Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Ferdinand Desoto

There is a little quiz going around Facebook about he first five cars friends have owned. Their first car creates a picture on my mind of their youth. Cars listed included a '57 Chevy, many VW's and VW buses , and a 1991 Nissan Sentra.

My first car was a 1949 Desoto, given to my sister and I in high school in 1968. Just putting it on a list wouldn't do it justice.

The car had literally been the "Sunday" car of my paternal grandfather. He drove a blue ,paint -splattered station wagon to work everyday - where he painted billboards and houses. When he died, our grandmother , who never drove, gave the car to us -with all of 39,00 original miles. We were so thrilled we named it Ferdinand after the explorer, Ferdinand De Soto.

We were free! We no longer had to take a bus for over an hour down rural roads from Penn Valley, down hiway 20 to Smartville, Timbuctoo (real towns, check the map) then up to Nevada City to school - yes, even in the snow :).
Visualize the best years for fast, sleek, muscle cars; Mustangs Road Runners, Hemi Cudas, Super Bees, GTOs - oh, be still my heart. I lusted after THOSE cars.

Now, visualize two sisters in a 1949 Desoto. Okay...... that's enough -it wasn't' THAT funny!

Actually, everyone loved Ferdinand. He was the best for cruising on Friday or Saturday night. Ferdinand wasn't sleek or fast (at least off the line) but we could easily fit 8 teenagers in the huge bench seats. Gas was 34 cents a gallon when I started driving him. Eight teenagers could scrounge up enough pocket change to keep cruising all night. Hooking up with friends was easy - nobody could miss the big green tank.

If we wanted to go to the drive-in Ferdinand was the best. Not only could we fit 8 comfortably -or 10 squished - in the front, we could fit another 6-8 in the trunk without the spare!

Gotta love the carload price of drive-in theaters. Years later, my sister would surprise workers at the feed store by asking them to put 2 large bales of hay in the trunk - it wasn't even a tight fit.

Of course there were no seat belts, but parents knew their teens were much safer in Ferdinand than in the little VWs or Corvairs of the time. Some other funky features of Ferdinand:

  • Fluid Drive; push down the gas until a certain speed, let off, clunk , it would shift into the next gear. This was a precursor to the automatic.

  • Air cooled air: there was a metal cage with a squirrel wheel that hung on the OUTSIDE of the rear window. A curved vent slipped into the 4 inch opened window. You would put a five pound block of ice in the cage, the moving car would cause the wheel to turn , blowing air over the ice and transferring the cool air in the car!

Aaahh, the memories....


  1. So, I never knew what happened to Ferdinand. I wonder what he'd be worth today?

  2. We eventually sold him - about the time of the gas rationing in the 70's. He got 8 mpg.
    I did see one on the Internet listed at $6,500.