My Classic Car: Harry’s 1965 Cadillac Eldorado convertible

The 1965 Cadillac Eldorado convertible | Harry Clark photos
The 1965 Cadillac Eldorado convertible | Harry Clark photos

I have been secretly admiring 1960s Cadillac convertibles for several years and wanted to add one to my small collection of classic cars.

I started searching in earnest in March and quickly realized I needed to find an Eldorado convertible. You see, I have this affliction that if I don’t have the top-of-the-line this or that, I will keep yearning it, even if I have something close.

In late April I focused my search on 1965 through 1966 Eldorado convertibles. I relied on eBay Motors, ClassicCars.com, Hemmings and AutoTraderClassics.com. I found a nice 1966 for sale at the Auctions America auction in Auburn, Indiana, and a 1965 being sold by McPherson College in Kansas. My budget necessitated that I find a No. 3 car (good condition) and quickly realized that I couldn’t afford anything better.

The two I found were pretty similar, both a light silver blue metallic with white convertible tops, the ’65 with red leather and the ’66 with white.

The red interior
The red interior

I have a special connection with McPherson College that dates back many years. First, as an active member of the American Bugatti Club, we’ve been electing to continue to fund an annual scholarship to McPherson’s restoration program. More recently, a consulting client of mine, Road-Ready Certified, relied on McPherson to help develop a classic car pre-purchase inspection criteria allowing me to meet with McPherson program administrators several times.

The 1965 Eldorado was being sold by a member of the McPherson staff on behalf of one of the college’s board of trustees. It was being represented as a one-owner car that was much loved all of its life. The staff member, Brian Martin, was kind enough to take several phone calls of questions and made the one-hour drive from McPherson to Wichita, where the car was located, to help answer some of my questions about its condition. His responses were thorough enough for me to develop a restoration/preservation plan and costs estimate.

Because I am a romantic and love the histories related to old cars, I was comfortable making an offer, which was ultimately accepted. I have to say that it was a delight working with Brian over the cost estimates and the plan details because he is a professional. It made it easy for us to get onto the same page for values.

The 1966 Eldorado was at auction selling two days later. I listened in as a phone bidder but never made a bid. My thinking was that if it sold very cheaply I would buy it, but I would not otherwise be interested. The 1966 ended up exceeding the price I was willing to pay so I passed on it. Cie La Vie!

I obtained a quote for shipping the 1965 Eldorado from Wichita to our home at Temecula in SoCal wine country, but was also interested in flying out and driving it back with my 18-year-old son, Craig. I arranged with Brian to have the local mechanic go through the car to ensure that it would be in top shape for the 1,300 mile journey. Luckily, the local Wichita mechanic (Terry at Beard’s 66) had been servicing the car since the late 1970s and had enough time to prep it for the trip. Ten days and about $3,000 later, the Cadillac was completed, so we headed to the airport and flew to Wichita.

We called the sellers and met them at Beard’s 66 and followed them to a charming restaurant nearby called Piccadilly’s.

Patrick (Pat) and Bunny Hill were a delight the instant we met them. They were engaging and very full of life. The car was bought new in Miami by Pat’s mother, Evelyn Hill. Pat was the very first to say that his mother was quite the character. She was raised in New York by a very successful self-made man. He made his fortunes building thousands of homes for the Endicott coal miners in Pennsylvania.

She was his favorite thing and raised her to be quite the pistol. When she got into a little bit of trouble he thought it was funny, which made for a very colorful and dynamic adult.

Evelyn raced cars, belonged to country clubs, enjoyed her gin and tonics and smoked cigarettes. She also had quite a vocabulary which frequently included language as colorful as herself. She was also quite the player, having had five husbands and dating many notable people, including dukes and dignitaries from around the world. She was a long-time member of The Jockey Club of Miami (the Eldorado still bears the window decals of her membership).

On the drive home, welcome to Texas
On the drive home, welcome to Texas

She evidently drove the Eldorado in a very spirited manner, but luckily never had an accident.

Pat recounted that his mother went to the Miami Cadillac dealer and fell in love with the flashy Eldorado convertible and somehow managed to buy it out from under a basketball player who also wanted it.

Luckily, her two-bedroom home in elegant Coral Gables had a one-car garage. The Eldorado was never left out in the elements and was always garaged. The car saw little highway use. It was used mainly for driving around town and to the club.

