Saturday, November 27, 2010

Downtown DeSoto open house reveals an unforgettable collection of automotive passion in downtown Clinton

When you think of great car collections, the Kansas City area may not be the first place that comes to mind. Yet, week after week, we are able to find some excellent shows and museums within a short drive.

Take the place I went this weekend. "Downtown DeSoto" is located about 75-miles south of KC in Clinton, Mo., and when it comes to truly fascinating collections, this one is hard to beat.

The collection is the work of Jim Raysik, who is also the Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, and GMC dealer in Clinton. And although there are some great cars, what really hits you is the meticulousness and completeness of the presentation.

When you first walk in the building, you'd swear you just went back to the early '50s. The building was originally a Chrysler, Plymouth, DeSoto dealership in 1951, and it was restored to look much the same today. A very original '54 Chrysler New Yorker with only 17,000-miles shares the space with a nice '53 Dodge Coronet. And behind the Dodge is a vintage parts counter, fully stocked with a complete selection of period Mopar and aftermarket parts, all displayed in their original boxes and packaging.

On the other side of the showroom are the old offices, now lined with more rare accessories, and an impressive display of restored engines. And the fact is, if the showroom area was all there was to this place, your visit would be perfectly satisfying.

And then you go through the big sliding doors.

Back where the service department used to be, the walls are lined with interesting, original old cars. Some of them have some real star power, like the ultra-rare '34 DeSoto Airfow coupe. Some of them are a little more ordinary, like the '50 Plymouth coupe that Raysik likes to use as a daily driver. But when you put them together as a whole, you begin to realize how great this comes together as a collection.

Oh, and by the way, if you walk out the back door and wander to the next building, there are even more nice old cars to see. A Chrysler 300 here; a '51 Chevy club coupe there, even a 23,000-mile '76 Vega coupe. The collection has a bit of a Chrysler skew, but most every carmaker is represented.

Downtown DeSoto is clearly a labor of love for Raysik. This is his private collection, used most of the year as a Fortress of Solitude for the busy new car dealer. You can see the personal attention that went into every display. Everything on the shelves is arranged just so, with many of the driving lights and bulbs actually wired to operate. You appreciate that a perfectionist put this museum together, someone who chose to spend hours and days tweaking every detail.

My folks brought back pictures of Downtown DeSoto for me to look at last year, but I was never able to really appreciate it until I saw if for myself on Friday. Unfortunately, not anyone can just drop in and check it out anytime they want. Downtown DeSoto holds an open house only once or twice a year. Occasionally they'll open the doors for a car club or private party. But for the rest of the time, it is a therapeutic retreat for its owner.

If you would like to find out when the next open house will take place, or if you want to learn more about Downtown DeSoto, give Jim Raysik a call at (660) 885-3355. You'll be treated to an unforgettable collection in an authentic period location.

In the meantime, check out the slideshow below for pictures of all the restored and original cars, parts, and accessories that make up Downtown DeSoto.

Also, if you enjoyed this story, you may also like this post about a lost auto museum also located in Missouri.

You may also enjoy this story, with more than 120 vintage dealership photos!


  1. I have been to Downtown Desoto numerous times and always see something interesting and new that I missed before. The community of Clinton and vintage car fans from all over are lucky to have someone special like Jim Raysik who will spend the time and money to make car history available to the public. His heart is as big as his smile. A Friend and Fellow Car Lover.

    Bobby McDowell, Anthem, AZ

  2. I've done radio and marketing work with Mr. Raysik for over 20 years now, and I can attest to the comment about this being a "labor of love." It is a constant source of entertaining conversation between us, as I know absolutely nothing about today's cars, not to mention the appreciation of classic cars, but his love of them often finds me in "DeSoto," or in any of his storage facilities looking at the only things other than his Wife and Grandchildren that makes his eyes light up and smile brighten. And I just stand there...trying to understand! Those that do business with him in his dealership, or trading old cars, know that he is ah honest businessman (even if he IS a car dealer!!) and those in and around Clinton, Missouri know that his community involvement, not the least of which is his undying support of Clinton's Animal Rescue Endeavor, a group he founded to save the lives of dogs and cats in need of adoption. Emceeing parades, beneftis, helping with the Chamber of Commerce, goes on and on.

    I'm proud to see that his love for a hobby that a "radio guy" just can't understand is respected and appreciated by those of you that can relate.

    Ken Dillon, Program Director
    Clinton, Missouri

  3. Whow! This man deserves a stature. What a lovely place.

    The Netherlands

  4. you should invite the Forward Look Network for a photo shoot to recreate the 1955-61 period

  5. truely amazing......too bad you can never go back to the past. It makes todays fast paced times absolutley horrible compared to the way it use to be.

  6. wow - just down the road from my home.
    i am a passionate euro bike & car owner, but
    Jim's passion is no different than mine . . . .
    will have to get some people together so we
    can get a visit.
    thanks for posting a very interesting story

  7. I've never heard this come up in a discussion before, but I think Chrysler's HUGE mistake after WWII was putting all of its research money on the 'superior' hemi engine, instead of first working on what turned out to be a superior automatic transmission. Most buyers were clamoring for an auto trans; very few cared about, or could afford the hemi, which only came in the expensive Chrysler model.
    They didn't offer a good automatic in the Plymouth until 1957, for crying out loud. I think the lack of autos hurt their sales (and cash flow) BIG time.