The FREE Complete Bay Area Auto Enthusiast Guide

By KENNETH HALL - Motoring Tampa Bay correspondent
In 1928, William Chrysler created DeSoto, a new line of mid-priced automobiles. During its first year, DeSoto built more than 81,000 cars, a first-year production record that stood until the introduction of the Ford Falcon in 1960. With seven different models and standard features that were options on other makes, it is no surprise that the DeSoto was an immediate hit with the public. Now largely forgotten, the DeSoto brand remained in production until 1960, by which time the company sold more than two million vehicles.
One look at the 1938 DeSoto S-5 Touring Sedan of David Brown and one has to wonder why more customizers are not searching barns for vintage DeSotos. Not that much of the Lakeland residents  DeSoto is original, aside from the body and the frame, but that was enough to spark Brown to purchase the car some 15 months ago.
“I just think the body lines on that era of car are amazing,” Brown says.
He was not necessarily looking for a DeSoto, but the eye-catching paint job and stylish restoration and customization of the car, which was done by the late Creative Customs in St. Petersburg, was hard for Brown to resist.
“It has a heavily-chromed 350 cubic-inch GM crate motor, with a tuned port fuel injection system and headers, and a 700R4 overdrive automatic transmission,” Brown adds.
Like most cars from 1938, the original interior on the DeSoto S-5 Touring Sedan was fairly plain, with cloth bench seats and few creature comforts. The remodeled interior of his 1938 DeSoto is visually stunning, with lavishly upholstered door panels and headliner, bucket seats in front and a sofa-like bench seat in back. The custom console includes high-end stereo and modern gauges, while the custom steering wheel boasts an art deco design.
“The interior is second to none,” Brown says. “It has flames set into the headliner that match the ghost flames of the paint job. The 3-D sculpting continues throughout the interior and the door panels, and the steering wheel matches the billet specialty wheels.”
When Creative Customs built the car in 1996, the company incorporated modern touches while preserving the classic lines of the 1938 DeSoto. The rear end is from a 1996 Camaro, while the front end was purloined from a Mustang II. Brown says he believes the bucket seats are from a 1996 Camaro as well.
“It has power brakes, with discs in front and drums in the rear, power steering and air conditioning,” Brown adds. “The windshield wipers are pretty much non-functional though. They were hooked up to a vacuum system and they do work, but it better not be raining very hard.”
Brown admits that his DeSoto is not all that fast, despite the 350 cubic-inch engine, but speed is not a priority for him. “It is a blast to drive. It is not a dragster; it is a cruiser, but it does have enough get up and go that when it shifts into second gear, it will chirp the tires.”
Wherever he takes his 1938 DeSoto, Brown never fails to attract plenty of attention. “That has been the fun of owning this car,” he admits. “There is no place we can drive that car, whether it is out for a weekend cruise, visiting antique shops or going to car shows, people are drawn to it. Women love the mirror-finish paint job and guys love the engine. Last year, we had it in 13 different car shows and it won 13 awards.
“Everybody loves the interior,” Brown continues. “When people look in the window and up at the headliner, everyone says wow! They cannot help it because it is so unique. Have you seen another car with flames set into a 3-D headliner? It is truly a one-of-a-kind car.”

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