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1956 DeSoto Fireflite Sportsman Hardtop
History of the car:
According to FCA, the car was sold new at Wheeler Motor Co. in Ada, OK. The ten years following are still currently unknown as I have not found a way to track down the original owner or owners. Nevertheless, the car did not have an easy first ten years because by about 1966, the car ended up in an Oklahoma junkyard. From tearing down the engine later on and finding a badly bent crank and a broken main cap (shown below), I would have to say that someone was really beating on the car and that's why it ended up in a junkyard. Anyhow, after only about a year of being in the yard, a fellow named Bob Merritt from Kansas bought the car (amongst other salvageable cars) and stashed it in a building. The car sat until sometime in the late seventies/early eighties when the building collapsed from snow on the roof. Several cars were totaled while others only suffered minor damage. The DeSoto ended up with a crushed roof and a large dent across the hood and passenger fender. At this point, the car was sold to a fellow in Indiana, just outside of Chicago. He began the process of restoring the car, doing some minor body work and paint on the rear of the car, including replacing the roof. He also had the seats and door panels re-done, the bumpers/guards/parking light housings re-chromed, and a Firedome motor partially re-built. He also located another fender and hood to replace the dented parts. At this point, he lost interest in the car and put it up for sale. In November 2002, my father purchased the car. After sitting for a while and me wanting a DeSoto, he sold me the car. On July 4, 2004, I officially began purchasing my first car at the age of 12. I didn't have much money at the time, but we decided to have the original engine rebuilt by a fellow who had done many early hemis and was starting to slow down in the number of motors he was rebuilding. We weren't in a hurry, so he worked on it on the side over the course of about a year and a half. He discovered the bad crank and broken main cap. Luckily though, the block was not cracked and I have since confirmed (I was 99% sure before) that the engine is original to the car. After that, the car sat virtually untouched for a few years while I was in high school. As I started college, I still didn't have much money, but I did have my summers free. So over the course of the 4 or so years going to school for engineering, I started to finish the motor. After progressing a bit, I discovered some things I wasn't happy with internally, such as lack of assembly lube and seized/dirty rockers. I can only chalk it up to the builder's declining health and memory because I know he had quite a reputation. After reversing some of my progress (I tore the engine down to the internals), I started assembling again. After graduating from college in February 2015 and paying off student loans, I started saving for body and paint work (I fully admit I cannot do this work and wouldn't start on this car even if I learned). In the meantime, I finished off the engine in October 2016 (see YouTube link below). In November 2016, I sent the car with Tim Bowers to Stellar Antique Auto Restorations in Windom, KS. Currently it is off the frame in varying stages of primer and rust repair. After the body and paint work are done, I will be doing final assembly.
My goal with the car is to do a nut-and-bolt restoration on the car back to 100% factory original, with the one exception being a set of glasspacks. It came white/yellow as shown in the photos with the white/black/silver cloth & leather interior. The car was very stripped down for a Sportsman, coming with mostly only what was standard for the model. I will not be adding a bunch of options and intend to stick with the factory colors.
Detailed restoration thread:
Engine first start: