A Rare Pair – Two 1933 DeSoto Deluxe Coupes
Article and photography by Richard Butschi
Walter Chrysler announced the addition of the DeSoto to the Chrysler Corporation lineup on August 4, 1928, to compete in the mid-priced class with the likes of Oldsmobile, Mercury, Studebaker, Hudson and Willys. It would serve as a lower priced vehicle, even to Dodge and Plymouth, that had been added to the Chrysler Corp. offerings that same year. The 1929 model year DeSoto set a first-year sales record of 81,065 units that stood until the Ford Falcon hit the showrooms in 1960.
In 1933, Chrysler tried to boost the sale of Dodges, by upgrading the DeSoto with a high-end body style and options, and making Dodge the more affordable offering. DeSoto went on to be an upper-class car for the corporation. In 1942, DeSoto made its mark by being the only North American mass produced car with power “pop-up” headlights. The DeSoto was phased out after Chrysler offered the trimmed-down Newport model in 1961.
Dennis Purcell was a “car guy” from way back when his dad was a mechanic. While living on Hwy 30 near Van Horne for 38 years, he and his wife, Ramona, bought their first Corvette in 1990 and joined the local club. They traded Vettes often, working their way through about a dozen of them, as Dennis estimates. Purcell retired from Quaker Oats in ‘97, while Ramona continued to work there. Eventually, Dennis was longing for something different, perhaps a street rod, but it had to be different. After much surfing of the internet, he came across a 1933 DeSoto Deluxe Coupe located in Holt, Michigan. The car was a shade of green that they didn’t care for, but that could, and would, later be changed. This was a whole new ballgame after owning several sleek, modern Vettes. They had so much fun with it that they bought a second one just a year later, in 2005.
This one was also a ‘33 Deluxe, and it received an immediate body-off restoration and new black paint done by Golden Hammer Collision Center. The motor, transmission and interior were kept “as is.” The Purcells started showing the black beauty in 2006, raking in a boat-load of trophies, including many Best of Shows and Dennis’s favorite - Kirk Ferentz’s Pick at the first “Cruisin’ for the Kids” car show in Iowa City. For local area shows, it was a “his-n-hers” deal, each driving a ‘33. The green one had power steering, so that was deemed “hers.” More distant shows, like “Back to the ‘50s” in the Twin Cities, 2011, required the one-car enclosed trailer. Since the unrestored green one was left sitting in the garage more and more frequently, Ramona suggested selling it, which naturally spurred Dennis to do what(?) - restore it, of course!
It received the full body-off treatment – blasting and recoating the frame, new suspension front and rear, beefing up the engine and tranny, replating the chrome and even repainting the faux-wood trim on the interior. Brad Johnson of Custom Auto Rebuilders, Marion, handled much of the mechanical work. The green paint was replaced with Corvette Magnetic Red by Jamie Lockwood at D&D Auto, Alburnett. Soon thereafter, the shiny red rod received a Best Paint award at an area show. Showing a lot of class and appreciation, the Purcells later headed to D&D and presented the trophy to Lockwood.
The two coupes are almost a matched set – both having 100% original all-steel bodies and Mopar 340 V8s with Torqueflite 904 transmissions. Both cars are outfitted with power brakes and doorlocks, and air-conditioning. Noticeably, the black one has a different grill, which Purcell suspects is hand-made. The original was probably damaged beyond repair and very difficult to find. He did some research and found that there are only seven 1933 DeSotos registered in the country – making this a “rare pair,” indeed.
The Purcells have had a blast with the pair of ‘33s, so much so that they sold their last Corvette in 2009. And now it’s time to thin the herd even more. One of these beauties is for sale. Take your pick!