Archive for Series 62 Coupe deVille

1955 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe deVille

Posted in "As the Standard of the World Turns", Cadillac, Cadillac Historical, Classic American Marques, Editorials with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 27, 2015 by 99MilesPerHour

An American standard for the world

1955 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe deVille 1

…in the continuing saga of “As the Standard of the World Turns.”

1955 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe deVille 2

1955 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe deVille 3

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.”

1955 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe deVille 4

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 Coupe deVille 1

1949 Series 62 Coupe deVille

1949 Coupe deVille 2

1949 Coupe deVille 3

1949 Coupe deVille 4

1949 Fleetwood Coupe deVille Concept 1

Fleetwood Series Sixty-Special Coupe deVille concept

1949 Fleetwood Coupe deVille Concept 2

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.

1949 Fleetwood Coupe deVille Concept 3

1949 Fleetwood Coupe deVille Concept 4

1949 Fleetwood Coupe deVille Concept 5

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 Coupe deVille 6

1949 Series 62 Coupe deVille

1949 Coupe deVille 8

1949 Coupe deVille 7

1955 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe deVille 7

1955 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe deVille 5

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.

1955 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe deVille 30

1955 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe deVille 6

1955 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe deVille 8

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.

1955 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe deVille 9

1955 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe deVille 10

1955 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe deVille 25

1955 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe deVille 26

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.

1955 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe deVille 27

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.

1955 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe deVille 28

1955 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe deVille 29

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.

1955 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe deVille 11

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.

1955 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe deVille 32

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.

1955 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe deVille 31

1955 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe deVille 22

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.

1955 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe deVille 23

1955 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe deVille 24

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.

1959 Coupe deVille

…lest we forget the tallest tail fins in the industry for 1959

1955 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe deVille 12

1955 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe deVille 13

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.

1955 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe deVille 15

1955 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe deVille 16

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.

1955 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe deVille 17

1955 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe deVille 18

1955 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe deVille 19

1955 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe deVille 20

1955 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe deVille 21

Special thanks to Daniel Schmitt Classic Cars, Conceptcarz, and Wallpaperup for the use of the beautiful photographs of these rare automobiles.

1955 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe deVille 33

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.”

The Golden Empress 1

Here’s a slammed 1949 Series 62 convertible called “The Golden Empress” and it is absolutely gorgeous!

The Golden Empress 2

The Golden Empress 3

Welcome to Greg’s World…NotoriousLuxury

The Golden Empress 4

Isn’t this drop-dead gorgeous?

The Golden Empress 5

The Golden Empress 6

It’s Notoriously outrageous

The Golden Empress 7

The Golden Empress 8

1955 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe deVille 34

1955 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe deVille

Cadillac: The Standard of the Entire World

Posted in "As the Standard of the World Turns", Cadillac, Cadillac Historical, Classic American Marques, Editorials, Extreme Luxury, Grande Marque, Luxury Sedans, Notorious Retrospect, Requiem For A Legend with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 18, 2015 by 99MilesPerHour

…Automotive milestones

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…in the continuing saga of “As the Standard of the World Turns.”

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Theodore MacManus wrote in his famous “The Penalty of Leadership” advertisement: “That which is good or great makes itself known, no matter how loud the clamor of denial.” Cadillac prowess in the luxury car arena made headlines all over the world. From the massive V16 and V12 powerplants to the modern V8 engines…Cadillac was the master builder of the luxury automobile.

Fisher Body, Harley Earl, Bill Mitchell, and a host of other talent made the brand the undisputed “Standard of the World”…in the entire world. Will the brand ever stop chasing everything that moves in Europe…and return to being the pride of the USA and the envy of the world? NotoriousLuxury retros back to the days when Cadillac reigned supreme…in the continuing saga of “As the Standard of the World Turns.”

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There was a time when Cadillac had no product recalls…they even sold without advertising. Cadillac was recognized as the luxury leader world-wide. The mere mention of “Cadillac” had the competition in a nervous frenzy. The brand had absolutely no interest comparing itself to European brands simply because the European brands were taking notes from Cadillac success!

The “Standard of the World” was the innovator displaying engineering prowess with outstanding fit & finish. Cadillac couldn’t have cared less about achieving 0-60 mph in a nanosecond, nor was it trying to compete in every automotive class – a Cadillac was a luxury car…period. Cadillac has since forgotten all of its loyal following that made it the “Standard of the World.”

