It's 1953 at Downtown DeSoto

CLINTON, Mo. — Stroll into Downtown DeSoto and you would think you’re entering 1953.You can’t buy a car from Downtown DeSoto, even though two are in the showroom. You see, Downtown DeSoto, just south of Clinton’s town square, is the home of Jim Raysik’s classic-car collection.

 The building that houses Raysik’s classic cars was built in 1951 for Sadler’s Chrysler-Plymouth dealership in 1951. Stayton Chevrolet also occupied the building for a time, and it eventually was a carpet store. Raysik bought it in 1996.

 About 10 years ago, Clinton business people began revitalizing the town square. They formed a Historic Square District, spiffed up shops and installed old-fashioned street lights. The Henry County Museum and Cultural Arts Center has an amazing exhibit. Raysik said that the community’s excitement with the square was one reason he bought the former car dealership building.

 Raysik’s love for cars is what steered him into the car business. He quit being a school teacher in 1977 and started selling cars. He bought a Dodge dealership in 1988. His new-car dealership is separate from Downtown DeSoto.

 Restoring the building was a challenge. Raysik said the original wooden door that separated the showroom from the garage was uncovered and put back into its proper place. Everything inside is vintage, from the pop cooler to the parts counter and the radio that places vintage car spots. A 1954 Chrysler New Yorker and a 1953 Dodge, the first Hemi, sit on the showroom floor. Raysik opens is collection to the public a couple of times each year for Old Glory Days and the Friday after Thanksgiving.

 Raysik bought his first classic car, a 1940 Chevrolet coupe, in 1966. He likes restoring his cars. “It’s my Sunday job,” he said. Buddies Richard Wirsig and Tom Biles have given him immeasurable help. He and his wife Becky now have at least 35 cars. Their most unusual is a 1934 DeSoto Airflow coupe, one of about 13 known to remain.

 One of the Raysik’s sentimental favorites is his 1954 Chevrolet Bel Air. It is all original except for new paint, and he and Becky have driven it from coast to coast and to Mexico. This summer they plan to drive it to Canada. By then, they will have driven from coast to coast and border to border.

 “Not many wives would ride across the Mojave Desert without air conditioning,” Raysik said, “but Becky never once complained.”

The 1933 Dodge, left, is completely original. Many of Raysik's cars are low-mileage that have had a minimum of restoration. Raysik and his wife Becky have driven the 1954 Chevy, below, from coast to coast and to Mexico. This year they are going to Canada. It has been repainted, but not restored.