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My new DeSoto!
Hi Mark! Thanks for the response. I have sooo many questions. For example, what octane gas should I put in it? Do I need to put any fuel additives in this thing? The cool thing is she still runs great, hope to take my boys to a local show soon. Really excited!
That's a VERY nice looking '55. As a long-time '55 Firedome sedan owner and the Club's '55 model year coordinator, you will enjoy driving and showing this car. Contact me if you have any questions, and thanks for sharing photos of your car.
Congrats on your purchase. Your engine is low compression. So regular gas (87 octane in these parts) should be fine. It's hard to tell from your pictures, but it appears that the car has remained 6V positive ground, as original. Your battery cables should be 0/1, which are twice as thick as standard 12V battery cables. It appears that you have the thinner cables. Those should be replaced with the correct ones, which are available at Napa.
I've been working on a 55 Fireflite 2dr for the last three years. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask away.
Hi Ron - Thank you so much for the response, I greatly appreciate it. This is my first "old car" so there will be a learning curve for sure. I just realized the other day that it is in fact running a 6V battery and system using the multimeter. It appears the previous owner put in a more modern radio (12 volt) likely in the early 90s, and power to it from an additional 12 volt battery inside the engine compartment that was confusing the hell out of me until I figured out where the wires were running to.
How resilient do you think this engine is? I have so far been very gentle with it, just cruising around the surface streets of my neighborhood. But it's a hemi V8 right? Could I hop on the freeway and go those speeds?
I am noticing a couple small drips of oil coming out from the undercarriage when I park after running the motor, but I am assuming par for the course for a car this vintage?
One of my headlights is out, so I ordered a 7inch, 6V sealed headlight on ebay, hope that works. I am noticing that the lane shifter lights are not working either, on and on and on! So much fun.
Just have to share this last bit...the passenger side front door handle was completely loose, I was able to take the whole assembly off and using a flashlight could see down in the middle of the door where the missing screw was. An extender magnet later, I fixed the door handle. Small victory, but satisfying!
As Ron suggested, the compression ratio on the 291 Hemi is 7.5 to 1 so you do not need to run high octane fuel. Depending on where you live, you might want to source some non-ethanol fuel. This website lists places that sell such fuel: https://www.pure-gas.org/ If there is a source listed close to you, be sure to contact them first to determine if they have a drive-up pump. Some locations on this list sell non-ethanol fuel. I've been using such fuel in my '55 for several years and have noticed better drivability and longer life to rubber parts in the fuel system.
Going fast is one thing, being able to control the car at speed and bring it to a stop are another. Before you see how fast she'll go, ensure your front end and steering gear are solid and safe and most importantly ensure your brakes are in good shape. Can't tell from the photos if your brake system is original, but assuming it is, you have a single master cylinder drum brake system. If the system is in good shape and the brakes adjusted correctly, you can cruise at highway speeds. I do it all the time in my '55, but the front end and steering are as tight as a 50K car of this era can be and the brakes are in good shape and adjusted regularly. This car does not have self adjusting brakes so you have to manually adjust them.
It would be a good idea to add an oil additive with zinc specifically made for older vehicles. Most chain auto parts stores sell such additives.
Many old cars leak. A lot of restored cars in museums either have drip pans underneath them or they drain the fluids before putting them on display. A few drips is normal, IMHO. The Powerflite transmission will leak if the car is not driven regularly. Excess fluid drains from the torque converter and spills out of the case after sitting for several days.
You say the "lane shifter" lights are not working. Do the turn signals work at all when depressed fully either up or down? Cars of this era did not have a "lane change" feature. As I recall, that was a mid-sixties era feature designed for the more common highway driving. My dad's new '67 Pontiac had this feature and he thought it was the greatest thing. But then he changed lanes as often as most people blinked.
Let us know if we can confuse you about anything else .
Some random questions...
Did you change the oil and filter when you purchased the car ? Since the car has a canister-type oil filter, you drips may be coming from a gasket that is beginning to fail or never seated properly.
Brakes: Does your car have manual or power brakes ? If not sure, post a pic of your master cylinder.
Your 60+ year old wiring is old and crusty. You should replace with fresh wiring, as there is likely a lot of corrosion/oxidation on the copper strands, creating resistance...something you don't want on a 6V system.
Ron & Mark - Thanks for the responses. Like I said, I am new to this and so I have not changed the oil or done any mechanical maintenance yet. The car of course runs and the breaks "stop" me. I am attaching what the previous owner had done to the car approx 5 years back now(see link to .pdf document below). Apparently it was sitting for some time a while back and it had to get working again. I will post some more images of the engine later today with shots of the brake cylinder. I just want to be safe in this thing, since I do plan and driving my kids around town! Any all further comments are greatly appreciated!
****added more pics of engine
Hi Jay - Thanks for posting follow up pictures.
Yes, your car has power brakes. When driving, do you find that the car stops easily, or do you have to stand on the brake pedal with both feet ?
The PDF that you attached indicates that the oil hasn't been changed in five years. It would be a good idea to do that. But look at the dipstick first to determine if the oil is fresh or dirty. Also it says that he used five qts of oil. If he changed the filter, it would require an extra quart for the canister. But I think he used 5 qts + 1 qt of Rislone, which is like Marvel Mystery Oil
Your battery cables do look correct for a 6V system. But they may be old. You should inspect for corrosion and cracked insulation.
Thanks Ron - Brakes stop the car with more effort than my honda accord that has 4 wheel disc brakes! I live on a pretty big hill too, and she stops okay..have to give it some extra stopping time of course but again, probably par for the course.
Just checked the oil, looks new. It is very likely that the car has for the most part been sitting around since that last oil change...so not many engine on hours. Still a good idea to change the oil?
If it looks new, then you can probably leave it. The canister type oil filter can be a bit tricky. If the gasket isn't mounted correctly, you will have a puddle to deal with.
If your power brakes weren't working, it would take a crazy amount of effort to stop the car, even going 5mph. So it sounds like the booster is OK.
Congratulations on your first show/cruise. These cars sometime get more attention than the over-rated Corvettes and Mustangs which are as plentiful as, well, you know.
As an owner of a '59 Firesweep 4 door sedan, it is amazing how much the general crowds appreciate these sedans. One would think you have to have a 2 door hardtop or convertible to get noticed - HA!
Keep up the exposure of your fine '55 and you'll love it.
Would like to see you here in Branson for the NDC National Convention August 22-26.
"It's delightful, it's delovely, it's DeSoto"