The '54 Dodge Royal 500 pace...
The '54 Dodge Royal 500 pace car pulls over to the side as the race vehicles await the drop of the green flag, to start the 38th running of the Indy 500 race. Dodge Division President William C.Newberg handled the pace car driving duties. For the first time, the official pace car was not an Imperial or Chrysler, but part of an all-Dodge contingent. Credit: MSC.
One of the snazziest official pace cars Chrysler ever fielded was the '56 DeSoto Fireflite convertible, with styling by the acclaimed Virgil Exner. The announcement came on January 11, 1956, in the form of a confidential bulletin for ordering Pace Car replicas. The DeSoto S-24 Fireflite convertible official pace car replicas usually are referred to as Pacesetters (possibly named in reference to the Pace Setters Club at Indianapolis Motor Speedway). The official pace car and its backup were equipped with the Adventurer's V8 (341ci, 320 hp, and dual four-barrel carburation), while the official pace car also had a gold dashpad. The pace car driving duties were bestowed upon DeSoto Division President L. Irving Woolson.
Almost two dozen official vehicles were at the May 30, 1956 race, including an Adventurer two-door hardtop coupe, which had made its debut on February 18. The O.C.s encompassed a wide range of DeSoto models and body styles, but several V8-powered Dodge trucks also were in attendance. Pole-sitter Pat Flaherty claimed a victory in the No. 8 John Zink Special.
Dodge trucks were an important...
Dodge trucks were an important part of Chrysler Corporation, and were worthy of promotion at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The "Emergency Safety Patrol" Dodge truck announced the arrival of the Power Dome, Hemi-head V8, which was a 241.4ci powerhouse. Note the curved glass windshield-a Dodge truck first. Fender script read "Job-Rated." Credit: IMSC.
Almost 400 Pacesetter replicas were built. A stencil kit was made available to dealers so they could letter the replicas. The base price was $3,264, but ordering for dealer stock meant the following extra-cost options also were installed: the power seat ($70.00), power windows ($102.30), electric clock ($18.25), and Jiffy Jet Windshield Washer ($10.80-price for Chrysler Windsor; DeSoto price N/A).
The paint code 438 included Surf White (body) and Adventurer Gold (color sweep). The code 569 upholstery was brown tweed cloth and gold vinyl, while the carpet was black with gold Lurex threads. The code 5 top was gold vinyl in cotan grain, with a white lining, and the boot was done in gold. The instrument panel also was gold, but the padded dash was black. According to the confidential bulletin, the following exterior features included "special design Gold Wheel Covers, new 'Forward Look' medallions, Gold Mesh Radiator Grille, Silver Radiator Grille 'V' medallion, Special Air Scoop Medallion, and Special Gold and White Steering Wheel." Each gold-anodized, aluminum wheel cover was secured by a quintet of spring clips.
An assortment of almost two...
An assortment of almost two dozen DeSoto models and body styles were on hand to promote the brand name, including the newly added "Golden" Adventurer two-door hardtop coupe, which was DeSoto's answer to the Chrysler 300B. Note the V8-powered, '56 Dodge trucks in the background. Credit: IMSC.
The Fireflite's Hemi-head engine was a 330ci V8, which produced 255 hp at 4,400 rpm, and 350 lb-ft of torque at 3,200 rpm on 8.5:1 compression. The four-barrel carburetor was a Carter WCFB No. 2311S. All Pacesetter replicas had the PowerFlite automatic transmission. Outfitted with 3.73 gears was Hot Rod Magazine's Pacesetter road test car (Hot Rod Magazine, June '56). The wheelbase measured 126 inches. The DeSoto Pace Car was one of five special vehicles that Chrysler displayed for its International Salon, at the Chrysler Building in New York City, from January 18, 1956 through January 27, 1956.