MAY 2023 1960 DESOTO—THIS MONSTER STARTED A WAR WITH THE DESOTO GUYS

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Mopar fin car guys are more of a cult than Star Wars fans because they know they are fans of a rare species.

You don’t see many fin cars at shows—often you don’t see any—so the dedication within the ranks of the fin car guys is unsurpassed.

That dedication to the cause is why this 1960 DeSoto two-door hardtop stirred up controversy within the ranks of the Virgil Exner fan club—especially the DeSoto chapter.  

Jerry Sutherland

Exner (for the newer members of the hobby) was the man behind the Forward Look design. He was the guy who saw the beauty in finned designs and started the cult movement. Gord Robinson is the proud owner of this beastly DeSoto—he confessed he had another fin car in mind when he decided to build a monster street/track car. Gord said he, “used to race and wanted to make a comeback”. He wanted something radically different because–as he said, “All the 60s cars are gone”. 

Gord admitted he wanted to build a ’59 Caddy, but a friend told him he had another old fin car behind a barn. It was a ’60 DeSoto and it was a heartbeat away from being iron compost. Gord said he liked the car and knew it was unique, so he decided to plow ahead with the project.

Gord said the lower rockers and floor pans definitely needed work, so they were replaced and there’s a custom transmission tunnel now. This was a unibody car, but Gord went in a different direction with an aftermarket custom chassis and a 4:10 Ford 9” rear end. This DeSoto is light years away from the torsion bar front/leaf spring rear suspension with drum brakes all around. As mentioned, Gord used to race so he needed a car that could handle brute force driving.

The brute force came in the form of a big block 440 built to 500 cubic inches and supercharged with an 871 blower—it adds up to over 900 horsepower. That’s a serious upgrade from the DeSoto’s factory 383 engine. The Torqueflite was built to handle a much bigger load and a manual shift, so the shifter was moved to the floor and the pushbuttons were decommissioned. The steering column was also replaced because the stock setup wouldn’t allow a big block and headers.

Gord was still on the shakedown phase of the build, so he did things like try to get it to overheat. His custom-built brass radiator handled the challenge with ease.

Gord has a huge list of decisions to make because he wants to retain the original look of the car. For example, he took the time to recreate a version of the original door panels and the headliner looks stock. He is also weighing whether he should go with the no-vent window look or retain them. This is a race car so the rear windows don’t roll down because of the roll cage, so he might go full plexiglass on the side windows.

The trim is another issue because he has to weigh the clean race car look against the cool factor of stock trim on the DeSoto. Gord is happy with the painted bumpers because he likes the contrast of the grille with the paint at the front of the car, so that won’t change.

Gord estimates the DeSoto will run mid 9-seconds at the track, but it’s surprisingly civilized in street use—when it’s dialed back a bit.

The biggest challenge Gord now faces is when DeSoto guys see the car—they are split 50-50 on the outcome because some are alarmed that a rare car was modified so much.

Gord sees it differently—he saved a doomed car and brought it back to life as the Incredible Hulk.  That’s a win.                  

Jerry Sutherland

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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