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The Automotive Chronicles

Monthly newsletter published by McLellan's Automotive History. Dedicated to literature collectors, restorers, museums, publishers, manufacturers and investors who collect and preserve automotive literature
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September 2006 Issue
 
ARTICLE
 
Cadillac Memories
By Robert McLellan
 

As a child in the late 1940s, identifying cars from the back seat of our family car was a favorite pastime during trips with my parents. The war was over and new cars, in general, did not differ much from the early 1940s models. Cadillac stood out from the rest with their massive chrome grilles and fins.

In 1950 my parents moved across town to an upscale area of Newport News, Virginia, adjacent to the "Gold Coast", beach front property along the James River. It was where Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company executives and wealthy businessmen lived. Their cars naturally reflected affluence and Cadillacs were plentiful.

Tommy Wessells, a childhood friend from kindergarten through high school, lived on the edge of the Coast and his father bought new Cadillacs every couple of years. Proud of his Cadillacs, they were always parked out front and I admired the cars — especially their elegant interiors. His wife dressed up very smartly just to drive to the grocery store. Ahhh... life in the 50s!

 
 

1952

1954

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1956

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1959
     

It wasn't until the early 1970s that my interest in Cadillacs re-surfaced. I had just purchased an old sports car and now sought a prewar classic. A Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost was my ultimate goal, but they were out of my price range. A Vintage Bentley would come later, but that, too, was beyond my grasp at the time. A Lincoln L or KA/KB had great appeal, as did V-12/V-16 Cadillacs and 810/812 Cords. The sedans were priced within my budget, so my search began locally and in "Hemmings Motor News".


1929

1932

The closest I came to buying a Cadillac was at a Houston, Texas, auction. Although I frequented auctions, I swore that they were not for me. I wanted to thoroughly evaluate any car before I purchased it. Then there it was — the unexpected! This very original V-16 Cadillac Limousine, black with blue interior, well used but well maintained. The only thing non-original was the 20+ year old paint job. The fabric interior was extremely well preserved with minimal wear. Although the engine smoked as it was driven up to the auction podium, it sounded good. As a non-registered bidder I really missed out on an opportunity. It went for $12,000 and, even in the early 70s, that was a good buy for a V-16. Had it been purchased by a dealer I might have had a chance to do a quick deal, but the buyer was a well known local collecter who, I am told, re-bodied it as a roadster. I later bought an 812 Cord Supercharged Westchester which made up for this loss.

Today we see more interest in 1960s through 1970s Cadillacs. Even the more recent ones. Cadillac remains the pride of General Motors and maybe the V-16 will one day return. After all, they did produce a V-16 concept car in 2003.

 

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1983
     
 
 
The Automotive Chronicles, September 2006
 
 
 
 
 
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