custom cars

March 10, 2014

Delightful De Soto Bumpers

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Written by: Tom Nielsen
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Although rarely customized, the De Soto cars have made a huge contribution to the custom car world over the years.



The 1950’s De Soto grilles have been used in many different configurations in fifties custom cars. There were several styles of grilles that De Soto used during the 50’s and they all were big hits when adapted to Chevrolet, Ford, Mercury, and other cars of that era. But the early custom builders of the 1940’s really loved those rippled, 1937 De Soto bumpers. They put them on their ’33 to ’41 Fords, and many other early cars as the “standard custom accessory” of the time. The shape of the front bumper was ideal for use on both ends of the early customs.

To meet the demand in the 40’s and early 50’s for these bumpers the wrecking yards were probably picked clean by the custom fans. They could also buy them new from De Soto dealers in the 1940’s.

CCC_desoto-bumpers-nielsen-13-WThese two images I found on the internet show the difference between the front (most popular for customs) and the much rounded rear bumper on the 1937 DeSoto.


Today we have to search the swap meets or watch on eBay for original De Soto bumpers. Some of these bumpers were saved by car guys who stored them for years and never got around to using them. The originals are steel and have a rippled backside. (The reproduction De Soto bumpers are aluminum and have smooth backs.)

Chrome plating shops will charge you a little more for plating a De Soto bumper. They take more time to polish and to get in the grooves for a nice show finish.
As we know, that ’37 rear bumper had a huge curved shape that didn’t exactly fit as close to the body as most customizers liked. However, if you have a rear bumper and want it to be flatter there is a remedy.

Working with a friend and using a hydraulic shop press we slowly pushed on the center in small increments. From the center working toward the ends and going back several times the desired shape was finally obtained.  We used a round piece of steel to put in the groove for the pressure point and small steel blocks to support the bumper. Don’t try to bend too much at once or you may distort the bumper.

Draw a chalk line on the floor of the shape you want so you can check your progress. It is a slow process, but it will take that wide curve out of the rear bumper. Be sure to always wear safety glasses and to work safely around the hydraulic press.

As the pictures below show the length of the rear bumper becomes a problem as you flatten it. You have several options for narrowing the bumper. Trim the ends and reshape them or cut in the middle to take out the extra length and weld it back together. A ’49 Chev license bracket with a bumper mounted license plate could hide the weld in the center of the bumper if needed.

CCC_desoto-bumpers-nielsen-12-WThe front bumper is shown in contrast to a flattened rear bumper. I wanted the rear to follow the curve on the ’46 gravel shield. Notice on the left that the end curves on both bumpers are similar. The extra length is shown clearly on the right side of the picture.




A few examples of vintage Custom Cars using the 1937 DeSoto bumpers.

CCC_desoto-bumpers-nielsen-07-W1934 Ford



CCC_desoto-bumpers-nielsen-06-W1935 Ford (Photo from the Dick Page Collection)



CCC_desoto-bumpers-nielsen-01-W1936 Ford



CCC-max-ferris-westergard-07-WAnother 36 Ford (restyled by Harry Westergard) shows that the rounded DeSoto rear bumper was used on some cars.



CCC-bob-pierson-36-ford-resto-12However most of the times the rounded rear bumper was used on customs was when the car had a spare tire cover on the back. Then the rounded rear bumper made it all flow much better. (Photo of the early un-chopped version of the Bob Pierson 1936 Ford coupe)



CCC_desoto-bumpers-nielsen-03-W1937 Ford



CCC_desoto-bumpers-nielsen-09-W1938 Ford



CCC_desoto-bumpers-nielsen-02-W1939 Ford



CCC_desoto-bumpers-nielsen-05-W1940 Mercury



CCC_desoto-bumpers-nielsen-04-W1941 Ford





CCC-Sponsor-KingKustomsTShirt-602Contact Rob Radcliffe at King Kustoms for more info on these T-Shirts Email Rob




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About the Author

Tom Nielsen
Tom Nielsen is a long time Custom Car fan with wonderful collection of photos of 1940's to 1960's custom cars. He loves to share his collection and to tell stories about them.



  1. Great article! I had a nice pair at one time that I was planning to use on a ’30s-’40s kustom one day, but I let them go to pay some bills and now Wolf in Sweden has them…they were pretty nice too

  2. This is a wonderful article Tom! I like the period literature, and also the photos showing the differences between the front and rear bumpers up against the gravel shield. Nice work!

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