The Most Exciting Car in the World Today!
1957 was arguably the pinnacle year for Chrysler Coporation Forward Look design. With a brand new chassis and body that had left competitors scrambling to completely re-design their own models, tailfins had grown, rooflines had shrunk, and Torsion-Aire Ride was introduced, handling corners and leveling bumps miles ahead of competitors and the previous year's model. 1957 was also the first full year for the soon-to-be legendary 3-speed torqueflite transmission that was introduced in late 1956 on some models. In the performance department, the Adventurer model would also become the first American-built car to acheive 1 horsepower per cubic inch with standard equipment, producing 345 horsepower with the dual 4 bbl 345 cubic inch hemi. Chrysler Corporation missed out on this bit of PR and as a result, most people today think it was the '57 Chevy that was first, which is not accurate. Chevy acheived that goal the same year as the Adventurer using optional equipment, which was a feat the 1956 300B had already accomplished the previous year with the 355 horsepower 354 c.i. hemi.
With the new generation of the Forward Look design came a few other notable changes. The tailfins now leaned back instead of forward, looking every bit as sleek and in motion as the '56 model, but in a tastefully different manner. The sweep also was shifted down lower on the side of the car, which emphasized the already-large size of the fins. Also added were unique subtle touches such as the functional exhaust ports in the rear and twin-strut mirrors. The Highway Hi-Fi 16 2/3 rpm record player option carried over into 1957, but was only advertised at the very beginning of the model year before being dropped. Presumably one could still have a dealer install one if they had it in inventory. Also available for '57 was a re-designed Benrus self-winding steering wheel watch.
Exciting news carried through the entire '57 line-up with the addition of the Firesweep model, designated as an S-27 model. The Firesweep was the new low-cost model and was based on the shorter Dodge chassis (122 inches versus the 126 inch Firedome [S-25], Fireflite [S-26], Adventurer [S-26A] models). It also came with a poly motor as opposed to the hemi that came in the other models. While it proved to be a very popular model, it added to the internal overlap between the different divisions at Chrysler Corporation and fought for sales with Dodge - a problem that would later be a contributing factor to eliminating the DeSoto Division in 1960. In the meantime though, station wagons were now found in both the higher level Fireflite line and the new Firesweep line, and both could be ordered as a Shopper (6-passenger) or Explorer (9-passenger) version, meaning wagon offerings quadrupled from 1956 to 1957. On the upper end of the line-up, 1957 was the first year for a convertible for the second year Adventurer model. Dropped from 1956 were the color combinations of black/white (and reverse), but you could still get white/gold or black/gold and the reverse for a total of four color combinations.
For all the good that came with the new DeSoto for 1957 also came some bad. In an effort to stay ahead of the competition in design, Chrysler Corporation rushed the new models to production and the result was a lot of quality control issues. While the overall design of the car was sound and the mechanical engineering was stout as always, the quality controls and overall build quality were not up to par. Reports of cars rusting out within months of being built and other rattles, squeaks, and bad panel fitments were common. These were eventually addressed throughout the year so that by the time the '58 models came out, most of those issues were behind them. However, the damage to their reputation had been done and that would hurt sales in '58 when the economy was already down.
On a more general note in the 1957 automotive industry, dual headlights first started to appear. At the beginning of the model year, not all 50 states had approved them as legal, so most of the early DeSotos are single headlight. They did plan ahead by leaving the fender cavity large enough to accomodate two on each side. By the time the Adventurer was released in January 1957, dual headlights were legal and all Adventurers were built with them. The '57 Firesweep model remained single headlight for the rest of the model year while the Firedomes and Fireflites transitioned and were therefore mixed.
For more details regarding 1957 DeSotos, including photos and data plate information, please visit the website below, which is maintained by National DeSoto Club member Ed Petrus.
The National DeSoto Club also maintains a registry for all known 1957 DeSotos. If you have one and would like it added to the list, please contact Ed Petrus at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Firesweep engine: 325 c.i. (poly) 2 bbl standard
Firedome engine: 341 c.i. (hemi) 2 bbl standard
Fireflite engine: 341 c.i. (hemi) 4 bbl standard
Adventurer engine: 345 c.i. (hemi) dual 4 bbl standard
Wheelbase: Firesweep 122 inches, Firedome/Fireflite/Adventurer 126 inches
Los Angeles Firesweep VIN Start: 60014001
Los Angeles Firesweep VIN End: 60017360
Detroit Firesweep VIN Start: 58001001
Detroit Firesweep VIN End: 58038408
Los Angeles Firedome VIN Start: 64035001
Los Angeles Firedome VIN End: Unknown
Detroit Firedome VIN Start: 55332001
Detroit Firedome VIN End: 55377868
Los Angeles Fireflite VIN Start: 62053001
Los Angeles Fireflite VIN End: Unknown
Detroit Fireflite/Adventurer VIN Start: 50396001
Detroit Fireflite/Adventurer VIN End: 50426380
Firesweep Shopper (6 Passenger) Wagons Produced: 2,270
Firesweep Explorer (9 Passenger) Wagons Produced: 1,198
Firesweep 4-Door Sedans Produced: 17,300
Firesweep 4-Door Hardtops Produced: 7,168
Firesweep 2-Door Hardtops Produced: 13,333
Firedome 4-Door Sedans Produced: 23,339
Firedome 4-Door Hardtops Produced: 9,050
Firedome 2-Door Hardtops Produced: 12,179
Firedome Convertibles Produced: 1,297
Fireflite Shopper (6 Passenger) Wagons Produced: 837
Fireflite Explorer (9 Passenger) Wagons Produced: 934
Fireflite 4-Door Sedans Produced: 11,565
Fireflite 4-Door Hardtops Produced: 6,726
Fireflite 2-Door Hardtops Produced: 7,217
Fireflite Convertibles Produced: 1,151
Adventurer 2-Door Hardtops Produced: 1,650
Adventurer Convertibles Produced: 300
Sources: The Plymouth and DeSoto Story by Don Butler, Ed Petrus angelfire.com/de/petrus