DREAM BOAT
Classic American|February 2021
This absolute dream of a drive that’s travelled three times across the Atlantic proved to Mark Spaulding that his DeSoto is definitely a ‘keeper’…
Zack Stiling

This 1959 DeSoto Fireflite Sportsmanrepresents the pinnacle of Mark Spaulding’scar-owning life, and his taste in cars is by no means narrow. Mark ended up with it after a kind of process of elimination, during which many other cars were bought, but eventually sold on again. “I’d had examples of all the British classic makes and worked my way up to a Rolls-Royce Silver Spur Mk IV.”

Having exhausted all the British marques, he decided he’d give American cars a go. “When Christine came out, it ignited my passion for a finned car. Once I’d sold the Rolls, that’s when I could afford to buy one.” Mark bought the DeSoto in Missouri in 2008 and has held on to it ever since. Other Yanks have come and gone in the meantime, including a Ford F-150 Econoline, a GMC Suburban and a 1959 Plymouth Savoy, but the DeSoto was ‘the one’. “I shipped it over to the UK and it stayed here until 2012 when I shipped it to Florida because I’d bought a house there. I eventually sold the house, but I thought there was no way I could sell the car, so I brought it back to the UK in September 2019. There can’t be many cars that have made the crossing three times. Hill Shipping (www. hillshipping.com) was a pleasure to deal with.”

Sadly, there wasn’t any history with the car when Mark bought it, although build details reveal that it left Chrysler’s Jefferson Plant in Detroit on April 24, 1959. It was in an estate auction, having belonged to a deceased collector with an inventory of 28 cars, in which it was the only DeSoto. Mark tried to look into the background of the collection, but sadly to no avail.

Whatever its early life was like, it probably never had quite such a big adventure as those it went on when the Spaulding family took it to the various National DeSoto Club Conventions. The longest of these road trips was a 3600-mile round journey when the convention was held at Lake Elmo in Minnesota, which included a stop en route at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, where Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens played their final concert on February 2, 1959. “The trip killed the tyres,” Mark recalls, “and it was something to be doing motorway speeds in a car of that age. It was a black car in the middle of a heatwave and we were all literally dripping and trying not to sweat on the upholstery!”

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