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1956-1960 DeSoto Adventurer

1957 DeSoto Adventurer

It was Chrysler styling chief Virgil M. Exner's 1955 DeSoto Flight Sweep show cars that presaged Chrysler's landmark 1957 restyle. The DeSoto Adventurer hardtop returned in late December 1956 to top the dramatic new line at $3997. It was joined shortly by a convertible, which stickered at $4272, a new DeSoto high.

The Hi-Way Hi-Fi, an under-dash record player, was featured in some 1957 DeSoto Adventurers.
The Hi-Way Hi-Fi, an under-dash record player,
was featured in some 1957 DeSoto Adventurers.

Both were again based on the Fireflite and came with quad headlamps. Exterior colors were white or black with a gold sweep and roof, or gold with a white or black sweep and roof. All convertible tops were gold. The checkered-flag "Forward Look" emblem moved to the rear tailfins, and five stainless-steel accent strips appeared on the trunklid.

The gold anodized grille was gone, but the gold turbine wheel covers remained, albeit on 14-inch wheels rather than 15s. DeSoto had advised buyers in '56 that these hubcaps required no special attention, but the '57 owner's manual said they should be washed only with mild soap because the caustic cleaners that many owners used on whitewalls "could dull the deep lustre of your wheel covers."

Adventurer's interior patterns would change annually, but would retain exclusive gold, white, and tweed combinations; DeSoto called this year's material "vinahide." As on all '57 Chrysler cars, the seating position was criticized as too low for comfort. The dashboard retained automatic-transmission push buttons, but relinquished its Euro-flavored layout for an all-American horizontal design with a ribbon speedometer. Adventurer furnished fuel, battery, oil-pressure, and coolant-temperature gauges, but still no tach. The steering-wheel watch was again optional, but the Hi-Way Hi-Fi was fading from the options list -- sources differ as to how long into the '57 model year it was available.

This was a bold car: two tons of tailfins and chrome and 218 inches long from bumper to bumper, requiring an epic 42-foot turning circle. "Here is a car that can be said to provide three major functions: it is a real pleasure to drive, it gives maximum driver and passenger comfort and entertainment, and it impresses the hell out of people," declared Sports Car Illustrated.

Beneath the fresh sheetmetal was Chrysler Corporation's new torsion-bar front suspension, which provided unsurpassed ride control and quelled body lean in turns. These big cars were surprisingly poised in changes of direction, despite power steering that was overassisted even by contemporary standards. The Adventurer now had exclusive rear springs, but its heavy-duty front torsion bars were available on other DeSotos.

"Roadholding ability of [the] car is fantastic in all road conditions," said Sports Car Illustrated. "The ride at 100 mph is as smooth and quiet as at 60, and the Adventurer holds its course without effort in spite of road imperfections and crosswinds." The car's "biggest weakness," said the magazine, were brakes that faded quickly in repeated stops and required lots of pedal pressure, though they performed well in normal use.

The engine was again based on the hydraulic-lifter Fireflite hemi, which was a 295-bhp 341-cid V-8 for '57. The Adventurer's dual-quad version was bored to 345 cid and rated at 345 bhp -- the magical one horsepower per cubic inch. Despite gaining about 170 pounds, the '57 Adventurer was fractionally faster than the '56, running 0-60 mph in 10.2 seconds for Sports Car Illustrated. Enhancing Adventurer's power was its newly standard Torque-Flite three-speed automatic transmission, which was available for the first time across Chrysler Corporation's line. The standard axle ratio was 3.54:1, with options ranging from 2.92:1 to 4.89:1. A trait taken in stride by aficionados who bought '56 Adventurers became less palatable for '57.

With its high-performance camshaft and tricky-to-adjust dual quads, the 345-cid hemi idled rougher and 200 rpm faster (at 700 rpm) than other DeSoto V-8s. Its gearshifts also were more pronounced. DeSoto issued a dealer bulletin: "The distinctive operating characteristics outlined above are inherent features of the special type of Adventurer car, and if explained to your customer at time of delivery, will make him even more enthusiastic about his purchase."

The 1957 DeSoto Adventurer wowed critics with its bold styling and power.
The 1957 DeSoto Adventurer wowed critics with its
spectacular styling and power.

With its late introduction, the Adventurer still wasn't in DeSoto's fall catalog, and there was no separate brochure. But Woolson returned with an owner's manual insert, welcoming buyers to "the elite Adventurer family. I sincerely feel that your 1957 Adventurer is the finest automobile DeSoto has ever built."

His declaration stands the test of time. "The car is spectacular," wrote Robert Cumberford, revisiting a '57 Adventurer hardtop for the August 1993 issue of Automobile magazine. "One is obliged to think that they knew something about power in those long-ago pre-fuel-injection days, because the DeSoto moves when you put your foot down.

"Visibility is outstanding; the glass sweeps around in generous curves. Everything about the car speaks of a more relaxed and generous time. There is a self-winding Benrus watch in the steering wheel hub. The typical Fifties instruments, with a face texture that looks for all the world like the carbon fiber in a Ferrari F40, are scattered along the panel in knee-breaking position for the front-seat passenger. Other times, other standards. And other thrills. Good car."

The '57 Adventurer coupe maintained a substantial price advantage over the 300-C, which cost $932 more, and the rag-top was $1087 less than the letter-series convertible. The new styling helped boost DeSoto sales by more than nine percent, to 117,514. The Adventurer did its part, nearly doubling production to 1950, of which 300 were convertibles.

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