“As easy as dialing a telephone,” boasted DeSoto of its new power steering system, the first to be offered on a mid-priced car. See the hot new feature for 1952 in this original DeSoto commercial spot.
Power steering is nearly universal in passenger cars today, but oddly enough, it took several decades for the innovation to catch on with the Motor City’s automakers. Francis W. Davis, an engineer with Pierce-Arrow, performed some important early R&D on hydraulic power-assisted steering, later taking his expertise to General Motors and Bendix, but the hardware was judged too expensive to offer to the public.
Finally in 1951 the Chrysler Corporation introduced its power steering system, based in part on the Davis patents, initially on the flagship Imperial under the trade name Hydraguide, then expanding its availability to Chrysler and DeSoto in 1952. The optional feature added $199 to the list price of a new DeSoto, which ranged from $2,552 to $3,774 that year. General Motors introduced power steering for the Cadillac division in 1952 as well.
DeSoto had plenty of news for 1952, including the hot new hemi-head Firedome V8 with 160 horsepower, but the power steering system shared top billing in the company’s marketing, and it was a smash hit. “As easy as dialing a telephone,” the ads boasted of the one-finger steering effort. By the early ’50s, city driving had grown cramped and congested, while cars had continued to grow in size and weight—and power steering’s time had arrived. Video below.
Article courtesy of Mac's Motor City Garage.