1976 Coupe deVille 1

1976 Cadillac Coupe deVille

1976 Coupe deVille 2

The Cadillac name was synonymous with luxury, prestige, and quality. The association was that of superlative status such as the Cadillac of appliances…the Cadillac of electronics; this meant the product or service was the best in its industry. And of course…the Cadillac of automobiles was the one and only “Standard of the World.” It was everyone’s dream car…the envy of the driveway.

The mere sight of a big, shiny, classy Cadillac sent shock waves throughout the entire automotive industry. The exclusivity and supremacy made quite a statement about its owner. A Cadillac was a supreme achievement in motoring…I used to polish mine for hours upon end to a glassy mirror-like reflection that was so shiny, my girlfriends used to apply their make-up using my Cadillacs as a mirror! Those were the good old days.

1976 Coupe deVille 3

1976 Coupe deVille 4

Once seated behind the wheel…a turn of the ignition key brought the powerful V8 engine to life…it didn’t roar its existence – it whispered its presence. The transmission engaged imperceptibly…the steering was light as a feather…I could turn the steering wheel with one finger action.

Once the ride was under way, boulevard travel intrusion was negligible…a Cadillac managed the roughest pavement with ease. There was nothing else on the road quite like it. In fact, there was no more magnificent manner in which to view the world than from behind the wheel of the “Standard of the World.” Its presence enhanced any occasion…its eminence never went unnoticed –

1970

Not many truly understand this automobile’s illustrious heritage. Let’s take a look into the history of the “Standard of the World.” The brand was established in 1899 as The Detroit Auto Company. It was the first venture of its type in Detroit. It was struggling to survive; the company floundered and was dissolved in January 1901 after only 20 vehicles were built.

The company was reorganized on November 20, 1901 as The Henry Ford Company. Henry ran the company for three weeks then resigned to move on to other endeavors. Henry Martyn Leland, a reserved traditional entrepreneur, reorganized the venture and the company was renamed after Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, the founder of the city of Detroit. The Cadillac Model A was introduced in 1903.

The brand did not spring forth as the “Standard of the World.” This formidable title was garnered through evolution and dedication to quality. It’s an American success story that unfortunately has a not so happy ending. To regain the illustrious title the brand must cease and desist with the kitschy-faux, make-believe unreasonable facsimiles and build real luxury automobiles once again –

1904 Model B Touring 1

1904 Cadillac Model B Touring

1908 Model S

1908 Cadillac Model S

Model 30 1913 2

1913 Cadillac Model 30

Model 30 1913 1

1918 Model 57 Raceabout

1918 Cadillac Model 57 Raceabout

Fisher Body, the coachbuilder for GM was founded in 1908 by Fred and Charles Fisher of the famous Fisher brothers in Detroit, Michigan. It all began here in Ohio in the beautiful area of Norwalk in the late 1800s building horse-drawn carriages. The transition became necessary because the internal combustion engine and its torque created way too much vibration and the bodies of the horse-drawn units couldn’t withstand the forces.

1929 Cadillac V-8 Dual Cowl Phaeton

Before Fisher Body became a company, the Fisher brothers built bodies for Cadillac. By 1910, Fisher Body became the supplier of all closed bodies for Cadillac. They also built bodies for Buick, Abbot, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Packard, Studebaker…even Ford. By 1913 Fisher Body had the capacity to build 100,000 bodies per year. This success caused the company to expand into Canada right across the lake from Detroit. By 1914 they grew becoming the world’s largest manufacturer of automobile bodies.

In 1916 Larry Fisher joined the company placing emphasis on the Cadillac brand. He wanted exclusivity for the brand. Fisher Body developed the art of interchangeability of wood body parts. They created precision wood working tools, thus, increasing production output. The company became The Fisher Body Corporation in 1916 with the capacity to build 370,000 bodies per year. Larry Fisher became general manager from 1925 until 1934. He oversaw the purchase of The Fleetwood Metal Body Company of Fleetwood, Pennsylvania in 1925.

V16 1

Cadillac was the first American car in 1914 to introduce a V-type water-cooled 8 cylinder engine and was also the first to use a thermostatic controlled cooling system. In 1920 the Clark Avenue plant was built in Detroit, Michigan and was the most modern facility in the entire industry. In 1922 Cadillac introduced a thermostatic carburetor control for efficiency. For the 1923 model year Cadillac was the first in the industry to build the inherently balanced V8 engine with a compensated crankshaft…and a four-wheel braking system.

