DeSoto Indianapolis Style Race Car

Tommy Milton, Jimmy Murphy, Joe Boyer, Frank Lockhart, Jimmy Gleason, Louis Meyer – these were the legendary names fans cheered for at the Indianapolis 500 throughout the 1920s.

As an off-shoot of the Chrysler Corporation, the DeSoto Automobile Company was never intended and certainly not known for producing race cars but rather for producing mid-priced cars to compete with the likes of General Motors and Ford brands. However, it is the draw of these Indy 500 race cars that was the reason the car presented here was commissioned in the first place. While the builder remains unknown, this DeSoto is fashioned in the style of the iconic Indy racers of the 1920s and is believed to be a Special created on a shortened and narrowed chassis with a very sporting Indy racer-style, single seat aluminium body fitted. The craftsmanship is superb, and while little is known about its early history, it was purchased from the United States by the vendor in the early 1990s and imported into Europe where it has remained ever since.

Finished in a traditional light yellow with red painted decals and matching red interior, it features painted wire wheels as well as polished stainless steel leaf springs and stainless steel wheel caps. An RM Auctions representative recently had the opportunity to mechanically inspect this car and reported that it had evidently not been run for some time. Subsequently, several hours were spent checking over the engine and stripping and cleaning the magneto and fuel pump. The spark plugs were also removed and the cylinder bores lubricated as they showed little sign of recent use. After the fuel had been removed and replaced with a fresh quantity, the cooling system was checked over, and the engine now seems to run exceedingly well. It starts with ease, and the engine shows no leaks and retains excellent oil pressure when running. As with most classic motor cars that have not run for some time, RM Auctions would recommend a thorough service upon purchase in order to maximise the enjoyment, reliability and safety of this remarkable racing car.

Having no gearbox, the operator is in full and utter control of this car. With direct drive to the rear axle via a foot-operated clutch run by a torque tube transmission to the rear wheels, these cars were not for the faint of heart and required immense skill to drive at speed. The new owner of this DeSoto is sure to experience the thrills of Indy racers from the 1920s and get a glimpse of what motor racing was like in years past.

This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in October of 2010 at the Battersea Evolution, London.

3,400 cc six-cylinder flathead engine, side valve, twin downdraught Zenith carburettors, direct-drive, foot-operated clutch, solid axle, transverse leaf springs, two-wheel rear manual brakes. Wheelbase: 93"

Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Benson Chiu

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