps were joined by a new take on the vertical-tooth grille first seen on 1941 DeSotos. In place of divided, winglike grille sections, the 1942s sported a lower, wider, and more uniform array of chrome bars in a slight "S" shape. (While the Airfoil lights were used only on the war-shortened run of 1942 cars, the toothy grille was destined to become a regular DeSoto feature into the mid 1950s.)

Like other Chrysler products, the 1942 DeSoto came with doors and body panels that flared at the bottom to hide the running boards. Bumpers were enlarged and curved at the ends, and parking lights moved to a spot in the fenders near the grille.

There was one notable technical change for the 1942 DeSoto. Its L-head six-cylinder engine was bored out to 236.6 cid, a gain of 8.5 cubic inches from 1941. With the added displacement and larger valves, a 10-bhp gain -- to 115 -- was realized.

DeSoto continued to offer two coupe styles: a long-deck three-passenger type, and a six-passenger style with rear-quarter windows. Both were available in DeLuxe and flossier Custom trim.

There was a special option package available for most Custom body styles. This was the Fifth Avenue group, which essentially bundled together all the available accessories.

James and Marian Humlong, of Hamburg Township, Mich­i­gan, own the restored Fifth Avenue coupe on this page. Features include fender skirts with ribbed bright trim, wheel trim rings, plaid Sportsman upholstery, radio, heater, dual horns, lighted hood ornament, and hoodside Fifth Avenue badging. Originally from around San Diego, California, the car has the optional Simpli­matic four-speed semiautomatic transmission.

For more information about cars, see: