In 1952, DeSoto introduced its first V8 engine: the Firedome Eight, featuring Chrysler’s distinctive hemispherical combustion chamber design. See the successful debut here, including an original promotional spot.
One year after Chrysler introduced the 331 CID Firepower V8 in 1951, launching the Hemi engine family, the DeSoto division received its own version for 1952, a 276.1 CID V8 rated at 160 horsepower. While the two engines shared the Chrysler Corporation’s trademark hemi architecture, they shared few common components, owing to their different bore spacing: 4.5625 inches for the Chrysler versus 4.3125 inches for the DeSoto. Still, the family resemblance was nearly impossible for anyone to miss.
Built on a state-of-the-art Transfermatic production line at DeSoto’s Warren Avenue plant in Detroit, the Firedome V8 allowed DeSoto to hold its own in the Motor City sales wars for a few more years. By 1953, the V8 was outselling the old L-head six by a two-to-one margin, and from 1955 forward, the V8 was offered exclusively across the DeSoto line. Displacement was progressively increased to 291, 330, and 341 cubic inches before the Firedome hemi was eventually dropped in 1958 in favor of a 361 CID Chrysler corporate V8.
In this 1952 commercial sport, we get some nice views of the Firedome V8’s internal layout, thanks to a working cutaway that shows the hemispherical combustion chambers and efficient port layout in fine detail. There are great views of the new DeSoto on the highway sporting its familar toothed grille, and at the top of the spot, there’s a brief introduction by Groucho Marx, the DeSoto brand’s beloved spokesman all through the ’50s. (See his full pitch here.) Enjoy the video.