Cadillac was the first in the industry in 1926 to offer a comprehensive service policy on a nationwide basis. In 1928 Cadillac developed the clashless synchromesh transmission that eliminated the chafing noise and friction of gear shifting, thus, laying the foundation for the first fully automatic transmission called the Hydra-Matic in 1941 which eliminated the clutch and manual shifting. In 1929 chrome plated accessories were standard.

1930 Cadillac Model 452 V16

1930 Cadillac Model 452 V16

1930 V16 convertible

1930 Cadillac V16 Roadster

1930 V16 Roadsters were the world’s most luxurious cars

1930 V16 Phaeton 1

1930 Cadillac V16 Phaeton

1930 V16 Phaeton 2

1930 V16 Phaeton 3

After the stock market crash in the 1920s with The Great Depression, GM never lost money due to its diversity under the leadership of Larry Fisher. Fisher Body was an innovator in the industry. They introduced car window regulators to raise and lower windows, closed bodies offering year round comfort wet or dry…rain or snow, and many other features automakers take for granted today. The Fishers turned a $1,000 investment from Fred’s sister into a multi-million dollar company a few years later. In 1919 General Motors paid $27.6 Million USD for 60 percent of Fisher Body, and in 1926 GM paid another $208 Million USD for the remaining 40 percent of Fisher Body.

And in case you didn’t know…Cadillac was a pioneer in the automotive industry. Cadillac luxury and elegance are prominent attributes but innovation and engineering prowess were paramount. Cadillac introduced many firsts to the automotive industry. It is the only ‘foreign’ automobile to win the coveted Dewar Trophy from the Royal Automobile Club of Great Britain…not once…but twice. In 1908 Cadillac won for introducing standardization and interchangeability of parts. In 1912 it won for introducing the Delco electric lighting and ignition system. In 1905 Cadillac was the first to offer a multi-cylinder engine. In 1910 it was the first auto manufacturer to offer closed bodies as standard equipment. For the 1911 model year the illustrious Fleetwood hand-crafted coachwork made its grand entrance.

1930-1932

This is one of Cadillac’s coupé body designs from 1930-1932

1931 Cadillac V12

1931 Cadillac V12

1933 Cadillac V16

1933 Fleetwood-bodied V16

1936 Series 90

1936 Cadillac Fleetwood Series 90

Next…enter Harley Earl. He created Cadillac works of art. Harley Earl initiated the process of freeform sketching and hand sculpture techniques. His “concept car” theory is still used today for the design process. He was discovered by Larry Fisher who was intrigued by Earl’s concept car and clay model processes. Harley Earl’s methodology was far ahead of its time. The comradery began in 1927 when Fisher commissioned Harley Earl to design the 1927 LaSalle which was to be a companion entry-level car for Cadillac.

Harley Earl was named the first director of GM’s Art & Colour Section which was an in-house design studio and is an industry first, established December 15, 1935. Earl’s legendary techniques were a shock to conservatives at General Motors. He brought luxurious style to Cadillac…just what Larry Fisher wanted.  Before the Art & Colour Section, there really wasn’t a great importance to how an auto body looked. By 1937 The Art & Colour Section was renamed “The Styling Section” and Harley Earl was named vice president. This is the first time in automotive history that a designer became a VP of a large corporation.

1936 Cadillac V16 Series 90 Town Cabriolet

1936 Cadillac V16 Series 90 Town Cabriolet

The big news was the ultimate automobile powerplants introduced in 1930. The massive 16 and 12 cylinder engines, both V-types…made Cadillac the first auto manufacturer to offer a complete line of multi-cylinder automobiles. Cadillac introduced the hydraulic valve silencers the same year; Cadillac was the master builder for multi-cylinder engines.

This made the competition appear dated – placing the competitors even further behind…for the 1932 model year Cadillac introduced safety headlamps, an air-cooled generator, a completely silent transmission, and full-range ride regulator. And you thought Cadillac was merely a luxury car…Cadillac was the engineering leader…it “started the dance” the rest of the auto industry followed in subservience…especially European luxury “wannabes.” 

