a ’58 Cadillac made me delay breakfast in Palm Springs

The 1957 Cadillac has always been my preference because of the cleaner, single-headlamp look. But this ’58 with its quad headlamps is still special enough for a trip around it with the camera.

Not bad for about $5,500.

I stood out in Tahquitz Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, for a profile view of this ’58. Upon my return to the sidewalk, the eager owner emerged from his seat at Sherman’s deli, said his name was Frank, and asked if I was some kind of professional because of the angles I took in the photos.

Frank said he believes himself to be the third owner of this all-original car and shared that the color is Heritage Taupe. (I find Meridian Taupe on the color charts.) I was in a hurry to order breakfast (corned-beef hash) and therefore didn’t ask about every detail.

But the car speaks for itself.

Fawning over fins at The House of Tomorrow during Palm Springs Modernism Week–October

When on duty as a host at The House of Tomorrow, and a pink 1959 Cadillac convertible shows up to go with your orange uniform shirt, how can you not take a selfie?

I was volunteering in Modernism Week–October at the newly rehabilitated House of Tomorrow, built in 1960 for Bob and Helene Alexander. They were builders of about 1,200 houses in Palm Springs and had their architect, William Krisel, draw up something special for their own residence.

In 1962, Look magazine came to town for a feature about the house, dubbing it The House of Tomorrow.

Bob and Helene Alexander died in a November 14, 1965 plane crash, and the next year the house became available for lease. Col. Tom Parker signed up for one year on behalf of newlyweds Elvis and Priscilla Presley, and the house became known as their Honeymoon Hideaway. More details are in my story for Palm Springs Life.

It’s a big draw because a lot of people who come to Palm Springs associate the city with Elvis and Marilyn Monroe. Everybody still knows who Frank Sinatra was, but the names of Bob Hope and Dinah Shore cause many of those same people to put hand to chin and say, “I may have heard of him/her.”

Gene Autry, forget it.

For Modernism Week, it was a big deal to get The House of Tomorrow and make it available for guest tours at $65 a head.

How perfect to have a pink ’59 Cad pull up with its afterburners going. The man and woman who got out were glamorous, too, but as a volunteer in a design festival, it’s too tacky to ask the paying guests to pose for photos for my blog.

I know who they are, though, so I’ll see them around town and try to get a picture next time. You can’t miss a pink Cadillac.

Further Unshacked: In restoration this 1950 Cadillac is ISO parts and…livery?

The restoration of a 1950 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe de Ville sparked an idea. Why not make a replica of the Coupe de Ville that Briggs Cunningham took to Le Mans? It would be a sensation at car shows, the embodiment of a captivating story.

“It has undergone one restoration, and this is number two,” says blogging partner Kristen Cart. She sends the photos with mention of the red car to the right of our great Caddy–nothing other than a Willys.

John North Willys of Toledo is another story.

“At present the motor is in Illinois and the car [in Nebraska] is pretty well stripped down. The seats and interior are in Illinois, too, at the upholsterer. I have an extra rear bumper and one option will be to get a whole new rear axle with drums in lieu of the drum-hub setup which is rusted tight on so many junkyard cars.”

Kristen prowls junkyards when she’s in exotic destinations like Billings.

It so happens that she captains cargo jets around North America; layovers afford her the opportunity to look around with her camera.

In Montana, she visited a prison.

Kristen and I are dearest friends over our years of blogging about grain elevators. She continues about her son: “Jesse has been cleaning and rebuilding such things as the carburetor, water pump and radiator, which is done–with a clean bill of health–if dented in a few places.

“Thirty years is a long time to sit in a shed.”

2022 Pebble Beach featured Le Mans Cadillacs by Tim McGrane of M1 Concourse

So I floated my idea about turning the project towards a Le Mans replica instead of pursuing showroom originality. Wouldn’t that be something?

“It sure would,” Kristen replied.

But of course there’s a caveat.

“It would have to fly with my dad and brother.”

Well, as it happens, they do own the car, while Jesse is performing the work .

“I will run this by them. I don’t know if they want to stay stock. The car color is beautiful and the paint is still good. It has been out of the weather all this time.”

One distinction to make is that the Cadillac in restoration, a Series 62, came standard in 1950 with Hydra-Matic transmission. Cunningham’s Cads each had a manual gearbox, typical of Series 61.

Whatever colors it flies, I admitted to Kristen it may be a crackpot idea.

“This one is pretty cool.”

Cadillac Unshacked: Restoration of this 1950 Coupe de Ville is underway

A friend writes, “An antidote to the stomach-turning electric fad is the restoration of a ’50 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe de Ville, which is well underway here. A happy thing indeed, it is. I am close to ordering a new interior.”

Ronald: “You have a 1950 Cadillac?”

“Dad does and we are fixing it up. I am on the prowl for chrome parts.”

My friend’s teenage son is leading the restoration effort with his grandfather.

“It has some suspension issues–and the hubs were rusted to the drums. Removing them didn’t go well and parts don’t exist, so we are doing some substitution.”

Didn’t go well? Hmm, I envision the young mechanic slamming away with a two-pound hammer and a chisel.

“The headliner is perfect,” my friend says, “so that’s something.”

Model-year 1950 introduced a one-piece windshield to Cadillac and this pillarless hardtop-coupe body. Hydra-Matic transmission was standard, as were hydraulically operated power windows. Chrome bows in the headliner were meant to simulate a convertible’s ribs.

