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Reader's Rides - Val Dutson's 1933 DeSoto Coupe
Back in 1968, I decided to go back to college for a higher degree to improve my chances of finding a job. On Sundays we made it a habit of going to the Alameda Flea Market, just west of Berkeley, and we nearly always found some treasures. I remember one time finding a complete, new old stock '36 Ford radio still in the box. I didn't buy it because the guy wanted $25 for it, which I thought was way too high. A few Sundays later we were cruising through the flea market and I spotted this '33 DeSoto Coupe. The front end was off, in pieces, and sitting in the back of a pick-up next to it. It had a 392 Hemi sitting on some home made mounts, attached to the rails. I was always interested in Mopars, particularly the early 30's. I walked up to the guy while looking the car over and ask him what he wanted for the car. He came back, without hesitation, with "$35.00". I said, "I'll take it". I had bought my first old car. Then I realized I had no place to store it. That didn't change a thing. I borrowed a trailer and went to his house and hauled it home. It sat in my driveway in Berkeley for a few days until I rented a storage place.
When finished at Berkeley, I went across the Street and started working for the California State Health Department. I worked there for about 10 years before deciding to move back to Oregon. While working for the state, I managed to work on a few cars that I aquired. I finished a '37 Hudson Super Terraplane 4 door, a '37 Chevy Coupe and a '39 Studebaker Commander Coupe. I still have the Terraplane but sold the Chevy to a friend of mine that owned an auto parts store there in Berkeley for $1,500 and thought I made a lot of money. I traded the Studebaker for a '61 Lincoln Continental Convertible that I drove for several years and ended up taking it to the Cow Palace where there was a huge collector car auction that was advertised world wide. They spent too much money on adverising, I was told, and went bankrupt after the auction and I lost my car. I had just paid for a new exhaust system and seat repair right before the auction. That was the only auction I have ever put a car in. I guess that doesn't happen anymore but I still haven't regained enough trust to use one again.
We moved all of my cars (I think there were 8 by then), a '33 Pierce Arrow, '41 Imperial Sedan, '37 Hudson Terraplane Sedan, '33 Dodge Convertible, '33 DeSoto Coupe, '40 Pontiac Convertible, '28 Gardner Roadster and a '51 Nash Healey) to SW Oregon. The DeSoto sat in a barn with at least 15 other cars for about 35 years. Actually, the collection had grown to about 25 cars stored in several places over the those 35 years. I loved old cars. I had more GM cars than any thing else and developed a special liking for the 50's styling. A few of the more notable cars I restored was a 1957 Pontiac 2 door hard top and kept it for a few years and it went back to the Bay Area in California. The proceeds of the sale allowed me to work on the next project. I built a '40 Pontiac Convertible, '65 Ford Cobra kit car, a '65 El Camino, a '64 Dodge Polara 500 Convertible, and a '41 Lincoln Continental Convertible with all of the running gear from a '94 Lincoln Mark 8, including the front and rear suspension before getting busy on the DeSoto rumble seat coupe just two years ago. Don't know why I tend to save the car I most want to finish and drive for last. I enjoyed each of them, however, and especialy loved the satisfaction of finishing and admiring those beautiful cars.
The DeSoto was a very straight and a rust free car, probably because I stored it inside a dry place for about 45 years. The original blue paint was sanded off the body and I dismantled the rest of the car. I sandblasted the frame and decided to install a '97 T-Bird independent, disc brake, rear axle assembly and a Volvo front suspension with disc brakes (converted it to power rack and pinion). I chose these suspensions because I already had them and they were free. Not always the best choices for performance sake, but when on a budget...
I hated to cut the trunk floor with factory paint still on it in order to install the rear axle assembly but in order to get the car down low enough I had to cut into the frame and build above to strengthen the rails. The body is nearly stock as seen finished. I found a '56 Desoto Hemi bored to 300ci, at a swap meet in Redmond, Oregon that had very few miles on a complete, professionally built engine and installed it. Had to cut some notches in the front fenders to accommodate the wide heads. It is a close fit. The engine came with a flywheel and scatter shield that I adapted to a
Chevy S10 5 speed overdrive transmission.
The interior is wool broadcloth that is a copy of the original pattern. The dash and steering wheel came with the car and I wood grained the dash and garnish mouldings to match the steering wheel color which I only had to spray with clear to bring out the details. I think my total investment in the car is about $8,000.
fleet choice just two shades darker. It is a very nice driving car.
Hope to see you all at a car show or swap meet in the near future.
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