V16 2

1936 Series 70 V8 coupe

1936 Cadillac Series 70 V8 coupé

1936 V16 convertible

1936 Cadillac V16 Convertible coupé

1939 Fleetwood Series Sixty-Special Derham Town Car 1

1939 Fleetwood Series Sixty-Special with body by Derham

1939 Fleetwood Series Sixty-Special Derham Town Car 2

1939 Fleetwood Series Sixty-Special Derham Town Car 3

1940 Fleetwood Series Sixty-Special 1

1940 Cadillac Fleetwood Series Sixty-Special

1940 Fleetwood Series Sixty-Special 5

The glamour of a Cadillac was second to none. There was style…grace…and the poised dignity which was the hallmark of every Cadillac. It used to be the luxury car enjoyed by more luxury car buyers than any other brand. These resplendent automobiles were an ultra-exclusive realm of motoring majesty. Now…enter Bill Mitchell, a bright and talented advertising illustrator.

Harley Earl recruited him to join the GM Art & Colour Section in 1935. Bill Mitchell designed the fabulous Fleetwood Series Sixty-Special. He influenced the design of over 72.5 million GM automobiles. Some of his monumental designs include the 1955-1957 Chevy Bel Air, the 1961-1976 Corvette Stingray, the 1963 Buick Riviera, and the 1975-1979 Cadillac Seville. Bill Mitchell eventually became the VP of Design for GM.

1940 Fleetwood Series Sixty-Special 6

Beginning the 1934 model year, Cadillac was the first to begin stream lining the coachwork…the spare tire was now concealed within the body. The 1936 model year is another important milestone year. Bill Mitchell designed the Fleetwood-bodied Series Sixty-Special. This car revolutionized luxury automobiles. It was the first car to use fender mounted headlamps when everyone else attached them to the hood.

The elegant Series Sixty-Special was sans running boards which was shocking at the time. It had a faired-in rear deck lid, thin door posts, and chrome banded window frames which became Fleetwood signature features for many years. A hydraulic braking system was also introduced by Cadillac in 1936 as a first to the industry. The Sixty-Special was released for the 1938 model year; its design was copied by the rest of the auto industry. This milestone vehicle made everything on the road appear outmoded. This car influenced automotive design for an entire generation.

1940 Fleetwood Series Sixty-Special 2

1940 Fleetwood Series Sixty-Special 3

1940 Fleetwood Series Sixty-Special 4

1940 Series 72

For the 1940 model year, Cadillac was the first to introduce an ultra-modern large, luxurious motorcar to the industry known as the Fleetwood Series Seventy-Two. It was similar to the Fleetwood Series Seventy-Five but is 3″ shorter. It rides upon a long 138″ wheelbase. The Fleetwood Series Seventy-Two is powered by a 346 CID V8 engine that produces 140 hp.

The Fleetwood Series Seventy-Two uses a 3-speed manual transmission and is equipped with a four-wheel hydraulic braking system. This is the only year it was produced and only 18 were built. 1940 introduced the first ball bearing steering system making these large vehicles easier to maneuver.

1941 Fleetwood Series Sixty-Special

1941 Cadillac Fleetwood Series Sixty-Special

1941 Cadillac Sixty-two Coupe

1941 Cadillac Series 62 coupé

1947 Cadillac Series 62 convertible

1947 Cadillac Series 62 convertible coupé

1948 Cadillac Series 62 convertible 5

1948 Cadillac Series 62 convertible 

Harley Earl’s first monumental design is the 1948 Cadillac. This is the birth of the iconic Cadillac tail fin. The Lockheed P-38 was the inspiration. During this genre, air craft and space rockets dominated the designers’ imagination for automotive design. The tail fin wars of the 1950s were instigated by Harley Earl and Chrysler’s chief designer Virgil Exner. Tail fin mania spread like wildfire throughout the industry. The greatest engineering achievement in 45 years was Cadillac’s new compact…more economical and smoother operating overhead valve V8 engine for the 1948 model year. 

1948 Cadillac Series 62 convertible 1

1948 Cadillac Series 62 convertible 2

1948 Cadillac Series 62 convertible 4

1948 Cadillac Series 62 convertible 3

Harley Earl and Alfred P. Sloan, GM’s president at the time developed the annual model change implemented as “Dynamic Obsolescence.” This associated model identity to a specific year for product success. This principle is used in the marketing strategies today. Harley Earl is the pioneer of using clay models to evolve various body components. He is the first designer to create complete automobiles; blending the main body structure with hoods, fenders, lights, and trim to enhance styling continuity. The rest of the auto industry scrambled to adopt this theory.

1949 Series 62 Coupe deVille 2

1949 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe deVille

1949 Series 62 Coupe deVille 4

Public acceptance was important to Harley Earl. It was his fabulous idea that led to the formidable GM Motoramas. Between 1949 and 1961 these glitzy, glamorous extravaganzas showcased notorious conceptual designs aimed at public reaction. Comments were taken seriously and used towards production models. Harley Earl designed the pillarless hardtop design which was the first of its kind in the automotive industry.