By 1975 Pat had married Bunny and they had their first child. Pat and Bunny met at McPherson College and settled in Wichita where Pat took over an advertising agency. Evelyn wanted to be near her first grandchild and decided to move to Wichita. She sold her home in Florida, bought a house a half block away from her new grandchild and had the Eldorado shipped to Wichita because she didn’t want to add miles to the car.

She continued to use the Eldorado as her daily driver until her death in 2007. Pat and Bunny inherited the car and kept it in good repair but used it little (one of Evelyn’s last requests was that they take good care of the Eldorado).

Fast forward to the adventure of driving the car home, our primary home near Phoenix. Craig and I had an uneventful flight to Wichita, had the delightful dinner meeting Pat and Bunny and heard the history of Evelyn, the Eldorado and other fascinating stories.

After dinner we decided to get a couple of hours of the trip behind us. We left at close to 9 p.m. in rain and made it about 150 miles to famous Dodge City, home to Wyatt Earp, Boot Hill and a few notorious outlaws. We were very pleased and fortunate for the new American Classic radials from Coker and new modern windshield wipers installed by Beard’s 66. The big Eldorado handled true and steady through all the weather.

We heard many jokes about western Kansas. It certainly lacks any significant variety of sites, perhaps with the exception of the recent addition of the large modern white windmill farms. It was interesting to see the large number of deserted farmhouses, windmills and barns that whispered the 1920’s migration of the Dust Bowl survivors. And these scenes are in the foreground of the massive agribusiness factories that are strewn throughout western Kansas and into the panhandle of Oklahoma and Texas.

By the time we made it to New Mexico the scenery became markedly more natural, beautiful and varied. For about 800 miles we had intermittent rain and no mechanical issues with the Eldorado. We stopped for dinner at Jerry’s Café in Gallup. It is a popular locals-only Mexican-American café with fantastic food and pleasant service.

The second night was spent in Winslow, Arizona. We had wanted to make it to a highly rated restaurant called the Turquoise Room that was recommended to us by Rich and Penny Post, my soon-to-be in-laws. Craig and I were so full from Jerry’s Café the night before that even the thought of a big breakfast was overwhelming to us.
But the other suggestion they gave us was to head home to the Phoenix area through picturesque Route 87 rather than the freeway. It is a gorgeous single-lane road that winds its way through the mountains covered with pine trees and spectacular vistas.

Craig did most of the driving. Imagine being 17 and driving hundreds of miles in a big car without anti-lock brakes and many other conveniences?

Most of the trip we kept the car propelled at between 65 and 80 mph. Unfortunately the cruise control wasn’t working so we needed to be very attentive to the speedometer as the powerful Eldorado would accelerate from 65 to 80 mph as if it had a will of its own and without notice.

Repainted and ready for wedding day
Repainted and ready for wedding day

Craig was shocked at how the Eldorado was so comfortable drinking gasoline like a sailor drinking whiskey. It averaged between 11 and 12 mpg.

I had anticipated 15 mpg based upon my experiences with long distance tours in my former 1947 Packard and 1964 Rolls Royce. I was pleased that the Eldorado needed only one quart of oil after about 900 miles.

One week after arriving in Paradise Valley, Arizona, we set out on the final leg of the journey to our Temecula house. My finance and I were getting married in three weeks at our Temecula home and we needed to spruce up the yard and, of course, a couple of our cars in preparation for The Big Day.

We left Paradise Valley by 5:00 a.m. for the six-hour drive. As you would guess, the late mornings and afternoons in the Arizona and California deserts are brutally hot, which is hard on the old cars as well as us drivers. The car made it perfectly fine with the maximum air temperatures peaking at about 98 F by the time we drove through Palm Springs.

When we arrived in Temecula, I dropped the Eldorado off at a restoration shop to have the air-conditioning repaired and valve covers painted. After the air-conditioning was fixed I had arranged for a painter to pick the car up and perform a full repaint  within the two weeks remaining before the wedding. I really wanted the Eldorado there for the wedding and I wanted it looking as close as possible to its former glory. I found a very qualified painter who does many hot rods. I was quite worried at first — a full repaint of nice quality in two weeks? The owner of the shop, Pete, was confident that it would all be fine and exuded enough confidence that I proceeded.

