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291 Desoto Hemi

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by overkillphil, Oct 13, 2007.

  1. overkillphil
    Joined: Aug 31, 2007
    Posts: 303


    I talked to a friend today, and he mentions he has a '55 Desoto Fire Flite for sale. It has a 291 Hemi in it with a pushbutton tranny. I'm looking for a early hemi to put in my '27 roadster, but has anyone messed with the 291 Fire Flite? He wants $1200 for the whole thing. The body is ok (for a Arizona car) and the hemi is in need of a rebuild. My question is, should I be jumping on this, or should I pass due to mediocre performance? My roadster is going to be pretty light, but it's this or a flattie V8. Should I hold out for a 331/354 hemi? (what I really want) I would appreciate ANY input. Thanks,Phil

  2. 302GMC
    Joined: Dec 15, 2005
    Posts: 7,250

    from Idaho

    If it's a pushbutton trans, it's '56 ... '55 Powerflite has dash lever control. Look at the coil or generator for 12 volt markings. It may be a 330 ...
  3. Armstrong
    Joined: Apr 17, 2004
    Posts: 371


    If it turns out to be the 330,it's a keeper. The Fire-Flyte is the four barrel version and a decent performer in stock form. 250 hp I think.
  4. George
    Joined: Jan 1, 2005
    Posts: 7,535


    Performance parts are scarce & parts tend to cost more than Dodge or Chr, but it is a Hemi!:D Many people won't even know what a DeSoto is. Put the Hemi in the rod & a 440 in the car.

  5. I would want it even if it is the small motor, that thing could probably be made to scream.
  6. lolife
    Joined: May 23, 2006
    Posts: 1,125


    It's almost always a bummer when you pop the heads on these things. I'm putting together a dodge hemi, and it took me 3 engines to get enough parts to build one. Out of 3 engines I got 2 good heads, and 2 good blocks. Luckily the dodges are in the $300 to $350 class.

    The thing that got me interested in the dodge, was it would go right into my 54 town panel. Alas, I sold the panel and bought a 32 project. The dodge is going to look pretty neat, but for the same money I could have had a chrysler, and a bunch more speed parts.
  7. panic
    Joined: Jan 3, 2004
    Posts: 1,450


    The amount of money saved by not getting a 392 now is very little compared to doing it all over again to get one later.
    Yes, I like the DeSoto, but do what you really want.

    BTW: the fastest LSR cars in the 300" range were DeSoto, not Chrysler.
  8. 51 Hemi J
    Joined: Sep 27, 2006
    Posts: 394

    51 Hemi J

    Parts are starting to become available including intakes and camshafts and such. Check out Hot Heads and order the Tex Smith book - it will explain everything you ever NEED to know about the early Hemi.

    I currently have a 291 Desoto and a Chrysler 392. I am leaning towards the 392 for my build, but the 291 would be a cool little candidate for a 471 blower or something similar. There is a guy casting an old Weiand intake for the 291. Think he goes by Lakes Headers online somewhere.

    Hot Heads says they will offer a new camshaft real soon - not reground stock.
  9. RichFox
    Joined: Dec 3, 2006
    Posts: 10,020

    Member Emeritus

    You may be able to trade the 291 to a Bonneville racer, as it is a good fit for "D" class 305 cid. The 330 and 341 engines don't lend themselves as well to the next 372 inch class. So DeSoto racers, and they do exist, will trade down to get a 291.
  10. kurts49plym
    Joined: Nov 2, 2007
    Posts: 386

    from IL

    I have built a wild looking 4 carb 291 desoto hemi in my 29 roadster project. Will fire it up in the next month or two and have probably $4000 in it. Honestly, as cool as they (desoto) are, it's a real bummer finding intakes, cams, and other neat stuff for it-not like a 331 hemi. I paid $650 just for the bare intake. I guess no matter which hemi, they aren't as cheap as chevys to rebuild. In fact, they can be real pricey. Nothing beats the looks of a hemi, but a sbc at half the price could probably smoke it. Just depends on what you want. I have a 4 speed behind it using a Wilcap adapter. Good luck!
  11. silent rick
    Joined: Nov 7, 2002
    Posts: 4,631

    silent rick

    i have a 55 291 firedome(2 bbl) in my 46 ford. i heard it run, gave the guy $500 for motor and trans, but that was 5-6 years ago. all i did was change the oil and adapted an edelbrock 500 cfm carb to it.
    vintage speed is casting a 4x2 intake for it(expen$ive) and eelco casts a 6x2 intake. or you can go the u-fab way and build your own. wilcap and hot heads sells trans adapters. i'm running a 700r4 behind mine. 75-80 mph and 23 mpg with 2.91 rear gear.
    it's about an inch shorter and narrower than a chrysler, about an inch longer and wider than a dodge. let's see, the hemi's mediocre performance or a built flattie was your question? 200 hp and 274 ft/lbs torque in stock trim. yeah, i wouldn't want that pos hemi in my light weight roadster either. i haven't rebuilt either, maybe somebody else can help with costs involved between the hemi and flattie.
  12. DE SOTO
    Joined: Jan 20, 2006
    Posts: 3,857


    Ill tell ya, The Old Drag 291 i hurt (broke a vlave) Woulda run circles around the 330 i now have in my Sports Coupe.

    I will fix it & put it in my '54 Ford Straight Axle car.

    The 291 has the same bore size as the 330, even uses the same piston... But the short stroke lets the Rev like HELL !!

    I love to here the storys on here about how hard it is to find parts for DeSoto's & how expensive they are .... Its a bit tougher, But when ya get them your part of a small crowd with cool ass parts .

    I guess most guys should just play with small Chevys.
  13. Ricola
    Joined: Sep 8, 2007
    Posts: 100

    from MN

    These light cars don't need massive torque. The short stroke thing is a nice fit.
  14. Corn Fed
    Joined: May 16, 2002
    Posts: 3,135

    Corn Fed

    If the car is a '55 and not a '56, and the grille is in good shape, then that by itself is worth anywhere between $300 and $600. You might be able to part the rest of the car out for another $300+.
  15. saltflatmatt
    Joined: Aug 12, 2001
    Posts: 630

    Alliance Vendor

    I would go for it. Desotos look great in a hot rod. Parts are out there they can cost a few bucks but the end result will be worth it... and is not a small block chevy!

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