He ordered the two-door hardtop design into production as the very first Coupe deVille for the 1949 model year. Earl visited Italy and after seeing a Lancia sedan sans “B” pillars…he introduced the hardtop Sedan deVille for the 1956 model year for luxury car buyers that wanted a pillarless four-door configuration. The Orleans four-door hardtop sedan was a concept car that debuted at the 1953 Motorama which appealed to customers and spawned the Sedan deVille. The DeVille series is among the longest and most successful production runs in the history of the brand. They earned the title as “America’s favorite luxury cars.”

1949 Series 62 Coupe deVille 7

1949 Series 62 Coupe deVille 3

The Coupe deVille mocked a convertible with chrome roof bows

1949 Series 62 Coupe deVille 5

1949 Series 62 Coupe deVille 6

1949 Series 62 Coupe deVille 8

1949 Series Sixty-Special 2

1949 Cadillac Fleetwood Series Sixty-Special

1949 Series 62 convertible

1949 Cadillac Series 62 convertible

1950 Cadillac Sixty-two Convertible

1950 Cadillac Series 62 convertible

1953 Series 62 Eldorado 4

1953 Cadillac Series 62 Eldorado convertible

Cadillac even outdid itself for the 1953 model year slapping the competition with the highest horsepower V8 engine to power a domestic production vehicle with an astounding 220 hp in the magnificent limited edition Series 62 Eldorado convertible…a Harley Earl masterwork! The 1953 Cadillac Eldorado is an exclusive trim option package for the Series 62 and the image car for General Motors. It was also the most expensive model at $7,750…you could have purchased two Cadillacs for this price.

Distinctive signature features which set it apart from the stock convertible are a wrap-around panoramic windscreen, a sculpted beltline that incorporates a cupid’s bow in its design, a sleek metal parade boot, and Kelsey-Hayes genuine wire-laced wheels. Only 532 were built making it highly sought by collectors world-wide today. They now sell for six figures…that is if you can find one for sale – Harley Earl’s legend will live on forever. He and Bill Mitchell made Cadillac the quintessential luxury icon.

1955 Cadillac for racing 1

Cadillac was into stock car racing, 1955 Series 62 coupé shown

1955 Cadillac for racing 2

1955 Eldorado

1955 Cadillac Series 62 Eldorado convertible

1956 Fleetwood Series Seventy-Five

1956 Cadillac Fleetwood Series Seventy-Five limousine

1956 Series 62 Sedan deVille 1

1956 Cadillac Series 62 Sedan deVille

1956 Series 62 Sedan deVille 2

The pillarless hardtop Sedan deVille became an instant success

1956 Series 62 Sedan deVille 3

1958 Fleetwood Series Seventy-Five

1958 Cadillac Fleetwood Series Seventy-Five limousine

Series 70 Eldorado Brougham 1

1957-1958 Series 70 Eldorado Brougham

Series 70 Eldorado Brougham 3

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The last of Harley Earl’s masterpiece designs is the magnificent 1957-1958 Series 70 Eldorado Broughams. This is the most spectacular Cadillac motorcar of the 1950s. Its sheet metal wasn’t shared with any other Cadillac. The Eldorado Brougham was one of the world’s most expensive cars at the time selling at $13,074. Understated luxury from bumper to bumper with a custom appearance makes this automobile totally unique for the genre. Harley Earl designed some of the most significant Cadillacs of all time. He retired at age 65 in 1958 shortly after directing the design of the iconic 1959 Cadillacs. By this time, General Motors had become the largest corporation in the world.

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The 1959 tail fin

The iconic tail fin from the 1959 Cadillac

1959 Series 62 Flat Top 1

1959 Cadillac Series 62 “Flat Top” hardtop sedan

1959 Series 62 Flat Top 2

1959 Series 62 Flat Top 3

1959 Series 62 Flat Top 6

1959 Series 62 Flat Top 5

1959 Series 62 Flat Top 4

1959 Eldorado Biarritz convertible

1959 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz convertible

1960 Eldorado Biarritz convertible 1

1960 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz convertible

1960 Eldorado Biarritz convertible 2

1960 Eldorado Biarritz convertible 3

For the 1960s, Bill Mitchell promoted what he called the “Sheer Look.” It was an aerodynamic design that is sleeker and more contemporary. He broke away from the designs of Harley Earl with his own interpretations of what a luxury car should be. The designs under his direction are noted as the “Bill Mitchell Era.”

