Courtesy of Barrett-Jackson

The 1959 DeSoto Adventurer convertible was powered by a high-performance 383-ci V8 engine offering 350 horsepower with dual Carter AFB 4-barrel carburetors in tandem.

The car has a push-button-operated TorqueFlite automatic transmission. This Adventurer has a dizzying array of features, including power brakes; power steering; power windows; a power-operated, swiveling driver’s bucket seat; and a power-operated convertible top.

An AM radio, clock, padded dash and unique Adventurer-specific upholstery round out the interior package. The exterior is complemented by a set of virtually impossible-to-find Adventurer wheel covers with unique bullet-shaped centers — and gold emblems, model identification scripts and trim components.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1959 DeSoto Adventurer Convertible
Years Produced:1959
Number Produced:97 convertibles
Original List Price:$4,749
SCM Valuation:$236,000
Tune Up Cost:$400
Distributor Caps:$45
Chassis Number Location:Left front door hinge
Engine Number Location:Top of engine block, under water outlet elbow
Club Info:The National DeSoto Club
Alternatives:1959 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz convertible, 1959 Studebaker Silver Hawk, 1959 Chrysler 300E convertible
Investment Grade:B

This car, Lot 718.1, sold for $330,000, including buyer’s premium, at Barrett-Jackson’s Palm Beach, FL, sale on April 4, 2018.

This exceptional 1959 DeSoto Adventurer convertible was from the John Staluppi “Cars of Dreams” Collection.

John Staluppi is a model of the American Dream. In his youth, he worked as a mechanic at a service station. After getting a loan from his father, he soon owned the service station. That led to his acquiring several others.

Staluppi was granted a Honda motorcycle franchise, and in time, he became the largest Honda automobile dealer in the country. His multi-marque Atlantic Auto Group also became one of the largest car dealerships around.

Staluppi then turned his attention to building super yachts — not just luxurious mega yachts, but the fastest in the world, with speeds up to 65 knots.

Staluppi displayed the “Cars of Dreams” Collection in a Coney Island setting with a merry-go-round and a period diner. The collection was composed of 145 cars that were primarily American convertibles from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. They were all sold at no reserve, and the sale totaled close to $14 million.

The cream of the crop was the sale of this 1959 DeSoto Adventurer convertible.

Top of the line in 1959

The DeSoto Adventurer was introduced in 1956 as the top of the line, and it was named after DeSoto concept cars that were built in 1954.

One concept car, Adventurer I, was designer Virgil Exner’s personal car for several years. Adventurer II was given to King Mohammed V of Morocco.

Sales of the Adventurer were never robust, and by 1958 only 423 were produced. Tight budgets meant that DeSoto never had the funds to advertise, and the economy was having difficulties.

The quality of the DeSoto was also deplorable. The cars often leaked, had faulty transmissions and the Bendix fuel-injection system frequently failed.

The famed Chrysler Hemi engine had been replaced with a cheaper “Turboflash” V8, although the horsepower had the same rating.

With a poor reputation for reliability, and limited advertising, it was difficult to attract customers to DeSoto showrooms.

Fins to the sky — and then oblivion

The 1959 model year heralded American car styling to the extreme.

Fins were the order of the day, with Cadillac leading the field, and the Virgil Exner-designed Adventurer followed suit. Buyers chose between black and gold or white and gold, with a distinctive black, gold and white interior.

The list of standard equipment was long. It was powered with the new 383-ci V8 with a high-lift cam and dual 4-barrels. It had rear air suspension, dual exhaust, antennas and windows along with swivel bucket seats.

Options included a/c and Highway Hi-Fi — Chrysler’s under-dash record player. With an elegant interior and distinctive gold-and-white bullet wheel covers, the Adventurer was visually appealing.

However, it was not appealing to buyers, as only 97 convertibles left the dealer showrooms. The end was in sight, and by November 1960, DeSoto was relegated to the long list of automotive orphans.

Did the DeSoto have to die? Many say no, but Chrysler was rocked with scandal, as the newly elected president and most of his staff were let go after only 60 days. In addition, Chrysler was losing money, so there was little incentive to rescue DeSoto.

A rare car at an aggressive price

Barrett-Jackson sold the John Staluppi DeSoto Adventurer convertible for an aggressive price.

The SCM Platinum Auction Database shows that only two 1959 Adventurer convertibles sold recently. Mecum Auctions sold one in 2015 for $242,000, and RM Auctions sold one in January 2010 for $225,500.

You can make a solid case that 1950s American cars are in a decline. The 1953–54 Buick Skylarks now sell for slightly over $100,000, but they were at least double that five years ago. The Tri-Five Chevys and early Corvettes have also not fared well for the past few years.

Why so much?

For every rule there is an exception, and there is always an exception to any general statement.

This sale of our subject car flies in the face of conventional wisdom, but it was not far out of line.

The car was one of only 97 built, came from a high-profile collection and was restored to an exceptional condition. It was loaded, although it was lacking a/c. It had all the eyeball you would ever want in a 1950s convertible.

From an economic standpoint, if you took a lesser example — assuming you could find one — and restored it to this level, your expenditures would far exceed what was paid here. If 1950s flash is your thing, then this was the one — and don’t worry about the price paid. It was a bit pricey — but still reasonable. After all, go find another one like this. ♦

(Introductory description courtesy of Barrett-Jackson.)

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