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Classic Used Oil Generators: 1960 DeSoto
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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 lingers.

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,” Kenney says.

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 window.

While motoring in his 18-foot, 1-inch-long DeSoto with fins that begin in the front door Kenney admits, "It's been an adventure.”

Perhaps he should amend that statement to: "It's been an Adventurer.”

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