“As the Standard of the World Turns” celebrates the 1950s
The 1950s styling was dominated by Harley Earl & Bill Mitchell
Under the glitz of the fabulous GM Motoramas…..was mystery
…a dream with a little bit of fantasy
“As the Standard of the World Turns” salutes Harley Earl and Bill Mitchell who MADE Cadillac the iconic world-renowned brand where exclusivity and supremacy ruled. These two extremely talented designers created the Fleetwood-bodied Cadillacs which catapulted the brand to stardom…yes, Fleetwood was synonymous with “Standard of the World.” Before Cadillac would produce a model, it was tested first on a concept car. Both Earl and Mitchell had public taste first and foremost in mind when creating vehicles of distinction.
It was the Harley Earl era that spawned the formidable “Art & Colour” department. Harley Earl always previewed Cadillac’s stunning concept cars at the fabulous GM Motoramas…where glamorous vehicles were displayed to tweak public curiosity in an outrageously luxurious setting. After listening to the crowd’s likes and dislikes, Harley Earl and Bill Mitchel had a spot-on idea how to satisfy the Cadillac clientele. These elegant Motoramas were held sporadically between 1949 and 1961.
…in the continuing saga of “NotoriousLuxury” here are the milestone concept models for the 1950s
Thanks to Dan Reed/Cadillac & LaSalle Club
For 1953, GM’s Motorama introduced the production version of the Cadillac Eldorado. It shared the spotlight with the Cadillac Orleans and the Cadillac LeMans. The Orleans was a four-door sedan with pillarless hardtop styling. It was the first four-door hardtop sedan concept. The LeMans was an avant-garde open tourer with a short wheelbase. Both of these were milestone concepts that inspired the Cadillac models to come at the time.
Probably the most intriguing concept car was the 1953 Cadillac LeMans. Like its namesake “The LeMans 24 hour endurance race” the LeMans concept car has a unique drama associated with it. There were four of them built but only three remain…one of these three, LeMans chassis #2 vanished without a trace in Oklahoma and to this day remains a mystery.
Have you seen this car? Even if total restoration is required, the car is estimated to be valued between $400,000 and $2 Million dollars. It was last seen in the 1950s on display at Greenlease-Moore Cadillac-Chevrolet. One LeMans went to shoe magnate Harry Karl who presented it to his wife Marie “The body” MacDonald, a statuesque blonde who was crowned Miss New York in 1939.
Another LeMans went to a Beverly Hills Cadillac dealer. One was destroyed in a fire. LeMans chassis #4 remains at the GM Heritage Center on display. It was LeMans chassis #4 that was given a face-lift to keep in tune with the time. The car was restyled given quad headlamps and trimmer tail fins. The engine was upgraded to the 1960 Eldorado specifications.
Seriously…have you seen this car?
The LeMans was a fiberglass two-seater with a short 115” wheelbase which made it look rather awkward for the day. It was a three passenger sports convertible. The LeMans was a very low-slung car only 51” in height. It featured “memory seats.” When a door was opened the seat automatically moved back. Closing the door returned the seat to its original position.
It was equipped with an Orlon top that automatically raised itself if it detected rain. The top was stored in its own locker under a hinged lid. The LeMans predicted the front-end styling for the 1954-1955 production models. It was fast, the standard production 331 CID V8 was tweaked to produce 250 hp. The fiberglass construction proved feasible and was adopted for the first Corvette in 1953.
Special Thanks to my friends at Conceptcarz!
The LeMans concept car predicted the 1954-55 production models
Production 1954 Fleetwood Series Sixty-Special
Production model 1955 Coupe deVille
The Orleans and its unique styling remain a mystery. It was built as a custom hardtop sedan on a production-bodied 1952 Coupe deVille bodyshell. This elegant pillarless hardtop sedan featured forward-opening rear coach doors that had locks that released when the transmission was shifted to neutral.