Within one day the car was substantially fully blocked sanded, many dents removed and the trim removed from most of the car. I started to relax a bit after seeing the energy invested in making it happen on time while doing a nice job. I ordered new door and trunk seals, sending them directly to Pete’s shop. The seals showed up just in time for the car to look nearly new in time for the wedding.

— Harry Clark, Paradise Valley AZ

Classic Profile: The Mighty Cadillac V16

A 1931 Cadillac 452A V16 Fleetwood is shown off on the beach in the 1930s | Courtesy of the author
A 1931 Cadillac 452A V16 Fleetwood is shown off on the beach in this vintage photo | Courtesy of the author

In the enthusiasm of the late 1920’s, Cadillac developed its trend-setting 16-cylinder engine of 452 cubic inches – developing 175 horsepower.

While it is true that Packard introduced the landmark Twin-Six, its 12-cylinder engine, in the 1916 model year, it was the Cadillac V16 that set off the American “cylinder wars” at a time when car sales were plummeting due to the escalating economic depression. Continue reading

My Classic Car: Tony’s South African 1937 Cadillac

37caddyreader

About 10 years ago I went to drop off my friends kids on a farm near where I live in South Africa. I entered the property and saw a lean-to shed bursting at the seams with junk so I made my way to have a look. You could not see more than 2 feet into the mess, so I climbed and twisted my way in a bit and saw a mudguard of an old car. I was very exited and pushed my way through. What I found was an old very dusty 1937 Cadillac.

I asked the owner, Hienz, if he would consider selling. He told me he owned the car in a partnership with his father-in-law, who was 85 years old. He said he wanted to keep it and restore it for weddings. I tried to convince him otherwise but he would not listen.

For at least 2 years after that meeting I saw Hienz several times and chatted about the car. He always insisted he would restore it.

However, tragedy struck the family one horrible night when Hienz was traveling down the road from his farm in thick fog and crashed into the side of a logging semi-trailer. Hienz, his wife and one son were killed. The other son lived, but was in bad shape.

I waited for some time to pass and went to visit the other owner of the car. His name was Fred and he was very old. We spoke about the accident and I asked if he would sell the car. He agreed and said he was too old to work on it.

Fred had owned the car for over 40 years and told me the story of the car when he bought it. He had reprinted it from blue to black and worked on the engine and drove it for a while. He told me that when he drove the car to the farm it used to jump out of 3rd gear, so he drove it to the farm and parked it and it stayed there for all those years till I found it.

The car was in very good condition for restoration, with little damage and almost no rust. All the door glass and windscreen were broken but all other glass —headlights, gauges were intact. The number plate light lens was missing.

The leather was still intact but so dry that it cracked.

We decided on a price. I arranged a flatbed truck. The day came for the pick up. It was the first time I could see the car in the open.

I was very happy.

Fred used his old tractor to pull the car out of the shed. He pumped up the tyres and they stayed inflated.

The flatbed arrived and up she went to go to her new home. I parked her in my yard and got my friends kids over to help me wash it. It looked like new, but the black paint was peeling off in strips.

I found the boot full of spare parts.

I parked the car in my warehouse and admired it for a few years until one day I needed the room so I found an old car restorer who could handle this type of restoration and sent it off to him.

The car was in the restoration shop for 12 months. It was stripped to the chassis and every bolt nut and part sandblasted, coated and painted. I bought new leather from a local tannery and had the whole interior done. I ordered 6 white wall tires from the USA.

The engine was rebuilt to new. The whole car was brand new. However, I am still looking for 4 hub caps.

About 2 years after I bought the car Fred was killed by the tractor he used to tow the car out of the shed.

I have used the car for a few weddings and school balls. It has worked beautifully.

I have since met Fred’s daughter. Strangely enough, she works right next door to my warehouse and saw the car parked outside one day and popped in for a chat. I asked her about the history of the car but all she remembers is playing in the car as a child. She is now in her 50s.

I am going to take the car to Fred’s wife so she can have a ride in it. If I’m lucky, she might know a bit more about its history.

The car was made for South Africa so it has right-hand drive, and is one off only two in the whole country.

La Jolla Concours picks best of show winners

The 1953 Cadillac Ghia was designed to show off the Italian coachbuilder’s skill | Petersen Automotive Museum
The 1953 Cadillac Ghia was designed to show off the Italian coachbuilder’s skill | Petersen Automotive Museum

A Cadillac concept coupe that an Arabian prince once gave to a Hollywood movie queen was picked as a best of show winner at the recent La Jolla Concours d’Elegance in California.

