Photos & text courtesy of Mecum Auctions
DeSoto was riding high in 1955, unveiling Virgil Exner’s fresh new “Forward Look” lineup. The new cars caught the public’s imagination, and DeSoto sales nearly doubled over the previous year. The new flagship for 1955 was the FireFlite, a rakish car with great presence and a plush interior. Like all DeSotos, it was powered by Chrysler’s Firedome Hemi V8, with a choice of either a 3-speed manual or push-button operated Powerflite automatic transmissions. The 1956 models arrived with even bolder styling and more power, with the Powerflite now standard equipment. Among those most impressed by the new FireFlite were Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Tony Hulman and his organizing committee, who unanimously chose the FireFlite as the Official Pace Car of the 1956 Indy 500, citing its “outstanding performance and superb handling characteristics.” DeSoto produced about 400 Pacesetter special-edition convertibles with White and Gold paint to commemorate the honor and supplied dealerships with stencils to recreate the lettering on the official race vehicles.
This restored 1956 DeSoto FireFlite Pacesetter has seen little use in recent years and has been well cared for. Vinyl lettering now decorates the car’s White and Gold flanks, and the external chrome and bright trim are superb. The power-operated Saddle vinyl top and boot are fresh and tight, as is the gorgeous interior, which features sharp Gold vinyl upholstery with tweed seat and door inserts, clean, clean gauges and a rare Highway Hi-Fi 45 RPM record player. Other highlights include special-edition Gold wheel covers, power front seat, power steering, dash-mounted clock, push-button radio with dual power rear antennas and a well-detailed trunk and undercarriage.