It's December. The Holidays are but a few days away.
Not that we're counting on having any snow here in sunny Santa Barbara. However, this season we've got something equally exciting: an Alpine White 1957 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible! Wouldn't that be the perfect gift for a loved one or for yourself?
1957 was a great year for Cadillac. With stylemaster Harley Earl's reign about to end, the division managed to design and build some of the cleanest, most well-balanced luxury automobiles ever to come out of Detroit. Among aficionados, these '57s--including the phenomenal Eldorado Brougham--are thought to be the quintessential Cadillacs, not the garish '59s. Retaining strong design cues like gullwing front bumpers topped by rubber-tipped Dagmars, the final evolution of Earl's original tailfin style, and eggcrate grilles, '57 Caddys were voluptuous but not excessive. Today, these 19ft long dinosaurs attract people like honey attracts bears. Literally!
Matching its impressive stature, the Cad is powered by its factory original, 365 cubic inch Kettering Vee Eight with no less than 300 horsepower. The folks at Rolls Royce would only whisper such a number, but being American, I proudly advertise it!
What whispers is the engine; it purrs like a deliriously happy kitten, simultaneously convincing neophyte drivers with gobs of torque from idle to redline. They say there is no substitute for cubic inches. Right they are!
Compression on all 8 cylinders is A-1 and the the power plant and its environment is as clean as you could wish for; no untoward noises and not a drop of oil spoil the great first impression!
Lavishly equipped, this fifty-seven comes with the legendary 4-speed Hydra-Matic transmission, electro-hydraulic convertible top, 6-way power seat, power windows, power steering, power brakes, signal-seeking AM/FM radio with rear speaker and power antenna . . . you name it.
It is a 100% matching numbers car; decoding the factory data plate confirms it.
This convertible is not only unusually well equipped, it also comes with an exceptional provenance. Having been owned by the same person for decades, dozens of old California registrations--dating back to 1970--attest to this fact.
Living in paradise has its advantages. With December temperatures in the upper 70s here in beautiful Santa Barbara, we didn't have to worry about the weather when heading out to take photos. On Friday, December 12, when all of these images where taken, we bumped into some students from the Brooks Institute of Photography. Boy, did they love the car! They stopped working on their assignment and focused their lenses on the Cadillac instead.
If you're pretty, everybody's checking out your feet. Why do you think most women own multiple pairs of shoes?
Well, this Caddy is no exception. She walks on the most beautiful wheels of the time. Date and color-coded factory steel wheels, dipped deep into fresh REMINGTON L78-15 Cushion-Aire rubber. Sparkling clean wide white walls and super shiny stainless Sombrero hubcaps make for a combination that is hard to beat!
Caddy has been repainted once, many moons ago, in its original color. The paint is still shiny, however, there are a few small imperfections in isolated places, some touch-up, and a few tiny bubbles near the door bottoms, but nothing the casual observer would immediately detect. She still looks beautiful!
Now, please, follow me to explore the Cadillac's inner beauty.
Not a restored show car, this Cadillac possesses something money can't buy: character. The interior is as delivered back in '57 and displays a lovely patina. There are a few open seams on the bottom of the front seat, but that would be no reason for us to perform any major surgery. An old car has to be allowed to age gracefully, and that's what happened here. Dash top and door panels look to be wonderfully preserved, the plush red carpeting is a recent replacement; it's very clean.
Rear seat looks original as well, 46 years old, not perfect in the most stringent meaning of the term, nonetheless perfect in our eyes. You can't bring back originality, at any price, no matter how hard you try.
Caddy's dash is lavishly accented by chrome trim. Gauge cluster displays a beautiful symmetry, reminding us of the good old days, long before the General's accountants completely plasticized even the cars once considered to be The Standard Of The World.
All the gauges and all the lights work, of course, as does the power top, the 6-way power seat, and the power windows. Windshield wipers are vacuum operated, and, yes, they work as well. Even the Wonderbar AM radio still hums, once the tubes warm up!
Equally as important as good looks and working mechanicals is what lies beneath the shiny surface. So let's get down on our knees to explore the state of things below, shall we?
The undercarriage appears to be wonderfully rust free. We spot what appears to be a brand-new dual exhaust system, which is good, but no rust anywhere, which is even better. Only in California!
Big cars usually have big trunks, right?
Bigger is better, we all know that, and this trunk swallows loads of stuff. What impresses even more is the well preserved original trunk lining. Note the spare wheel and the original jack in its receptacle, together with the correct red clip. Evidently, this is a car that has always been pampered, a fact that finds confirmation wherever we look.
Original factory owner's and shop manuals are included as well.
Cadillac's convertible top is a masterpiece of hydro-electrics. Effortlessly, upon the push of a button, the solidly built top appears or disappears. All the chrome on the top frame is exquisitely preserved and gives testimony to Cadillac's superb build quality. The top material has been replaced a few years ago and is without flaws. Deep red tonneau cover looks original and fits excellently.
Driving the Cadillac is truly an adventure. Its impact on other motorists and pedestrians, even in VIP-studded Santa Barbara, is incredible. Everybody loves the car! I cannot remember having received as many thumbs up and compliments ever, cruising through town. And speaking of cruising, that's what this car is made for.
It silently surges forward with ease, shifts imperceptibly, glides on tarmac like an oceanliner on water. With its burbling dual exhaust, it even sounds like a big yacht. "Feels like we're floating on a cloud, daddy," remarked my 6-year-old daughter.
Infinitely superior to today's faceless insert tab "A" into slot "B" tin boxes, driving a 1950s luxury convertible is a sublime experience. Once you've tasted the thrill, you'll be hooked for life.
There are old cars, collector cars, and blue chip cars. A nicely preserved, original 1957 Cadillac Convertible is a blue chip automobile, no doubt. It will continue to rise in value. Keep it in the family forever, like a heirloom, or sell it for a silly amount of money, a few years down the road.
Most important, though, the pleasant memories generated driving and showing the epitome of American Fifties opulence will truly be priceless!
This Cadillac is currently registered until December 2004. It can be driven anywhere, with utter confidence, across the country if that's where you live.