The Way It Was


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1959 The stiletto-sharp tail fins on this 1960 De Soto Fireflite would probably make a great white shark envious. Back then, tail fins were the cutting edge in auto design. But the De Soto, a division of the Chrysler Corp., wouldn’t be around much longer after this catchy billboard went up in downtown Detroit between the Fyfe and Grand Park Centre buildings. The last model year was 1961. Most automotive observers attribute its demise to the fact that Chrysler already had a midpriced line in the Dodge, and that the De Soto (which was introduced in 1928) was effectively competing with Dodge. Still, De Soto, named after Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto, had quite a run — and a memorable ad campaign. Quoting the Cole Porter tune and a slight change of lyrics, “It’s De Lovely! It’s Dynamic! It’s De Soto!” became a popular jingle. De Soto was also the sponsor of the 1950s quiz show You Bet Your Life hosted by Groucho Marx. The brand’s Skyline model was also the official taxicab in New York City for many years. Starting in 1936, De Sotos were assembled on Detroit’s west side, on Wyoming Avenue between Ford Road and McGraw Avenue. Before that, they were made at the Lynch Road plant and also on East Jefferson Avenue. The Albert Kahn-designed plant on Wyoming wasn’t entirely leveled until 2011, a half century after Chrysler brought down the curtain on the De Soto.

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