“The famous, aircraft-inspired tail fin look debuted on selected 1948 models and, from then on, Cadillac became the style innovator in the high-priced field,” John Gunnell writes in Standard Catalog of American Cars 1946-1975.

Of course, in 1949, the new overhead-valve 331-cubic-inch V-8 had been introduced. It churned out 160 hp at 3,800 rpm. The one-millionth Cadillac of all time was assembled in November of that year.

Priced at $3,523, the Coupe de Ville was about 12 percent more expensive than the club coupe.

“Cars in the Cadillac next-step-up line were identified by slightly richer interior appointments and by chrome underscores running the full length of the body at the bottom,” Gunnell continues.

The simulated air-vent rear fender-line treatment–“ventipanes”–was new.

My source shows Cadillac setting an all-time production record in 1950, reaching 99,958 cars and 2,052 of the Series 75 Fleetwood commercial chassis. Series 62 cars rode on a 126.0-inch wheelbase and extended to 215.88 inches in length. (Series 61 models rode on a 122.0-inch wheelbase.)

Featuring a 157-inch wheelbase, the Series 75 Fleetwood chassis were sent off to specialty coachbuilders like Meteor Motor Car Co., of Piqua, Ohio, and used for funeral cars, limousines, and ambulances.

Series 62 models accounted for 59,818 (and one commercial chassis) of the 1950 total.

Briggs Cunningham’s Le Monstre and the 1950 Cadillac coupe that raced at Le Mans were displayed Aug. 21, 2022 at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. Photo by Tim McGrane of M1 Concourse.

As another point about Cadillac’s versatility, it’s worth remembering the efforts of Briggs Cunningham in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The great sportsman entered two Cadillacs in the 1950 version of the endurance race. One had an aerodynamic body and was called Le Monstre: it finished 11th. Sam and Miles Collier hustled their coupe to 10th place–not bad considering the engine and suspension were showroom-stock.

So chic, the Celestiq, but six-figure EVs are losing propositions … and other news

Cadillac has been releasing news and photos of the Celestiq show car, which ought to be one of the main attractions a few weeks from now at the North American International Auto Show. An electric vehicle, the Celestiq is positioned to play at the super-premium level that Cadillac has heretofore been unable to attain. Drawing cards are the interior’s “high level of craft” and the lighting inside and out that’s as good as a fireworks show every day and night.

“The interior is open and spacious, and creates an experience unlike anything else with a focus on meticulous detailing overlayed [sic] on a clean cutting-edge design,” Cadillac says.

The dictionary says “overlaid.”

We’re supposed to start seeing EVs in the mass market, but we get Hummers and Cadillacs and six-figure price tags. Good for you if you can buy one and get a nice kickback from the government. The well-to-do deserve their subsidies.

Meantime, the cheaper Volkswagen ID.4 is stacking up on dealer lots, so that even in a market where a month’s inventory on hand is a big deal, this EV from Wolfsburg has accumulated 153 days’ inventory.

Herbert Diess has just been fired as VW’s leader, being replaced by Oliver Blume from Porsche.

Autoline Daily says, ” Blume is considered a consensus-builder, and he’s not as gung-ho on going all-electric as Diess was. In fact, Blume has called for the development of low-carbon, synthetic fuels for internal combustion engines, instead of going all electric.”

Flivver and Furious on Horsepower Heritage

I was on vacation for the first three weeks of July and barely kept up with headlines. We were in the Four Corners area and ranged from Monument Valley to Mesa Verde National Park. My 11 year old Jetta SportWagen (seen with this post in photos by Karin Brøgger) covered 3,000 miles from home and went down some pretty sketchy tracks in Butler Wash and between Bears Ears in Utah.

We saw a whole lot of heavy-duty pickups and maybe 20 Teslas in all that time. A friend who wants to buy an electric car told me last month that it won’t be a Tesla because he finds Elon Musk reprehensible. The Wall Street Journal has reported a new Elon Musk sex scandal, prompting Musk’s retort with asinine chatter about his lack of sexual activity. The guy is on the verge of wearing everybody out.

Anyway, I had been putting off the promotion of my appearance on the Horsepower Heritage podcast with Maurice Merrick. Here is the link: https://horsepowerheritage.com.

I’m trying to work up the nerve to listen to the episode. But I do remember saying toward the end of the interview something about low-carbon liquid fuels. I also talked about growing up at local speedways in Nebraska and Iowa and about a couple of my favorite stories for the late and much-lamented Automobile Magazine. A video version of the interview may soon be coming on YouTube, and I’ll share the link.

Iowa Speedway Twin-Bill proves fascinating

Returning from vacation, I was rewarded over the past weekend with further reasons for indolence. In other words, I watched both NTT IndyCar Series races from Iowa Speedway, wishing I could have been there in person.

I attended the press conference when the track opened in 2006 but have never attended a race there.

It’s great TV, though, with plenty of breathtaking moments. Josef Newgarden dominated Saturday’s race and was the class of the field on Sunday, apparently cruising to an easy victory, until something broke in his car. He went backwards into the wall, and although he seemed fine in a trackside interview–saying he was ready to cry from disappointment, which made perfect sense–he went to the hospital for tests. Team Penske has announced that Santino Ferrucci is on standby to drive this weekend at Indianapolis if Newgarden fails a medical check before practice starts on Friday. Here’s wishing Newgarden well. I’ve interviewed him for Hour Detroit and found him to be world-class.