Doug Osterman's 1957 DeSoto
1957 DeSoto owned by Doug Osterman of San Jose, California. Doug purchased the DeSoto in late 1958. When he bought it, he was also working on customizing a 1937 Plymouth. He was constantly doing little things to both cars at the same time, and he believes he spent half of his time driving over to San Jose Plating to have little odd ball pieces chromed on the Plymouth. The first thing that was done to the DeSoto was the addition of chrome reversed wheels. To make up the set used on this car, Doug went around to all the local auto junk yards and looked for Plymouth and Mercury wheels. He bought 4 Plymouth wheels and 4 Mercury wheels. The wheels were then taken to San Jose Plating and disassembled. The centers from the Plymouth wheels were riveted to the rims from the Mercury wheels after they were chrome plated. 1957 Dodge center hub caps were used to complete this look.
The car was lowered by Abe Heinrichs. Abe and his son Leroy operated Heinrichs’ Automotive in East San Jose, and they did a lot of custom work and lowering. The A-Frames up front were modified to lower the car about 6”, and 5” blocks were used on the rear. Shortly afterwards, the car was taken to Flyer’s Body Shop in San Jose. Quad headlights were installed, the hood and trunk were shaved smooth, and trim nameplates were all removed. The gas filler door was removed, filled in, and the fill pipe was relocated inside the trunk. Flyer finished off the car in a bronze metallic lacquer color that he custom mixed. This version of the car was completed sometime around June of 1959.
The second version of the DeSoto was done about a year later. It was taken to Joe Bailon’s Custom Auto Shop in Hayward, California. Joe molded the lower front fender seams to the rocker panels to blend the two together. He then applied his special gold paint base color to the car, and followed that up with about 14 coats of his own Candy Apple Red paint. The DeSoto spent about three months in Bailon's shop for the work he did on it. After Joe finished the work on the car, the Dodge center caps in the chrome wheels were replaced with a set of chrome spiders.
After the paint was completed, the interior of the car was completely taken apart and redone in tuck and roll white naugahyde. As a teenager, Doug worked at the Star and Bar gas station in Willow Glen. There were quite a few custom cars that used to come in to the gas station. As tuck and roll Naugahyde was the most popular choice for custom cars, Doug would see a lot of cars that had it come into the station. One day, a custom car came in, and Doug was admiring the interior. It was a common practice in those days to drive down to Tijuana, Mexico to have that kind of work done, and that is where he had his done. Doug asked for the name of the place he went to. He got it, and wrote a letter to the owner of the shop, Ricky's Upholstery Shop in Tijuana, describing what he wanted done. Ricky wrote back, and gave Doug the information he needed to find the shop. Doug wrote back and told him when he expected to be there. Two friends came with Doug for the trip to Tijuana in June of 1960. They left San Jose about 3:00 am on Saturday morning, and arrived in Tijuana about 10 hours later. Ricky and his crew started the job right after they arrived, and it was finished about 6 hours later. The door window trim moldings were chromed, an oval steering wheel from a 1960 Plymouth was installed, and an RCA 45 rpm record player was added. The interior was the last major change to the DeSoto before it was shown at the San Jose Autorama a few months later.
Doug worked with Clif Inman at the Star and Bar gas station. Doug bought his DeSoto a few years before Clif bought his well known 1957 Chrysler, and the two shared some of their thoughts and ideas as they were redoing their cars.
In 1960, the car was shown at the San Jose Autorama. George Barris was at this show taking some pictures, and the one he took of the DeSoto was used in the 1961 Trend Book publication “Restyle Your Car”. Doug actually saw and talked to George Barris while he was taking pictures of the DeSoto. Doug noticed that he was jotting down notes for each of the various cars he took pictures of. The caption under photo didn't mention Doug as the owner, and it claimed that the grille opening had been modified by adding expanded metal. This was not the case, as the grille opening was left untouched. The caption did also say that the "rear end section rolled into one piece", that is also a puzzle to Doug, as the trunk and bumper area of the car was left stock and not modified.
Doug's DeSoto was a real head turner. One day he took the car to a car radio shop in San Jose to drop off the radio so that it could be rewired to accept the 45 rpm record player. The car was parked in the street right in front of the shop. A car was coming down the street, and as it neared the DeSoto, it slowed down to take a better look at the Candy Red color that really stood out in the bright sunlight. As all four occupants turned their heads at the same time to look, their car smashed into the rear of another car that was stopped for the red light.
Magazine Features and Appearances
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