By the time Ryan Richards was born, fins on cars had been out of style for decades, but they have always called to him.
The 27-year-old resident of Austin, Texas, has several American cars from the late 1950s, when huge tailfins adorned cars from Cadillac to Plymouth.
“I’ve always loved the big fin cars,” Richards told the Williston Herald.
One of the things he likes most is the story that each car can tell. Those stories can come from finds in the car, from old photos or from the previous owner. And sometimes tracking down the stories is nearly as much fun as driving the car.
Now he’s hoping to find some people who knew his latest car back when it was new.
Cars with a story
“I want a car with a story, that has a soul,” Richards said.
He’s still uncovering the story of his 1959 DeSoto Adventurer. He found it in a barn in Scobey, Montana and bought it in May 2019. The man he purchased it from bought it for a few hundred dollars in the early 1960s because it had a blown engine.
That owner fixed it up and drove it for several years.
“He met his wife in the car; they got married in the car,” Richards said.
Then, in 1969, the owner was drafted. Before he went to Vietnam, the DeSoto went into a barn, and it didn’t leave again until Richards bought it last year.
More to learn
But Richards only has part of the story. What he knows already is tantalizing, though. The man he bought it from believed the original owner had sold it, and the person who bought it moved to Scobey, which was how the car came into his life.
But who is the original owner? Richards isn’t sure. He does know a few things, though.
The car is a DeSoto Adventurer, the top-of-the-line model for what was then the Chrysler Corporation’s top-of-the-line auto brand. Only 600 were made. Most of them ended up in New York, or in Los Angeles. Some went to big cities like Houston.
But the DeSoto Richards bought was originally sold in Williston by Crighton Motor Company. Richards isn’t sure if it was ordered by a customer or just happened to make it onto the lot and sold that way.
He’s found some paperwork, including a registration slip in the name of Keith Green under the carpet. He also found a receipt for a parking ticket in the name of Marvin Qualley.
“Now I really want to track down more,” Richards said.
He’s hopeful that the car’s distinctive fins might ring a bell with someone who lived in Williston when the car was in town. After all, it would only be a few years before fins, which were the height of cool in the late 1950s, would be seen as silly.
“They were so in, then they were so out,” Richards said.
Anyone who remembers the DeSoto can email Richards at firstname.lastname@example.org.