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Barn find of the millennium: Entire production run of 1962 De Sotos found in warehouse

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The now-deserted warehouse. Photo by Paul Sableman.

In what’s being called the barn find of the millennium, a batch of more than 4,000 brand-new 1962 De Sotos has been discovered in a warehouse on the western outskirts of Detroit, where they’ve been hidden, untouched, for more than a half-century to cover up a production goof.

The remarkable discovery was made after the widow of one of the two figures involved in the story, in an interview with Hemmings Motor News, drew back the shroud on a secret that had been kept more more than a half-century in order to save an automotive executive’s career.


The 1962 De Soto’s sumptuous interior.

“It’s a remarkable discovery,” said Poisson “Punch” d’Avril, the president of the De Soto Society of the Americas. “We all thought the De Soto story ended in 1961, but it looks like we were fooled.”

With sales sagging, the Chrysler Corporation decided that 1961 would be the last year for De Soto, sending out telegrams bearing the bad news to its dealers. But because of an office clerk’s mistake that has only now come to light, notice to halt production was more than a month late in reaching the Wyoming Avenue assembly plant – and, as a result, the production lines continued to hum, churning out a flood of two- and four-door 1962 sedans that were destined not for dealers’ showrooms, but for oblivion.


The 1962 De Sotos employed the same push-button transmissions as the 1961 models.

Evidently, Harry E. Cheseborough, the president of the Plymouth-De Soto Division, handed the memo announcing the plant’s shutdown to his junior office clerk, Failor Olp, immediately before leaving on a five-week tour of Australia’s active volcanoes. But Olp stopped into a tavern on his way to the factory, lost the memo and, failing to remember its contents, could only wait for his boss’s return. By the time the ship Cheseborough was sailing on, the Italian liner Fil Loparo, docked in New York Harbor, 4,010 more De Sotos had been built.

“Oh, Failor felt just terrible about that,” Olp’s widow, Floria Olp, told Hemmings Motor News in an interview in which she pried the lid off the 54-year-old secret. “He was generally a conscientious fellow, and it just bothered him no end that he had lost that piece of paper. Of course, I told him not to worry about it, but it just gnawed at him, you know?”


For 1962, De Soto retained the 361 V-8.

Cheseborough acted quickly to shut down the lines, but he still had the problem of the 4,010 new De Sotos that had accumulated in lots around the factory. Knowing that his career hung in the balance, he took Olp into his confidence, and the two spirited all of the cars into a vacant Chalmers warehouse seven miles away, locked the doors, and swore to keep the secret. Floria Olp revealed the story only after Failor’s death early this year. Following her information, investigators found the warehouse and pried open the doors on this incredible find, which can only be described as literally unbelievable.

What will become of the cars, which evidently are still the property of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles? A spokesman for CEO Sergio Marchionne indicated that the company is weighing two primary options: Offering the cars up at auction, or rebadging them as 2016 Lancias.