The car had a standard electrical outlet for the use of household appliances. It used a converter that changed the generator current from DC to AC to operate radios and other electrical appliances. The Orleans’ front seat back served as a structural brace for the body to strengthen it since its pillars were removed.
It featured in-dash air conditioning controls, power windows, a signal-seeking radio with power antenna, and under seat vents that directed air flow to the rear compartment. The Orleans had a Champagne colored Naugahyde roof cover. This car vanished without a trace. Its last sighting was in San Diego, California in the 1970s and still remains a mystery to date.
Production model 1953 Series 62 Eldorado
The elegant 1956 Eldorado Brougham Town Car was the epitome of luxury. It was ‘driveable’ but not fully functional, it was merely to be driven about at auto shows. The Eldorado Brougham Town Car had fiberglass hand-crafted bodywork. The open chauffeur’s compartment was upholstered in black Moroccan leather. The distinctive rear half-roof was covered in leather.
This is the rarest of the Cadillac concept cars. Known as XP-48 was introduced at New York’s Waldorf Astoria in 1956. It was also featured at the Paris France Auto Show the same year. This car was ordered to be destroyed but the scrapyard owner could not bring himself, nor his staff to destroy this beautiful car. It remained hidden at the scrapyard under a tarp until 1959 until the 1980s when it was discovered by a collector. The car was restored and eventually sold at RM Auctions for $258,500 in 2012.
The Eldorado Brougham Town Car not only influenced the design of the 1957-1958 Series 70 Eldorado Brougham, but also predicted the styling for the 1957-1958 regular production Cadillacs. The Eldorado Brougham featured elegant forward-opening coach doors.
Its architecture was augmented by a brushed stainless-steel roof and pillarless hardtop styling. The Eldorado Brougham sold for $13,074 which was twice the cost of the Eldorado. Only 400 were produced for the 1957 model year and a mere 304 units built for the 1958 model year making this a highly collectible Cadillac that is appreciating rapidly.
The hand-crafted 1957-1958 Series 70 Eldorado Brougham by Fleetwood
Production model 1957 Fleetwood Series Sixty-Special
Production model 1958 Fleetwood Series Sixty Special
Production model 1958 Series Sixty-Two Sedan deVille
The Cyclone concept car was one of Harley Earl’s last styling exercises. It was built in 1959 and was never a production model. Its design was purely an experiment in future direction. Compact in size for a Cadillac, its 104” wheelbase and outlandish design made it look as though it could fly!
The canopy top would delight “George Jetson.” When the canopy wasn’t needed it stowed away in the rear compartment on an air bag base. The Cyclone had a radar-based crash avoidance system with sensors mounted in the twin nose cones up front. The doors were electric and the glass had a silver UV coating to protect its occupants. Its design was heavily aviation inspired.
The Cyclone was introduced at Daytona Beach race track in Florida February 21, 1959. It was, however, never actually complete by this time because Harley Earl had retired. The engine was the trusty 390 CID that produced 325 hp. The engine featured a cast iron block and heads with three carburetors. The engine was mated to GM’s 4-speed Hydra-Matic automatic transmission. The exhaust system was fitted entirely under the hood with exhaust ports ahead of the front wheels.
Its brakes were power assisted through the car’s air suspension. The suspension proved to be a pain in the butt, as all early GM air suspensions were at the time and had to be re-fitted with coil springs. There were complaints regarding the height problem when the canopy was raised which made entering and exiting the vehicle a bit cumbersome.
The Cyclone was restyled a few times through its existence and is still shown at auto shows. It was revised with shorter fins and the pearlescent white paint was refinished in silver. An interesting fact about the Cyclone is that it was the first to use Saginaw rotary power steering. Unlike most concept cars of the day, it was constructed from steel not fiberglass. All that is left to say here is “Beam me up Scotty!”
The Spotlight concept model is the 1949 Coupe deVille built on the long wheelbase Sixty-Special chassis
More superlative superlatives………………in the continuing saga of “As the Standard of the World Turns.”