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With Chrysler Bankrupt, What Will DeSoto Cab Do Now?

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DeSoto Cab, Chrysler 300M, by Flickr user LFL16

DeSoto Cab, Chrysler 300M, by Flickr user LFL16

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Anyone who's lived in San Francisco knows the city's kamikaze cabbies. With so many car-free San Franciscans, cabs are the default public transport once night-time Muni service goes into "Night Owl" mode.

These days, only car geeks recognize the special nature of one SF taxi company: DeSoto Cabs. It's a last link to a long-gone piece of Chrysler's past. To keep the flame alive despite Chrysler's bankruptcy and uncertain future, we highlight the DeSoto Cab Company's decades of using Chrysler products--since at least the 1930s.

Over the years, their fleet included DeSotos (until that ill-fated, mid-level brand met its end in 1961), supplemented by Plymouths and Dodges. The fleet downsized with the arrival of the K-Cars and minivans in the 1980s, despite the marginal hill-climbing performance of their original four-cylinder engines. And would you believe a Dodge Neon cab, even?

These days, the proudest DeSoto cabs are clearly the Chrysler 300s. Several beaten-looking Dodge Intrepids are still running around (one of them gracing the odd crime scene),  and the fleet also includes Dodge Caravans, Chrysler PT Cruisers, Jeep Grand Cherokees, and Dodge Durango SUVs. The newest newest and oddest member of the DeSoto fleet has got to be the Dodge Dakota Club Cab below.

But without any hybrids in Chrysler's near-term future, DeSoto may be stuck. Other SF taxi companies are just retiring their first 15 Ford Escape Hybrid taxis, and hybrids are likely to spread through big-city fleets across the country.

Of course, Chrysler did have hybrids--briefly--before they killed off the Dodge Durango Hybrid and Chrysler Aspen Hybrid models as part of the shutdown of that SUV line last December. The next one, the 2011 Dodge Ram Hybrid, seems an unlikely cab. So we're left to wonder: Fiat cabs in the city by the bay?

But DeSoto isn't 100 percent in the Chrysler camp. We came across a photo of a Mercury Grand Marquis in DeSoto livery. Walter P. Chrysler must be spinning in his grave.

DeSoto Cab, Dodge Dakota Club Cab, by Cliff Lundberg on

DeSoto Cab, Dodge Dakota Club Cab, by Cliff Lundberg on

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[PHOTOS: Chrysler 300M cab by Flickr user LFL16; Dakota cab by Cliff Lundberg on AllPar]

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Comment (1)
  1. "some cab history"

    DeSoto Cab went to Plymouths when they stopped making DeSoto cabs in the early 1950a. DeSoto made a special cab body that, like Checker and for a short time Yellow Cab, did with GM components. All were built to New York City Taxi regulations, but sold all over the world.
    They used the Chrysler longer wheelbase chassis with the more economical DeSoto 230 six and DeSoto trim. Many were equipped with plastic "Sky View" panels in the roof so tourists could see the skyscrapers. A number of less prosperous funeral homes would buy these long limo-looking cabs in black with whitewalls and a more deluxe interior as they were half the price of a Cad or an Imperial and drove quite smooth with the Fluid Drive.
    Just before WWII, Yellow Cab, that eventually became Yellow Truck and Coach, a GM subsidiary, built long door, extended wheelbase cabs out of GM stuff with Chevy trim, truck engine, and front clip. Built Army Ducks during the war and school buses after.
    The special DeSoto Cabs were not necessary after about 1952 or 1953 when the NYC rules changed to allow standard sedans to be used as cabs, but the people loved the Skyviews and many were retained in service until the late 1950s and Checker continued to build its old NYC regulation cab until the end.
    In San Francisco, DeSoto Cab switched to Plymouths in about 1952 but always was in the forefront of trying other Chrysler models. I remember Plymouth Omni compact cabs, K-Car Cabs, the first Mini-van Cabs, and my favorite..... some PT Cruiser cabs that were SO COOL in a Toontown sort of way.
    They pretty much used all Chrysler products until the demise of the Aspen/Volare rear drive cars. I saw some later front drive cars but all SF cab companies pretty much went to the Chevy and Ford taxi package cars after that.
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    Bad stuff?


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