He gave GM vehicles a more conservative, streamlined look. His restrained use of ornamentation, less chrome, and the elimination of tail fins instituted an understatement which made these automobiles timeless challenging the years gracefully. Mitchell’s last accomplishments are the radically down-sized Cadillacs for the 1977 model year. Both Bill Mitchell and Harley Earl left an indelible impression on the automotive industry.

1960 Eldorado Biarritz convertible 5

1960 Series 62 convertible 1

1960 Cadillac Series 62 convertible

1960 Series 62 convertible 2

1960 Series 62 convertible 3

Cadillac was still a heart-throb with its “Sheer Look”

1960 Series 62 convertible 4

1960 Series 62 convertible 6

1960 Series 62 convertible 5

1960 Series 62 convertible 7

1967 Fleetwood Eldorado

The 1967 Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado with front-wheel drive is the world’s finest personal luxury automobile. It successfully combined the traction of front-wheel drive, maintained perfect poise with Automatic Level Control, and the maneuverability of Variable Ratio Power Steering…all as standard equipment. This car gangster-slapped the industry big-time!

1971 Coupe deVille 1

1971 Cadillac Coupe deVille

1971 Coupe deVille 2

The Bill Mitchell Era exemplified Cadillac luxury and distinction to new heights in exclusivity and supremacy. This elegant era in luxury motoring was augmented by “Cadillac-Style!” Bill Mitchell had the entire industry “nervous.” Each time the competition ‘thought’ they had caught up with Cadillac-Style…Bill Mitchell bitch-slapped them with something more intriguing…with an attitude –

1971 Coupe deVille 3

1971 Coupe deVille 4

1971 Coupe deVille 5

1972 Fleetwood Brougham

1972 Fleetwood Series Sixty-Special Brougham

1972 Fleetwood Brougham 2

1972 Fleetwood Brougham 6

1972 Fleetwood Brougham 3

1972 Fleetwood Brougham 4

1972 Fleetwood Brougham 7

Cadillac pioneered many features and accessories the auto industry takes for granted. I could go on and on with praise for the brand’s outstanding automotive achievement. The 1960s and 1970s were equally as innovative…but something happened during the mid to late 1970s. The music stopped for Cadillac in the 1980s – it became adulterated with so many generic shortcuts which made it a mere hodgepodge of GM parts adorned with Cadillac nomenclature. Quality, fit & finish came to an abrupt halt. Its styling became nondescript and austere.

And as the years went by, it began chasing/emulating anything that moved from Europe. It has become too many things: a jack of all trades and a master of none. Its luxurious demeanor has become diluted to the point of kitsch. All models are recalled annually because of defects and short-sighted engineering. It is no longer a real luxury car…it masquerades as everything. In order to regain its stature, it must cease and desist with the intent of trying to be all things competing in areas which it should not.

Cadillac was snob wagon supreme…formidable in its existence, causing the competition to take note. The entire world waits with bated-breath for the supremacy and exclusivity once presented by Cadillac to dominate the industry and once again become the pride of the USA and the envy of the world. This is another NOTORIOUS flashback…in the continuing saga of “As the Standard of the World Turns.”

1973 Coupe deVille 1

1973 Cadillac Coupe deVille

1973 Coupe deVille 2

1973 Coupe deVille 3

1973 Coupe deVille 4

1973 Coupe deVille 5

Fisher Body Logo

“GM mark of excellence…”

1975 Fleetwood Brougham

1975 Cadillac Fleetwood Series Sixty-Special Brougham

1976 Fleetwood Castilian Estate wagon 2

1976 Cadillac Fleetwood Castilian Estate wagon

1976 Fleetwood Castilian Estate wagon 1

1990-1992 Brougham 3

1990-1992 Cadillac Brougham 

1990-1992 Brougham 2

1990-1992 Brougham 1

1990-1992 Brougham 4

Brougham d’Elegance interior

1990-1992 Brougham 5

Special thanks to the best caretakers in the classic car business: Daniel Schmitt Classic Cars, Jim Hailey’s Classic cars, Matt Garrett/GM Classics, MJC Classic Cars, Liberty Old Timers, Bob Adams Classic Cars, and Park Ward Motors Museum.

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Will there ever be another “Standard of the World” creation?

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