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History of the 1952-1954 DeSoto Powermaster
In late 1952, DeSoto introduced the new Powermaster line as a 1953 model year series. The Powermaster replaced the old Deluxe base line and Custom middle trim line entirely. While the looks of the DeSoto lineup did not change too much, every body panel was different in the Powermaster. Most notably, except for a few models such as the station wagon, the rear fenders were now integral to the main bodywork. Curved one-piece windshields also made their first appearance this year on most Powermaster models.
The DeSoto Powermaster line was available in a broad range of body styles, including a two-door Club Coupe and two-door Sportsman Hardtop, and as a four-door sedan with seating for six passengers, and as a four-door station wagon with seating for six. Sedan buyers could also opt for a pair of jump seats in the back to seat up to eight in the car.
All DeSoto Powermasters featured the same inline six-cylinder flathead engine. Displacing 251 cubic inches, the DeSoto six delivered 116 hp and 208 lb-ft of torque. The standard transmission was a basic three-speed manual with an optional overdrive, but DeSoto also offered Fluid Drive and Fluid Torque Drive with their “Tip-Toe Shift” two-speed transmission.
Cars equipped with Fluid Drive use an additional liquid coupling in tandem with the traditional clutch. This was designed to help avoid stalling the car. Fluid Torque Drive employed an actual torque converter in combination with the mechanical clutch, but in both cases the driver still had to shift from the low gear to the high gear.
With the addition of the optional overdrive, the Powermaster had four functional gears because overdrive could be employed in either the low or high gear range. Many DeSoto buyers have been known to be confused about the functions of the transmission because it is a hybrid of later automatic technology with a clutch that would normally indicate a manual transmission.
Brakes in the Powermaster line were traditional four-wheel drum units with optional power-assist. Power steering and electric windows were also optional, along with air conditioning, radio, heater, whitewalls, and wire spoke hub cabs. A Continental spare tire kit was also available.
In all, DeSoto made about 44,000 Powermasters in 1953. As usual, the sedan was the most popular, with about 34,000 units made. Just 225 buyers opted for the long wheelbase eight-passenger model. The two-door coupe was next with about 8,000 cars made. 1,470 buyers chose the hardtop, and 500 station wagons were made. 1,700 of the sedans were sent to California for use as taxis.
For 1954, only small changes were recorded in the Powermaster line. One change worth noting is that the hardtop was not sold in the United States, but 250 were sold in Canada under the “Special Club Coupe” name. Total production of Powermaster declined to about 19,500 units in this year, again with the Sedan accounting for about 75 percent of that total. Taxi models accounted for about 2,000 cars.
Collectors will want to prioritize condition and completeness above all else. As a near-luxury marque, DeSotos were not known for performance, and all Powermaster models had the prosaic six-cylinder in any case. Buyers who find a car with Fluid Drive or Fluid Torque Drive should familiarize themselves with operation before driving.
1954 DeSoto Powermaster Info
2dr Club Coupe
4dr Station Wagon
4dr Sedan, 8-pass.
4dr Sedan, 6-p.
6-cyl. 250cid/116hp 1bbl
Curb Weight: 3505 lbs.
Length: 214.5 in.
Wheel Base: 125.5 in.
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