Brad Groff remembers the car his grandfather drove.
It was huge. The kind of car where a youngster could curl up on the back seat and sleep all the way home from a weekend outing.
The car was quiet and plush with expensive upholstery.
And it was stylish, with a massive amount of chrome for a grill and soaring fins at the rear to mark the passing miles.
It was the kind of car that brings back pleasant memories.
“I loved that car,” Groff says. “When I got old enough to begin collecting cars, I went searching for a ’57 DeSoto.”
And he found one.
“It was in Sacramento, so I used up all my Alaska Airlines miles and booked a flight to go look at it,” he says.
But a funny thing happened on the way to Sacramento.
“A few days before I was set to leave, I spotted an e-Bay listing for 1960 DeSoto.
“The car was in Utah, and it just so happened that Alaska had routed me through Utah on the way to California.”
He called the owner of the 1960 Adventurer and asked if there was any chance he could look at the car during his one hour layover.
“You remember those old O.J. Simpson ads with him running through the airport? That was me.
“I got off the plane and began running through the terminal. I got to the front door just as the DeSoto was pulling up.”
He did a couple laps around the airport parking lot, took a glance underneath, thanked the owner for his time and scrambled back through security to make his next flight.
“The car in Sacramento was awful,” he said. “It was everything the 1960 was not. It stalled four or five times during the test. It had new floor boards welded in on top of the rusty old ones.”
He flew back to Portland, Oregon and placed his bid on the ’60.
The reserve price was modest and Groff’s bid was conservative, so he was surprised when he won the auction.
“The seller told me he had someone else, a doctor, who had offered him substantially more for the car outside the auction. But he was an honest man and agreed to abide by the auction rules.”
Groff sweetened the deal by paying the seller to do some work on the car before it was trucked to Portland.
“It needed some front end work. He’s the guy who restored the car in the late ‘80s so he knew all about it, so it made sense to have him do the work on it.”
In the four years since buying the DeSoto, Groff has done mostly detail work to the car.
He replaced the stock 14-inch wheels with 15-inch wire rims and period looking tires. The bulk of the chrome trim was removed and replated.
“The front bumper is so large that the local shop couldn’t handle it, so the bumper went back to Utah to be refinished.”
Groff says the car still needs a bit of attention.
There are a few problems emerging in traditional trouble spots in the body.
“It’s an older restoration, so you have to expect a few issues here and there,” he says. But the age and miles driven since the DeSoto was restored give it the patina of a driver...not a trailer queen.
As an automotive swan song, it is hard to imagine anything more impressive than the 1960 DeSoto Adventurer.
It was built in an era when designers had free rein to explore the limits of what their draft pencils and fertile imaginations could conceive, unrestricted by the restraints of corporate average fuel economy.
In today’s world of plastic coated compacts, it is easy to forget just how big the full-size cars of 50 years ago actually were.
Weighing in at just under 2-tons, there was nothing subtle about this graceful, two-door hardtop, with 18 feet of sculpted sheet metal flowing liquid like from the leading edge of a massive chrome grill to the tips of the twin tail fins.
The Adventurer line began in 1956 as the just slightly down-market version of the Chrysler 300-D, considered the performance benchmark of the era.
“When people see the car, half of them think it is a Chrysler 300 and the other half want to know when Cadillac built it,” he says.
And while Groff loves the style of his ’60, and the looks and trophies it gets when on display, he’s still searching for that ’57.
“I just have to find the right one.”
The ’60 may be beautiful, but it is hard to compete with a memory.