Monday, June 5, 2017


I was on a brief field trip to Connecticut when this ocean liner presented itself:
This is a 1953 Cadillac Series 62 sedan in (mostly) Black. Normally I would write that hood off as primer but I think it's the handsome factory color Court Gray. This car is basically a building.
I ran across the original salesman's booklet that Cadillac gave to their dealers so this post will be sprinkled with quotation marks. They copy was great!
Try to let it sink in just how much metal and chrome we're talking about here. The bumper is absolutely monumental! That V on the hood was originally gold in color. Those two chrome rockets jutting out of the sides are Dagmars named after a voluptuous actress of the same name who was basically a blonde Jessica Rabbit. Here she is singing on the Frank Sinatra show back in 1951. I always thought they looked a bit like cigars on the side of some old time gangsters snarl. 
There are styling cues here that will show up on other GM vehicles in the coming years. In particular this lidded headlights would be mimicked somewhat on the 1955-1958 Chevrolet Bel-Aire/Impala series. The Dagmars would appear in more modest form on the '57 Chevy.
What looks like turn signals are actually the newly optional fog lights bragged about in their sales brochure of the day. If the option wasn't chosen there would be a metal filler plate in that space with a small round turn signal in the center.
This stylized hood ornament is simply known as The Goddess.
When this beast was built it was the mountaintop for styling and engineering in a luxury car. Packard was still around and producing high end rides as well but there lack of innovation was starting to show. Chrysler was making Imperials and they were great cars but not produced on the same scale as Cadillac. If you were someone important or of serious means it was either a Caddy or a Rolls Royce.
The interior is nicely laid out and relatively free of flash for '53. A 331 overhead valve V8 engine mated to a 4 speed Hydra-Matic transmission was standard. I can't tell if this one is so equipped but air conditioning was available as an option for the first time. This one sports a clock and radio. Power steering was standard too. Check out the little crank for the vent window!
This funky little lens is mounted on the dash to the right of the steering wheel. It is the Autronic Eye! This device would sense oncoming headlights and automatically dim your brights for you. Remember that this was 64 years ago to get a feel for how futuristic this was at the time.
For an enormous vehicle this has great lines and nice proportions. The fins are still subtle compared to what was to come later in the decade. These smaller fins were first introduced in 1948 and were almost identical to these.
The exhaust comes out of those holes on the lower corners of the bumper. The brochure refers to the "big, husky rear deck" of the trunk which has a "luggage compartment of cross-country proportions."  
One of the coolest features of this ride is the location of the gas cap, which is hidden within the drivers side taillight! Press that small reflector button and the top lens pops up on a hinge, exposing the cap underneath. I explained this to a fellow gawker who was walking around the car barking out questions like "I wonder what this is?". I would answer each one of them and then I mentioned the gas cap. He pressed the button and it opened. I wouldn't recommend doing this without permission!
If this were the "magnificently luxurious" Fleetwood 60 Special there would be a series of chrome gills in front of the rear wheels. It's a shame the fender skirts are off the car because they add to the formality.
These hubcaps were optional in '53. Known as the Aerodynamic Wheel Discs, they were said to reduce wind noise and drag. I just think they're cool.
I'm including this interior shot because the floor is busy with switches. There is a headlight dimmer switch on the far edge and above that there ought to be the on/off switch for the Autronic Eye. There is yet another floor mounted button that's next to the brake pedal that activates the signal seeking Wonderbar radio. Again, in 1953 stepping on a switch to change the station was unheard of!
That vertical chrome bar at the front of the rear fender is marketed as a simulated air scoop gravel guard. Up close it does indeed have 10 little fins giving it the look of a huge intake.
"And here in this car is new massiveness, new strength, and new beauty for 1953" reads the copy of the sales book given to dealers for that year. Every page of that booklet boasts about the sheer size of the car, using the word massive at least 6 times.
10 minutes into Netflix and Chill the Caddy leans over and gives you this look.
This is where I respectfully back away from this majestic craft. Sales were fantastic for Cadillac in 1953, with a record-breaking 85,446 Series 62 cars sold. These heady times wouldn't be gone anytime soon as the prestige of the brand continued through the '70s unabated while other historical marques continued to fold. Hudson, Packard, Rambler, Nash, Kaiser, and DeSoto would all be gone by the turn of the next decade. Ford tried to crack into the luxury market with the Continental Mark II in '55-'56 but they lost money on each one and surrendered quickly. Imperial would become a stand alone brand from '55-'75 but the numbers could never quite compete and they, too, went back into their parent company. Somehow Cadillac soldiers on as the top of the heap in the domestic market to this day. 

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