The DeSoto line boasted an exciting new option for 1953: air conditioning. Here’s DeSoto spokesman George Fenneman with the full rundown on the brand’s greatest comfort feature yet.
As with many firsts in the auto industry, identifying the first mass-produced air conditioning system is a little like peeling an onion. Packard, it seems, was the first car maker to offer the feature to the general public in 1940, with an expensive, virtually custom-built unit installed on a handful of cars. Chrysler followed on the Imperial in 1941, and an air-conditioning system was offered by DeSoto as a regular option in 1942, on paper at least. However, practical A/C units at realistic prices didn’t really arrive until after World War II, and Nash and Pontiac usually receive the credit for introducing the first modern dash-integrated heater-A/C systems in 1954.
The A/C setup used by Chrysler-DeSoto (and many other car makers) in 1953 is rather different from the systems we know today. The compressor, condenser, and associated plumbing are up front under the hood, just where we would expect to find them, but the evaporator, blower, and air distributor are not in the dash. Instead, they’re mounted behind the rear seat, tucked under the parcel shelf, supplied with fresh air by grilles in the rear fenders (above). In this original 1953 commercial spot, faithful DeSoto spokesman (and Groucho Marx sidekick) George Finneman does a fine job breaking down the A/C system’s installation and operation. Video below.