APRIL 2024: 196O DESOTO ADVENTURER—A SIX-YEAR-OLD KID’S DREAM COMES TRUE

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There was always that one car in the past—someone else owned it, but if life worked out perfectly, you knew you’d own it someday.

That’s a dream more than a reality—except for this 1960 DeSoto Adventurer four-door hardtop.

Jerry Sutherland

Gary Millang was 16 years old when he saw this car. He mowed lawns for the owners—Samuel and Alberta Gagnon. Sam was a farmer and Alberta Gagnon was a teacher. They wanted the car because Sam had some health issues, so the swing-out seat option appealed to him. They looked at a red ‘60 Chrysler but passed on it because they didn’t like the color, so the salesman steered them toward the blue 1960 DeSoto.

Sam and Alberta liked the DeSoto because it wasn’t red, plus Sam was happy with the radio delete because he “didn’t want the noise”. They paid $5190 for the car and took possession on July 4, 1960. Sam passed away in 1963–Alberta Gagnon owned the car until 1988.

She never drove the car in the winter, but she did leave it outside in the summer, so it showed some wear and tear, but it was rust-free. She eventually moved into a retirement home and put the car up for sale in 1988. Gary spotted the ad and knew this was the same car he’d dreamed about since he was six.

Gary got the car because Mrs. Gagnon knew he was the perfect caretaker for her DeSoto. She ruled out her nephews because she thought they’d “hot rod” it so the kid who wanted the car was the obvious choice to take care of it.

The car needed new paint and the bumpers had to be re-chromed—but beyond that the DeSoto was in spectacular shape. Gary found some rear taillight trim pieces in the glovebox that had a reputation for falling off, so he had them upgraded to a higher quality metal and so far, he said, “They’re still hanging on.” 

The seats are original, and the back seat had never been used under the Gagnon’s watch–but Gary installed rear seatbelts so he could fit kids in their kiddie carriers. Gary said the seat foam is going away and turning to dust, so that will be something he has to put on the list.

Gary said he used to drive Mrs. Gagnon to the cemetery where her husband and other family members are buried, and he always took her there in the DeSoto because those trips were special moments. It was his way of paying her back for his childhood dream car.

This car is not a trailer queen. Gary has driven it to shows hundreds of miles away—from British Columbia to Montana. He admitted the car was a handful with bias-ply tires because “It wanted to follow the ruts in the road”. He upgraded to radials and the car’s habits changed instantly so now it’s a straight-down-the-road highway machine.

The DeSoto is a little tired. Gary said two cylinders in 383 V-8 are “down a bit”, but the car still runs well—his biggest concern is the price of premium gas.  

The biggest takeaway from this story is how a six-year-old kid was struck by a then-new car and ended up owning it decades later. Gary explained it his own way.   

Even now I can’t believe it’s mine—it’s still gorgeous.                       

Gary Millang

By: Jerry Sutherland

Jerry Sutherland is a veteran automotive writer with a primary focus on the collector car hobby. His work has been published in many outlets and publications, including the National Post, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, Ottawa Citizen, Montreal Gazette, Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Regina Leader-Post,  Vancouver Sun and The Truth About Cars. He is also a regular contributor to Auto Roundup Publications.

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