Following is an article that I wrote for the national Desoto club back in 1994 about ways to find Desoto cars, parts and memorabilia. This information could be used to find stuff for almost any make of car!
There are still many Desoto items to be found by anyone who wants to find them, no matter where you live! I have decided that I will not be able to look much further than Iowa and some of the bordering states. So I have decided to share my tips in hopes that this stuff will be found before it is thrown away! But you can target your searching to as wide an area as possible, depending on how much time you have available and how free you are to spend weekends on the road. Following are some of the methods I have developed and used over the past five years since I started collecting Desoto's. I am sure it is not the only way to do it, but if it helps anyone find and acquire a piece of Desoto history, it will be worth the reading time. Just to give you some background on myself, I am the first one in my family to own a Desoto, and I was born two years after they stopped production. I've only been collecting Desoto items for five years, and I certainly don't have a stack of cash to buy the parts I need to restore the 1957 Desoto Adventurer convertible I found using the methods that follow.
the stuff is out there, but you have to be a little more creative than most to find it. When you're collecting Desoto's you have to be persistent. You can't just open a catalog and order every part you need. If the part isn't to be found, all the money in the bank won't help. If you find Desoto parts, cars or memorabilia items that may not be of interest to you, but the price is right, buy them anyway. An ad in the club newsletter will get your money back, and the person you sell things to may return the favor someday and find some parts for you.
Here are some hints on what to do if you find a parts inventory in an existing dealership. Generally, these guys don't want you to go through their stuff making a mess just to come out with one part that you're going to pay $3.00 for. If they have enough stuff ask how much for all of the older parts. Often the price is very reasonable because the stuff has been taken off the books as a loss years ago. If the price is too high or if they don't wish to sell at this time, be sure to leave your name and phone number before you leave. Add them to your Christmas card list so they always know where to get in touch with you. This also applies to places where you purchased what you believed was all the old stuff who knows what they may turn up next and they need to have a way to get a hold of you.
I once visited a small town where the dealership building is now the fire station. The dealer had passed away and no relatives were to be found. The fire station was clean and all the old parts were said to have made a trip to the dump at least twenty years prior. On a return visit to this town I stopped in at an old repair garage to inquire about local salvage yards. After telling the guy what I was looking for he led me upstairs to the attic to look over a pile of parts. He explained that in 1959 the dealership he worked at in a town 7 miles away closed and he bought out the old parts inventory and opened up a repair garage in his hometown. Then in 1963 when his hometown dealer closed, the Regional Factory Representative talked him into being a dealer and buying that former dealer's inventory. After about a year it became obvious that it was a losing proposition and he stopped selling new cars and went back to just servicing them. Most of the mechanical items were used over the years servicing local cars. All that was left were body and trim parts, accessories, books, literature items and memorabilia. A trip to the local bank and a cash advance on my credit card for $300 (next month's rent!) and everything was mine. It took three trips with my van fully loaded to get everything home, where one very angry wife was waiting. After the weekend was over, 90% of the items were sold at wholesale prices, I had some nice parts for my car, the wife was happy that we would have a place to live for the next month, and my wholesale profit was $2,700.
Tips on How to Locate Dealerships in Your Area
Desoto dealers and their employees are getting older and passing away. Although I have found things in areas where the dealer passed away in the 1950's, it's always best to go directly to the source whenever possible. Here are a few ways to identify the former Desoto dealerships.
Auto Dealer Associations.
Almost every state had a dealers association that sent out newsletters to its members, and usually in January of each year issued a roster of every licensed dealer in the state, member or not. Find your state association and ask to go through the archives for roster issues. Normally photocopies are available at a nominal cost. Sometimes association archives are available only to members. In this case contact your local dealer for assistance. The state historical library sometimes has these monthly papers on file.
Vintage Newspaper Advertisements.
These can be found on microfilm at the newspaper office or the state historical library. Check the classified section for dealer ads. Papers from the month of November generally included special ads for new model introductions. Also check late December issues since it was customary for dealerships to wish their customers a Merry Christmas. Often these ads list the names of every employee at the dealership.
Old Phone Books.
Find them at antique shops, Telephone Company offices, or historical libraries.
City Directories (vintage)
. These are only available for the larger cities, but they can be very helpful when the name of the dealership was nonspecific, like Hometown Motors. These will give you the manager's name, etc. Again, check the library.
Check the shipping labels on NOS parts you purchase at local shows and swap meets.
This works best in smaller towns and even then only with the older shops. Quite often parts are ordered in a body shop to do repair work, and for some reason they were not used. The body shop is stuck with the parts if they didn't return them for a refund quickly enough. If one shop doesn't have anything along these lines they may know someone who does. Body shops also seem to know where old salvage yards are hidden away. Leave one of your cards with every body shop you visit.
Other MoPar Dealers.
Just because a dealer never sold Desoto's doesn't mean he didn't service them, especially if the local Desoto dealer closed down. Sometimes other MoPar dealers in the area acquired the dealer parts inventory. They may also know where the old Desoto dealership was located and who ran it and or who worked there.
Tips On Finding Desoto Items
License Plate Frame.
