HomePick of the DayTowering tailfins: 1959 DeSoto Firedome coupe was a standout design

Towering tailfins: 1959 DeSoto Firedome coupe was a standout design


There’s no doubt that 1959 was the ultimate year of the tailfin, ending the stylish ’50s with Cadillac sprouting them to lofty heights, Chevrolet going sideways and Lincoln putting a new slant on the rear-end embellishment.

While GM designer Harley Earl is largely credited with promoting tailfins after being inspired by fighter jets, over at Chrysler, head stylist Virgil Exner was busy endowing those brands with some of the sleekest fins ever seen, or likely ever to be seen again.


The DeSoto brand was doomed to extinction once the decade was over, but it certainly went out in style with magnificent tailfins that soared upward with optimistic flair, despite the gathering clouds.

The Pick of the Day is a 1959 DeSoto Firedome Sportsman, a two-door hardtop with one of the grandest sets of tailfins ever conceived.  This was part of Exner’s “Forward Look” styling theme that made the Chrysler brands seem like sleek projectiles cutting through the atmosphere.

The DeSotos had perhaps the cleanest look of the bunch, and this low-mileage example in Spring Rose with a Metallic Brown roof shows the wide range of colors available at the time.


“Only 2,250 Firedome Sportsman 2dr. hardtops were produced in 1959, and this is an exceptionally nice example with 43,000 miles,” according to the Orlando, Florida, dealer advertising the DeSoto on ClassicCars.com.

‘This DeSoto is powered by a 383 cubic inch V8 engine with dual exhaust and equipped with a pushbutton automatic transmission, power steering, power brakes, Swivel bucket seats, AM radio, Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels and wide whitewall tires.”

There’s no mention of restoration history in the ad, or whether the car is an original survivor, which it could well be with such low mileage.  The photos with the ad show gleaming paint and chrome, and an interior that appears to be in very good condition.  The chrome wire wheels with wide whitewalls add an elegant touch.


The swivel front seats were a cool feature that turned outward to allow the driver and passenger to enter and exit the low car with grace.

The eye-catching coupe is priced at $35,000.

To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.


Bob Golfen
Bob Golfen
Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.


  1. Even though this car does indeed possess great fins, I believe that is where its greatest attribute comes to a screaming halt. If in doubt compare to let us say the ’56 Packard Caribbean. The contrast is startling. Clean crisp elegant stlying both inside and out. One look and the senses need no convincing that these cars were years ahead of Virgil Exner’s designs

    • The 56 Packard was years ahead alright. Six years ahead as the basic style was released for 1951. The 56 model is clearly a warmed over facelift.

  2. An exceptional survivor. A friends Dad had a four door sedan that drove like a rocket, smoothe and steady. My family was GM models from Impalas and Cadillacs. Great cars but this one was exceptional. Had dreamed about being a GM designer but not encouraged by my dad who needed me more for his accounting practice. Oh, well, that is history but still remember that golden age of design. Now, they all look the same and regrettably so. Thanks for allowing me to see something special. AWT

  3. This car is extremely cool in every way-some say it is not as cool as a 57 chevy-I just disagree-this is more of a complex design-the car looks custom in the way a lowrider is custom=look at the way the stance is-beyond classic-just plain cool to the maxx

  4. Beautiful piece of automotive history, my Dad was a used car dealer in the 60’s and I remember quite a few tail finned MOPARS crossing his lot.

  5. Oooh. The design, the color scheme, the stance- this thing takes me back to the mid ’60’s of my childhood, when cars like this were just everywhere in central Indiana.
    Pale pink and brown; colors that really go well together, yet are never seen on today’s hyperaggro every-surface ‘styled’ econoboxes as Ferrari replacements (or, mayhap, ah, male equipment substitutes? Does a 120hp sideways 4banger really need fake dual exhausts with oh-so-cool fake tips in the rear valence? Is anyone, but the buyer, even fooled?). And what happened to green cars? Sigh. I digress.
    The ‘Soto looks exactly what I imagined Perry Mason driving, back when Perry was a lawyer and not an Ozzy tune. Or maybe Perry’s investigator, Paul Drake- he was a sporty type.
    And Mr. Traniello has a most excellent point- why do modern cars all look the same- save for Toyotas, that appear to be designed by teams of meth addicted teenaged anime addicts, on a bad, bad, day? A little help here, ‘k?


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