An American standard for the world
…in the continuing saga of “As the Standard of the World Turns.”
Superlative reputation in any field of endeavor is historically slow in the making. At the summit of the automaker’s craft was the undisputed “Standard of the World.” Cadillac made the competition appear as a mere “pied-à-terre” in the luxury car arena. Exquisite craftsmanship, attention to detail, elegance second to none…with a poised dignity which was the hallmark of every Cadillac, made it the most desired dream car in the entire world.
Cadillac established its identity within the 1954 through 1956 model years. Introduced in 1949 as an exclusive limited edition trim option for the Series 62…the Coupe deVille made its grand entrance into the world of luxury automobiles creating its own niche. NotoriousLuxury presents an encore performance for the 1955 Series 62 Coupe deVille…in the continuing saga of “As the Standard of the World Turns.”
The luxury car segment for the 1950s was composed of Packard, Lincoln, the Imperial, and of course…Cadillac. The “Standard of the World” dominated the 1950s with style and grace which forced the competition into subservience. Packard disappeared after 1958. Chrysler revised the Imperial in 1957. It wasn’t until the 1961 model year that Lincoln’s Continental established its identity thanks to Elwood Engel. The Cadillac Series 62 Coupe deVille was the luxury leader.
Priced at $3,496 the 1949 Coupe deVille trim option sold 2,150 units which was great for its introductory year. The 1950 model year sold 4,507 units. Luxury car buyers loved it. For the 1951 model year, Series 62 Coupe deVille sales were up to 10,241 units built topping sales for the popular Series 62 Club Coupe. The “Coupe deVille” Tiffany-style script appeared for the first time for the 1951 model year further distinguishing it from the Series 62 Club Coupe.
1949 Series 62 Coupe deVille
Fleetwood Series Sixty-Special Coupe deVille concept
The Coupe deVille was introduced as a prototype for the 1949 Motorama. This was the very first show of its kind known at the time as “The Transportation Unlimited Autorama” and was held at the ultra-exclusive Waldorf Astoria Hotel in January 1949. The Coupe deVille prototype was built on the long wheelbase Fleetwood Series Sixty-Special platform.
Some enthusiasts refer to it as the “Fleetwood Coupe deVille.” This one-off prototype was fitted with a dashing pillarless two-door body shell with a one-piece windscreen and intricate back glass. The two-toned black and grey leather interior was fitted with exclusive trim and features. There was a secretarial set-up in the rear armrest, a telephone in the glove box, a vanity case, and power windows. The Series 62 Coupe deVille was introduced in its production form late in the 1949 model year.
General Motors is the first American automaker to offer a pillarless hardtop coupé. The series 62 Coupe deVille was introduced along with Buick’s Roadmaster Riviera and Oldsmobile’s 98 Holiday coupé all of which are pillarless hardtops. The entire automotive industry was aghast with the unique pillarless design…every automobile back then whether a coupé or sedan had fixed “B” pillars.
The new hardtop coupé styling mocked a convertible with its roof raised. The headlining used chrome bows to simulate the ribs of an authentic ragtop. These resplendent automobiles took the world by storm. Every automaker eventually offered the pillarless hardtop look. The exclusive Cadillac Series 62 Coupe deVille led the pack as the “Standard of the World”…eminently of course –
1949 Series 62 Coupe deVille
The DeVille series ultimately became America’s favorite luxury car. By the 1955 model year it had established itself prominently. Model #55-62 style code #6237DX 1955 Series 62 Coupe deVille had a base price of $4,305 with a base shipping weight of 4,428 pounds, and 33,300 were built for the model year once again beating the Series 62 Club Coupe in sales with 27,879 units built.
Harley Earl’s tail fin had become a Cadillac trademark. The Coupe deVille’s pillarless roofline added a svelte sweeping look and the towering tail fins made the car look longer and more elegant. The 1955 model year yielded 140,777 in total production which set a sales record at the time.
Cadillac declared “Banco” with the introduction of the Coupe deVille. It is one of the longest and most successful production runs in the history of the brand. This model was built from 1949 until 1993. The 1993 Coupe deVille is Cadillac’s last six passenger two-door coupé.
The 1954 through 1956 Cadillacs gave the brand an exclusive identity. From the dazzling chrome “Dagmars” back to the kicked-up tail fins, this genre epitomized the Cadillac brand eminently. The two-door Series 62 Coupe deVille was a luxury ride like no other. It had all the sophistication of an elegant coupé with the spacious six passenger comfort of a luxury sedan.
The 1955 Series 62 Coupe deVille is powered by Cadillac’s 5.4 litre 16-valve 331 CID V8 engine. Among its highlights is a new combustion chamber, a higher 9.0:1 compression ratio, new valve linkage which improves breathing efficiency, and increased torque-thrust. The engine is built with a cast iron block and cylinder heads, and it runs in five main bearings. Two 4-bbl carburetors were available: a Carter WCFB 2185S and a Rochester 4GC 7007970 (7007971 w/air conditioning).
These sophisticated carburetors operate with their two primary barrels under normal driving situations; the secondary barrels kick in when extra power is required such as merging into traffic or when the passing gear is engaged. GM has always synchronized the carburetor with the transmission for optimum performance. The engine is equipped with equalized manifolding, hydraulic valve lifters, a mechanical fuel pump, intake silencer, automatic choke, and a dual exhaust system.
The 331 CID V8 engine produces 250 hp @ 4,600 rpm with 468 Nm of peak torque @ 2,800 rpm. Longitudinal acceleration is rated as 0-60 mph in 12.1 seconds, 0-100 mph in 47.1 seconds with a top speed in the 108 mph range. It can do the ¼ mile @ 76 mph in 18.8 seconds.
