By Vern Parker
More than 50 years ago the late Jim Kenney, a
Westinghouse engineer, drove to his Havertown, Pa., home in a new 1960 DeSoto.
The tail fins seemingly soared from yesterday
to tomorrow and his family was ecstatic about the new family car. One of the
boys in the family, Tom, had recently acquired a license to drive. That fact
meant nothing to his father.
The teenager washed and waxed that DeSoto for
a chance to drive the car. Even then his grades in school were considered. "If
I was good,” Kenney reports, "I got to take the DeSoto out on the weekends.”
Kenney says it wasn't until years later that
he learned why his father always looked in the trunk of the car upon his return
home. His father always placed a heavy toolbox in the center of the trunk and
he expected it to be in the same place when his teenage son returned home.
That DeSoto is long gone but the memory
In the autumn of 2011 Kenney learned of a
1960 DeSoto that had been purchased new in Towanda, Pa., and had not been
driven in almost 30 years. The car was then the possession of the second owner
in Ulster, Pa. That was only about 200 miles away from Kenney's Hampstead, Md.,
home, only about 15 miles south of Pennsylvania.
Kenney went to see the car, bought it and had
it delivered to his home on the back of a truck. He knew up front that the car
needed some care to be roadworthy. "It took six weeks to get it on the road,”
The DeSoto he purchased is a four-door
hardtop Adventurer model of which only 2,759 were manufactured. One
factory-installed optional feature on the car impressed him. It was the air
conditioner, rather an unusual accessory in 1960.
The 1960 model year was the final full year
of DeSoto production after slightly more than 30 years. A handful of 1961
DeSotos were produced which were virtually identical to the 1960 models. The
last one was built in November 1960. The Chrysler Corporation in 1928 launched
DeSoto as a competitor to Oldsmobile, Pontiac and the less expensive Nash
automobiles. DeSoto found 90,000 customers that first year.
Kenney's particular DeSoto had a base price
of $3,727 and weighed 3,940-pounds. The unibody car rides on a 122-inch
wheelbase and is powered by a 383-cubic-inch V-8 engine that delivers
305-horsepower complements of a two-barrel carburetor. The speedometer can
register speeds up to 120 mph.
Kenney says that he is thankful that his car
is not equipped with the optional four-barrel thirsty carburetor because he
must fill the 23-gallon fuel tank with high-priced premium grade gasoline.
Access to the gasoline tank is hidden behind the rear license plate. A pair of
rubber-capped bumper guards are on the front bumper while a single rubber strip
protects the rear bumper.
Other fluid capacities on the DeSoto are the
five quarts of oil in the crankcase plus one more for the filter. A total of 17
quarts of coolant are required to keep the engine temperature under control.
When Kenney first got his DeSoto home he knew
he had to address the leaking freeze plug problem. The engine and transmission
were pulled, he says, and the faulty freeze plugs were replaced.
Kenney enjoys the left-hand operated
push-button TorqueFlite transmission. From the left the push buttons active the
Reverse – Neutral – Drive – Second – First gears. The DeSoto left the factory
on 8.00x14-inch tires. Kenney now enjoys a superior ride on radial tires.
From the helm of the two-tone, two-spoke
steering wheel, he exclaims, visabilty is excellent out the "Vistarama” rear
While motoring in his 18-foot, 1-inch-long
DeSoto with fins that begin in the front door Kenney admits, "It's been an
Perhaps he should amend that statement to:
"It's been an Adventurer.”