The Cadillac, a streamlined fantasy car designed by Italian coachbuilder Ghia and which first appeared at the 1953 Paris Auto Salon, was the judges’ choice for the post-war grand prize at the 10th annual concours.

The Bugatti is a past Pebble Beach winner |  La Jolla Concours
The Bugatti has a Gaston Grumman body | La Jolla Concours

The winner of the pre-war best of show award was a rare Bugatti touring car, a 1930 Type 46 Faux Cabriolet known as a “Petite Royale” because of its placement as a smaller variation of the massive, ultra-luxury Bugatti Royale.

The Cadillac Ghia, which is based on the Series 62, was one of just two built by the carrozzeria. After its appearance in Paris, the show car was purchased by Prince Ali Salman Aga Khan as a gift for his actress wife, Rita Hayworth. Despite the spectacular present, the couple divorced later that year. Hayworth kept the car.

Now owned by the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, the Cadillac Ghia originally was painted white but later changed to its current burgundy color. Since its restoration, the show car has made a number of appearances at major concours, including Pebble Beach.

The winning Bugatti Type 46 also has a coachbuilt body, created by Gaston Grumman of France, and is now owned by Richard Adams of La Jolla, an affluent seaside section of San Diego.

For a complete list of La Jolla Concours winners, see www.lajollaconcours.com.

Multiple Choice: ’47 Caddy or ’48 Lincoln?

Silver Auctions’ March sale at Fountain Hills, Ariz., included 191 vehicles. Among them were a couple of post-war American luxury cars. Given your choice, would you bid on the 1947 Cadillac Club Coupe (blue car) or 1948 Lincoln Continental (red car)? Which would you want in your garage? Tell us why via the “Share your comments” box below.

 

 

Vehicle Profile: 1955 Cadillac Series 62

The 1955 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible was a beautiful, behemoth of a boulevard cruiser that enjoyed quite a reputation for not only great looks and elegant luxury, but was no slouch in the performance category for such a large, heavy (weighing in at approx. 5,000 lbs.) vehicle. This was the fourth generation, 1954 to 1956, in the long run of the Series 62 models from Cadillac (fourth out of seven total generations of the Series 62, beginning in 1940 and running through 1964). This was a lower, more streamlined version of the third generation Cadillac Series 62 models and came with many refinements and updates. Cadillac was at the top of its game, globally, in the luxury car segment and you knew you had “arrived” if you were “well-heeled” enough to be the proud owner of one of these babies!

The hood (and entire body for that matter) was lower and smoother and the grille was styled with an “egg crate” design that was further enhanced by a pair of large torpedo or “Dagmar” protrusions which were attached to the left and right, inverted gull wing bumper extensions. Chrome was used heavily throughout the vehicle to add to the flashy looks, but was tastefully done, not overdone. The headlamps were surrounded by stylish, chromed visors and the parking lamps were moved directly below the headlamps. A chromed ventilation “grille” stretched across the base of the “Eldorado” style, curved or “wrap around” windshield. Touches of the famed automotive designer, Mr. Harley Earl, were evident throughout the vehicle including the larger rear tail light “fins”. The gas filler was still located (or hidden) behind a door, just below the left rear tail light. The rear bumper was updated and the large, vertical ends housed a port for each of the dual exhaust pipes to exit. The rear of the vehicle loomed very large to anyone who pulled up from behind and below the trunk-lid were six chromed, vertical molding “fins” which complimented the two vertical bumperettes on either side of the license plate mount.

Under the hood of the 1955 Cadillac Series 62 was a 331 c.i. V8 pushing 250 (stated) hp attached to a three-speed, Hydra-Matic, automatic transmission and reaching a zero to sixty mph speed in, comparable to size and weight, a very comfy 11 seconds. The wheelbase was stretched to 129 inches and the overall length of the monster was about 223 inches, the overall width was about 80 inches and the overall height was about 62 inches. A 12-volt electrical system was now standard, as well as power steering, automatic windshield washers, tubeless tires and aluminum alloy pistons. Very large drum brakes (12″ x 2.5″) were on all four wheels to help bring this lead sled to a halt (that and a prayer) and the turning radius was around 24 feet or about three full lanes of pavement!

Find your dream 1955 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible now.