Dan Combs: A congenial Chrysler classic car collector |

Most people in Farmington knows Dan Combs for three things: Little Caesar’s Pizza, the Moonlight Bike Ride during Country Days and massive, old Chryslers, Dodges and DeSotos.







Dan Combs: A congenial classic Chrysler car collector

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


Mark Marberry



Having more than a dozen cars in his collection, his true interest is 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 fin guy. I love these fins and they look like they’re in motion sitting still. I’ve got two Chryslers, three DeSotos and two Dodges.”







Dan Combs: A congenial classic Chrysler car collector

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


Mark Marberry



Asked why he has such a great interest 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 out as an apprentice for 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 and then went to another dealership called Despain Motor Company (also in Fredericktown). He was there until they closed in 1971. I worked in the detail shop washing cars. My dad was basically the lead 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 are basically similar bodies but with changes on the outside. The motors changed dramatically because this is when everybody was in the horsepower race. In 1957, the big V8 was like a 326 V8. All my ’59s have 383 or bigger. When they came out in 1957, my dad was a mechanic on them and it was a radical change from ’56 to ’57. They slapped the cars together quickly — 1957 was a good year for car manufacturers. The windshields and rear windows leaked, the motors blew head gaskets. My dad said that you saw more ’57s after they were sold back in the shop than they were out on the road. The 1958s were a warmed up ’57, but it was a recession year and a lot less cars were manufactured all across the board.”

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

“As you look at these cars, they’re chrome,” he said. “They’re 4,000-4,200 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 companies I worked a lot of years for.”

With the Chryslers of that time period being relative rare, another reason Combs stays with 1959 models is there are just two engines to work with — the 383 and 413 — and he has bins of parts that are interchangeable.

Part of the downside of having one of those rare 1959 models — especially in Chrysler products — is that even a minor accident can be catastrophic to any further use of the car. Combs commented that many of the parts simply are not available.

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

Every car Combs owns holds 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 would take my kids to school in the car and they didn’t want me to let them out where the other kids would see them.

“When we were out riding around, they would sometimes duck down in the seats so nobody would see them — it was that kind of green. In 1994, I had the car repainted and everything that was green was painted Viper Red. Now you can see it coming down the road about a mile away.”

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







Dan Combs: A congenial classic Chrysler car collector

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


Mark Marberry



“If you went into a dealership and said you wanted a top of the line with the biggest motor, this is the car you got. It has a 383 with dual 4-barrel carburetors. This car was $4,500-4,700 brand new. You got power steering, power brakes, swivel seats, gold hub caps, gold inserts; there’s even speckles of gold in the carpeting. It was top line.”

At the time, Chrysler had several divisions that supplied cars for every level of income. Combs explained the income level each division was designed for.







Dan Combs: A congenial classic Chrysler car collector

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


Mark Marberry



“Plymouth was for the working man,” he said. “The Dodge was when you started making a little better money. The DeSoto was when you were making pretty good; it was competing against Buick and Oldsmobile. Chrysler was when you were doing really well and then the Imperial was top of the line.

“I thought about trying to get an Imperial, but the problem is that every thing on them was vacuum or electronic. When you have all that stuff on an old car, something is not going to be working all the time.”







Dan Combs: A congenial classic Chrysler car collector

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


Mark Marberry



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

“Trucks weren’t that big of a deal back then,” he said. “It was a work vehicle. They were used up. The truck I have had for six to seven years. I paid very good money for it, but it’s rare. Only 100 were made.

“Those tail fins are from a two-door station wagon and they didn’t make them in 1959. This is a carryover from the 1958 station wagon; that is why there was so few made. They were very expensive and handcrafted. They were competing against the Chevrolet Cameo.”







Combs 023.jpg


Mark Marberry



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

“When I am out gassing up, the first thing guys ask is, ‘Has it got a 440?’ Well, it’s half of that,” Combs laughs.

Another standout is his 1935 Hudson with straight-eight engine.

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

Unlike relatively low-maintenance modern cars, Combs’ collection of oldies-but-goodies require a lot of maintenance, even though they are stored in a climate- controlled garage.

“I have been blessed with two gentleman — Rick and Herschel Hayes,” Combs said. “It’s because of them I have this collection. I’m not a mechanic or body man. They have kept my cars running. All of my cars, except the Hudson, I can jump in them and go with. It takes a lot to keep them like that.”

Despite the rarity of these cars, Combs drives many of them regularly, but uses intense concentration while on the road to prevent accidents.

“When I’m driving one of these cars, I don’t know the world is out to the side,” he said. “I’m looking out the front and at the mirrors. People will wave at me and I don’t see them.

“I can’t get away with anything in Farmington because I’m usually driving one of these cars and everybody knows they’re mine.”

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

“It’s all about the fins. I’m a fin guy. I love these fins and they look like they’re in motion sitting still. – Dan Combs

Dan Combs on his love of fins

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