My daily driver has "I'd rather be driving My 1957 Desoto" on the plate frame. For years I had "I'd rather be driving A Desoto" and you'd be surprised how many people will have a Desoto story, literature, memorabilia, parts or even a car. And they will follow you for miles to tell you about it!
Whenever you go to swap meets, car shows, flea markets, or auctions wear something that says Desoto.
Other Local Car Clubs.
Join non-Desoto car clubs, especially other MoPar clubs, even if they are directed at high performance cars. Any items that these people find is of little interest to them, but if they know someone interested in Desoto's they will usually let you know about it.
This may not be the case throughout the United States, but in the mid-west there are numerous weekly papers (Tri-County Shopper, Pennysaver, etc.) that reach a wide audience. The cost for an ad can be as low as $3.00 for 20 words for two weeks. The papers are delivered to every house and apartment across several counties. Unlike the local newspaper want ads, these ads are read by a lot of people and have worked better than any newspaper ad I ever ran.
These work well in small towns where there was once a Desoto dealership. Usually near the post office there is a community bulletin board where flyers for garage sales, missing puppies, etc. can be posted. People in these communities may have something at home or know someone who does
The next time you visit your favorite salvage yards, check the MoPar trunk lids for dealer names and cities,
Desoto Dealer Magazines.
People & Places, Desoto Retailer, etc. often listed the names and locations of dealerships that were holding special promotions or were the top dealer for the month,
Check your sales brochures, owners manuals and service bulletins for the dealer name rubber stamped on the front or back cover. The next time you go to a swap meet; jot down the same information on materials being offered by literature vendors
Besides the items that were given to the dealers by the factory for distribution to customers, there was an entire industry providing a host of items personalized with the dealer name. Check out antique shows and swap meets for postcards, pens, pencils, tape measures, yardsticks, candy dishes, pocket protectors, matchbooks etc.
You should be able to add your own ideas to these lists. As I noted earlier, the most important thing is not to give up. If you are persistent eventually you'll be rewarded.
This is the second article that I wrote with more tips!
A couple of years ago (nov-dec 94) I wrote an article for the club paper with suggestions on how to find Desoto cars, parts and memorabilia. One of the points that I stressed in that article is to find out were the dealers were in your area. A couple of the suggestions were to use your states Automotive dealers association archives, dealer stamps on literature, trunk lid nameplates, Etc. (The issue is still available from the club store for newer members!) Well I have finally stepped into the computer age and got all my eggs in one basket so to speak. Over the last seven years I have been writing down in a note pad a list Desoto dealers by State, City, Dealership name and employee name when available. Before I started putting all this information together I guessed that there would be approx. 400 entries. It took me over two weeks to enter all the names and proof read it. (Granted my typing skills leave a lot to be desired). I had over 750 entries in that book. It's a far cry from a complete list since there were about 3,000 dealers in the USA (48 states) in 1957 (my favorite year) but it's a start. In some states I have only one listing. The only state that I know that I have very good coverage of is my own Iowa. I know this because I have state dealer rosters from 1955-75 that I picked up photocopies of from my state auto dealers assn.
Over the years I have been successful in contacting most of the dealers in Iowa and a few in adjoining states and have been fairly successful I finding cars, parts, memorabilia, etc. At the time I wrote that article I was told by some that it's only because I live in Iowa and that everything in their state was gone. Well with the aid of technology I decide to put that theory to the test. I checked phone listings from across the United States and compared them to the list. When I found an exact match a letter of inquiry was sent out. I am still receiving replies and some of them down right scared me. I was told in more than one instance that everything was recently thrown away. In one case less than a year ago. Because they thought no one was interested in the old Desoto's. Many of the replies stated that they were unaware of any interest in Desoto's let alone a national club. Because of this mailing I have picked up some nice pieces and sent out a number of new member applications. I have received replies from both coastlines and many points between and I only checked unusual names no Smith's Etc. It was a far from an in depth search that is more easily done on a local basis but it proved that the stuff is still out there if you look for it.
Its not easy restoring or preserving a car that has been out of production for more than 35 years. Sometimes you have to get creative in your search and not just wait for what you need to fall in your lap. And if you find something that might not be of interest to you an ad in the club paper will probably find someone that is interested. If you find new parts that you can't identify send me the part numbers and I'll see what I can do to identify them for you.
if you would like a list of what I have for your area just send me a self addressed stamped envelope and I will give "club members" a list of what I have for their area. Also if you send me a list of what you have. Or photocopies of old dealer magazines (Excellent source). I will add it to the database. On a number of occasions I have found that ex dealers and their employees have not talked to anybody about Desoto's for years and just love to reminisce about them. If I can I try to get them to become club members they have first hand information that could be very helpful in the preservation of the history of the marquee. And ex-dealership mechanics could also shed some light on how to fix problems that our cars are experiencing
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These are common and sometimes uncommon ways to mis-spell the primary words on this site! I provide this as a service to the phonically challenged because they are people too! Or maybe they have a typing handicap like myself. Crysler, Chrystler, Christler, Desota, De Sota, Desotoe, Desoda, Dasoda, fibre, fibreglass hiway, hifi, krysler, Mo Par, Peddel, Peddal, Peddle, Plymoth, Plimoth, Plimouth,