American Classics

Preserving the Nearly Extinct 1959 DeSoto Firesweep Explorer Wagon

As an American automaker under the Chrysler brand, DeSoto made automobiles from 1928 to 1961.

Chrysler started DeSoto just before the acquisition of the Dodge Brothers with the intention of making DeSoto an entry-level product. Even after acquiring Dodge, DeSoto production continued as a mid-price and entry-level brand until its demise.

By the 1950s, many DeSoto models featured their signature tailfins combined with extravagant styling. Although it was also available as a sedan, the 1959 DeSoto Firesweep Explorer Wagon is special in its own way.

In some areas of the world, the Firesweep is the DeSoto Diplomat. For the most part, the Firesweep is very similar to a Dodge Coronet. However, the Firesweep features a DeSoto grille and bumper.

Perhaps one of the reasons for its name is the stylish sweeping accents, available in a different color than the body paint. Standard for the era, the Firesweep features a front-engine mount, rear-wheel-drive layout. 

More importantly, the Firesweep Explorer Wagon could seat many passengers making it ideal for typical larger American families at the time. If you need a lot of seating, the DeSoto Firesweep Explorer Wagon offers plenty of it for a reasonable price in 1959.

Approximately 1,179 of the total ‘59 Firesweep Explorer Wagon models built feature 9-passenger seating. The rest of the existing 1,054 Firesweep Wagons from 1959 feature seating for six passengers. Classified as a 4-door station wagon at the time, it still features a traditional fifth rear door. 

Of course, if you are buying a new DeSoto Firesweep in 1959, you have plenty of optional upgrades to consider. It is still like that today. In 1959, the options did not include driver-assist or additional external cameras to see around the big-bodied station wagon. 

Some of the available options included a three-tone paint job offering a different color for the roof, body, and side sweep accents. Other available upgrades included a clock, AM radio, or air conditioning. A good salesman would remind you the available rear speaker might help keep the kids quiet on long trips in 1959.

Available options do not end there. Considering 1959 wound up being the end of the line for Firesweep production, DeSoto needed to salvage every buck they could. Other available options included power steering, power brakes, and even carpeting.

DeSoto switched to a 361 cubic-inch 5.9L V8 for all 1959 DeSoto Firesweep Explorer Wagons. This is a slight displacement upgrade over the 350 cubic-inch 5.7L V8 under the hood of 1958 models. Many Firesweep Wagons feature a 3-speed, push-button TorqueFlight automatic transmission.

Other transmission options include a 3-speed manual or a 2-speed PowerFlite automatic. With 290 horsepower and 390 pound-feet of torque, the 1959 DeSoto Firesweep Explorer Wagon has potential. There is definitely enough power to flash the stylish tail lights once in a while, should the opportunity present itself.

Of course, this is a heavy vehicle, so it is not exactly quick despite having some available power. It weighs over 4,000 pounds, so expect a 0 to 60 miles per hour time in the 8-second range on a stock engine. Still, not bad for a very stylish station wagon.

Decent DeSoto Wagons Are Becoming Increasingly Difficult to Find

There are not many 1959 DeSoto Firesweep Explorer Wagons left featuring 9-passenger seating. Some estimates assume there are less than 10 left in running condition. Expect to pay somewhere between $35,000 to $45,000 if you want one, assuming somebody is even selling one. 

That is a far cry from the original price tag. A 6-passenger Firesweep Wagon started at $3,336 while the 9-passenger version started at $3,508 in 1959. DeSoto built fewer 6-passenger versions of the station wagon in 1959 making them even more difficult to locate today.

It’s true, finding a 1959 DeSoto Firesweep Explorer Wagon for sale is not easy. Considering DeSoto only built a total of 2,233 Wagons in 1959, there simply are not enough of them remaining. For the most part, the Firesweep is becoming another great design lost to history.

In some cases, this just happens because owners were negligent about maintenance. Other times, there are not enough parts to satisfy demand. You can only assume many station wagons see heavy family use until they are driven into the ground.

Now when you see a 1959 DeSoto Firesweep Explorer Wagon, it is a rare treat. From the vintage 50’s American styling to wondering what kind of car that is, the DeSoto Firesweep garners plenty of attention. Hopefully this holds true for the remaining handful of Firesweep Wagons still running today.


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