Friday, October 13, 2017

Mad Men, Tin Men, and Made Men all agree

I was riding my bike along the warehouses of lower Sunset Park when this mighty vision appeared:
Yes! This is a 1962 Cadillac Series 62 convertible in the appropriately named Olympic White.
I've said it before and I'll say it again; the streets of Brooklyn are littered with old Cadillacs but this one manages to tower over the rest even in shabby condition.
Cadillac was the undisputed king of class in 1962. There were more expensive cars out there (not many) and several that were more exclusive but none more damn American than this. One look at how stylized the logo here had become will show you how streamlined the entire look was.
It is a coincidence that this is a Series 62 from '62 as the Series 62 name was used from 1940-1964. It represented the entry point for Cadillac but let's put that in perspective. First of all this is absolutely a luxury car, and a convertible to boot. The lowest Caddy is like the most humble Rolls Royce.
*The one surefire way to pinpoint the vintage on this ride is the shape of the turn signals. The otherwise identical 1961 Caddy had perfectly round signals as opposed to these rectangles.
This sleek front end treatment was only produced from '61-'62. The massive yachts of the '50s had brooding eyebrows hanging over the headlights, a look that would return from '63 on. For these 2 years there is a fresh faced eagerness to these big rides that suits it beautifully.
One great design element left over from the previous decade is the fact that the front bumper makes up the leading edge of the wheel well. These bumpers are absolutely mammoth.
My favorite features of the '61-'62 Caddys are the lower fins that start just behind the front wheel and emerge as sharp points in the rear. This car has 4 freaking fins! At the same moment when they were leaving the automotive scene Cadillac decided to double down.
Few cars are such natural convertibles as these big Caddys.
Dig the faux grill treatment on the rear - another design holdover from the 1950s. The Ecto-1 from Ghostbusters was based on a Caddy from just 2 years before this example. These fins, while prominent, are massively downsized from the 1959 peak.
Even grubby and schlubby the lines on this ride are unbeatable. A little bit of black electrical tape is securing the end of the fin. Those fin lenses do light up with the larger taillights by the way.
A free breathing 390 V8 lurked under the massive hood which had plenty of grunt to toss this beast around as if it were a much smaller car. Cadillac was proud of the performance and handling, something you might not expect from a 4,600 lb car. Since they were the flagship of the entire General Motors company they spared no expense in perfecting these rides as best they could. Starting price for this ride before options was a whopping $5,588!
Anyone who watched Mad Men knows the deal with this ride and they weren't exaggerating the lifestyle. This Caddy came from the factory with 4 individual cigarette lighters and ashtrays! If they offered an ice machine and martini bar option they would've sold a million of them. The somewhat forgotten Danny DeVito/Richard Dreyfuss movie Tin Men featured Caddys like this as part of the backdrop. It goes without saying that this was THE car of choice for the Mafia (not that there is a Mafia of course because the Mafia doesn't exist).
If those pointy spoke wheels didn't already give it away we can see from the interior that this ride has led a couple lives. This is flashy period correct early '80s lowrider style upholstery. Seeing the fender skirts in the backseat means that this ride is only missing a front signal lens.
Chrysler tried with the Imperial and the Ford Motor Company tried with their Lincoln Continental (losing money on every one they sold) but nobody made a convincing attempt to topple Cadillac from the top of the automotive heap. In this era the Old World stalwarts Rolls Royce and Bentley produced bloated, out of date cars by hand. As a result the production would remain minuscule and prices astronomical. Cadillac produced 16,800 Series 62 convertibles in '62 alone while Rolls and Bentley combined for less than 6,000 cars.
Out of the many vintages of desirable Cadillacs the '62 is a wonderful choice for the collector or classic car fan who wants a drivable ride. The mechanicals are widely available and easy to work on. You'll never save on gas money with one of these but you can sit in it while parked and still outclass everything on the street.

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