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Most Farmingtonians know Dan Combs for three things: Little Caesar’s Pizza, the moonlit bike ride during Country Days, and the huge old Chryslers, Dodges, and DeSotos.

With over a dozen cars in his collection, Dan Combs’ favorites are the 1959 Chrysler products. Because of this, his main garage has more tail fins than an aquarium.

Marc Marberry

Having over a dozen cars in his collection, his real interest is in 1959 Chrysler products. As a result, Combs’ main garage has more tail fins than an aquarium.

“It’s all about the fins,” he said. “I’m a nice guy. I love these fins and it looks like they are moving, still. I have two Chryslers, three DeSotos and two Dodges.

Dan Combs: a sympathetic collector of classic Chrysler cars

The first of Dan Comb’s 1959 collection is a DeSoto Fireflight.

Marc Marberry

When asked why he was so interested in Chrysler products from the oddly specific year of 1959, Combs said, “I was born in 1951. My dad was a Chrysler mechanic. He started as an apprentice at a Chrysler-Dodge dealership in Fredericktown in the late 1940s. He went from there to another dealership that was in business for a few years, then went to another dealership called Despain Motor Company (also in Fredericktown). It was there until it closed in 1971. I worked in the car wash shop. My dad was basically the chief mechanic there. It was a small Chrysler-Plymouth dealership.

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“These cars are called the ‘Forward Look.’ In ’57, ’58 and ’59 they were basically similar bodies but with changes on the outside the engines changed drastically because that’s when everyone was in the race for In 1957 the big V8 sounded like a 326 V8. All my ’59s have 383 or more. When they came out in 1957 my dad was a mechanic on them and it was a radical change from ’56 to ’57. They quickly put the cars together – 1957 was a good year for the automakers Windshields and rear windows were leaking, engines were blowing head gaskets My dad said you saw more than 57 after being resold in stores than were on the road.1958 was a warmed-up 1957, but it was a recession year and far fewer cars were made across the board.

According to Combs, quality control was much better in 1959 and it was also the pinnacle of using chrome trim.

“When you look at these cars, they are chrome,” he said. “They are 4,000 to 4,200 pounds of metal and chrome. In 1959 we were in the Space Race, Alaska and Hawaii were admitted as states, and Little Caesar’s and Pizza Hut started – two businesses I worked for for many years.

Chryslers of this period being relatively rare, another reason Combs sticks with the 1959 models is that there are only two engines to work with – the 383 and 413 – and he has interchangeable parts bins.

Part of the downside of having one of these rare 1959 models—especially in Chrysler products—is that even a minor accident can spell disaster for any subsequent use of the car. Combs pointed out that many parts are simply not available.

“It’s not like a ’57 Chevy where you can go out and get a reproduction part and you can reproduce an entire car,” he said. “These you don’t have.”

Every car Combs owns has its own story.

“It started with the red and white DeSoto,” he said. “I got it in 1993 in Union, Missouri. I was the third owner of it and it was green and white. I used to drive my kids to school and they wouldn’t let me go out where the other children would see them.

“When we were riding they would sometimes duck in the seats so no one would see them – it was that kind of green. In 1994 I had the car repainted and everything green was painted Viper Red Now you can see him coming down the road about a mile away.

Combs pointed to a 1959 DeSoto Adventurer, a limited-production, high-powered two-door luxury coupe with every option available.

Dan Combs: a sympathetic collector of classic Chrysler cars

This is a 1959 DeSoto Adventurer, a limited production high horsepower two-door luxury coupe with all available options.

Marc Marberry

“If you went to a dealer and said you wanted a top of the line with the biggest engine, this is the car you have. It has a 383 with two 4-barrel carburetors. This car was brand new from 4 $500 to $4,700 You have power steering, power brakes, swivel seats, gold wheel covers, gold inserts, even gold flecks in the carpet.

At the time, Chrysler had several divisions that provided cars for all income levels. Combs explained the income level each division was designed for.

Dan Combs: a sympathetic collector of classic Chrysler cars

Pictured is the DeSoto badge on one of Dan Comb’s 1959 models.

Marc Marberry

“Plymouth was for the worker,” he said. “The Dodge was when you started making a little more money. The DeSoto was when you were doing pretty well; it was competing with Buick and Oldsmobile. Chrysler was when you were doing really well and then the Imperial was the high end.

“I thought about trying to get an Imperial, but the problem is it was all vacuum or electronic. When you have all that on an old car, something just won’t work all the time.”

Dan Combs: a sympathetic collector of classic Chrysler cars

This is a 1959 DeSoto Adventurer, a limited production high horsepower two-door luxury coupe with all available options.

Marc Marberry

Even the Dodge truck in his collection has small rear fins. Combs’ 1959 “Sweptside” Dodge is a rare breed, indeed.

“Trucks weren’t that important back then,” he said. “It was a work vehicle. They were exhausted. The truck I had for six to seven years. I paid a lot of money for it, but it’s rare. Only 100 were made.

“These tail fins are from a two-door station wagon and they didn’t make them in 1959. It’s a carryover from the 1958 station wagon; that’s why there were so few of them. They were very expensive and handcrafted.They competed with the Chevrolet Cameo.

Combs 023.jpg

Marc Marberry

Although not part of his “fins” collection, Combs talked about his 1970 Dodge Challenger which is painted “Plum Crazy” purple. Everything is original except the paint and the rims. For what is considered a “muscle car”, it has a relatively small 225 slant-six engine that was normally used in base model, no-frills cars and trucks.

“When I’m filling up the gas, the first thing guys ask me is, ‘Does he have a 440?’ Well, that’s half of that,” Combs laughs.

Another standout is his 1935 Hudson with an inline-eight engine.

“It’s a car that I tell people I love to sit and watch,” he said. “The body styling is so cool. It’s 1930s at its best.

Unlike relatively low-maintenance modern cars, Combs’ collection of older models are high-maintenance, even when stored in an air-conditioned garage.

“I was lucky to have two gentlemen – Rick and Herschel Hayes,” Combs said. “It is thanks to them that I have this collection. I am not a mechanic or a body man. They kept my cars running. All my cars, except the Hudson, I can get in and drive. It takes a lot to keep them that way.

Despite the rarity of these cars, Combs drives several regularly, but shows intense focus on the road to avoid accidents.

“When I drive one of these cars, I don’t know if the world is on its side,” he said. “I look ahead and in the mirrors. People wave to me and I don’t see them.

“I can’t do anything in Farmington because I usually drive one of these cars and everyone knows they’re mine.”

Mark Marberry is a reporter for Farmington Press and Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3629 or [email protected]

“It’s all about the fins. I am a fine guy. I love these fins and it looks like they are moving, still. –Dan Combs

Dan Combs on his love of fins
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