These figures may not seem to be impressive when compared to today’s make-believe performance cars; but consider the fact that these older Cadillacs are heavier with NO aerodynamics. This 5.4 litre 331 CID V8 got 12.9 mpg, which is impressive. The 270 hp Eldorado engine was available as a $161 option.
The 1955 Cadillacs are built as body on frame construction. A rigid ring of steel surrounds the passenger compartment. The steel floor is reinforced by sturdy ribbed sections and is welded to box-girder rocker panels and vertical body pillars.
The all-steel turret top is reinforced by double-ribbed steel bows and box-girder roof rails. Even its windscreen frame is rugged; it is framed by steel box-type members at each side and by steel box members across the top. The body is married to a rugged I-beam X-member chassis for strength and rigidity.
The 1955 Cadillacs are as rugged as they are rewarding. The front cross member provides exceptional strength and sturdy support for the engine, steering, and front suspension components. All 1955 Cadillacs are built with a lower center of gravity.
The Series 62 Coupe deVille is an extremely large front engine, rear-wheel drive vehicle. It rides upon a long 129” wheelbase, has the luxury length of 223.3”, and is an impressive 79.6” wide. Tubeless tires were introduced for all Cadillac models for the 1955 model year.
Beauty is more than skin deep for the 1955 Series 62 Coupe deVille. Superb Cadillac engineering is the primary factor which catapulted the brand to “Standard of the World” exclusivity. Double-end valving in shock absorbers and air craft-type shock absorber fluid added to its wide range of overall operational efficiency.
The Hotchkiss Drive cushions the driving force thru the rear springs for that famous Cadillac “Magic Carpet” ride. The X-frame design permits lower body mounts for added stability and that Cadillac beauty in its design. The engine mounts are lower into the frame eliminating vibration. The long wheelbase further refines the ride. The excellent 50/50 weight distribution contributes to its amazing handling attributes.
The platform is also a network of automotive excellence. The front suspension uses the traditional upper and lower control arm with independent helical coil springs. The use of longer and wider rear springs with fewer leaves enables the springs to flex easier absorbing road imperfections stabilizing the ride. The springs are mounted in a toe-in design to enhance stability even further. The Hotchkiss Drive transfers the thrust of the rear wheels through the rear springs reducing the car’s unsprung weight making acceleration and braking almost imperceptible.
The 1955 Series 62 Coupe deVille presented a personal luxury realm of motoring majesty. The exclusive world of the DeVille made other luxury cars pale by comparison. The Coupe deVille is a serious luxury sedan sans the rear doors. It is every luxury car…all in one. It cast a magic spell on the American automobile industry, which no other manufacturer could replicate. Its unique design sent the competitors back to the drawing board.
With Harley Earl and Bill Mitchell heading the design division for the “Standard of the World” it was impossible for the rest of the industry to catch up! These men MADE Cadillac. The Series 62 Coupe deVille’s long, low, and distinctive silhouette made it unique in all of motordom. Cadillac’s articulacy in the world of luxury was exemplified by the Coupe deVille…it was the essence of the brand. The Coupe deVille was joined by the introduction of the hardtop Sedan deVille in 1956. They were both so popular; they became their own exclusive series beginning the 1959 model year.
…lest we forget the tallest tail fins in the industry for 1959
The Series 62 Coupe deVille didn’t stint on Cadillac luxury. Standard features includes power windows, power horizontally adjustable front seats, rear seat arm rest, power steering, Hydra-Matic automatic transmission, dual back-up lamps, electric clock, front and rear cigarette lighters, outside rearview mirror, robe cords on front seat backs, glare-proof inside rearview mirror, interior courtesy lighting, and windscreen washers. The list seems primitive…but this was 1955, the automobile was undergoing a startling metamorphosis with the “Standard of the World” leading the industry with engineering innovation and excellence.
Popular options for the Series 62 Coupe deVille include radio and antenna $132, heating and ventilation system $129, power hydraulic braking system $48, 4-way power front seat $70…with vertical adjustment an additional $54, and air conditioning $620. Also available was E-Z Eye tinted glass, fog lamps, Autronic Eye which automatically dips the high beam headlamps when oncoming vehicles approach at night, whitewall tires, and Sabre-Spoke wheels.
The Series 62 Coupe deVille offered a closed car and the spirit of a convertible with its pillarless design. A light airy atmosphere revealed the full scope of Cadillac’s styling artistry which had never been incorporated in automotive design. The glamour is augmented by highly styled metallic nylon fabric with leather bolsters. This dramatic concept made the “Standard of the World” the luxury leader in its class.
Special thanks to Daniel Schmitt Classic Cars, Conceptcarz, and Wallpaperup for the use of the beautiful photographs of these rare automobiles.
The 1955 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe deVille was the luxury leader. It put the entire automotive industry on notice. Harley Earl and Bill Mitchell created automotive works of art. The Cadillac name was synonymous with luxury and elegance all over the world. Cadillac was the purveyor of the luxury automobile. In refinement…in craftsmanship…and overall opulence – the 1955 Series 62 Coupe deVille retained the poised dignity which was the hallmark of every Cadillac.
The 1954 through 1956 Cadillacs advanced the tradition of excellence to an extraordinary degree. Then there was Cadillac’s exemplary fit & finish with attention to the tiniest details which made the brand a legend in its own time. The Cadillac DeVille series is one of the longest and most successful production runs in the history of the brand. Will there ever be another real Cadillac…in stature…in luxury…and in exemplary craftsmanship? The 1955 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe deVille is another highly successful automotive legend…in the continuing saga of “As the Standard of the World Turns.”
Here’s a slammed 1949 Series 62 convertible called “The Golden Empress” and it is absolutely gorgeous!
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1955 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe deVille