The 1955 Cadillac Fleetwood four-door sedan looks like it is about a block and a half long. Actually it's 227.3 inches, or almost 19 feet, and sits on a 133-inch wheel base. That's three feet longer than a 2013 Cadillac CTS model with a 20-inch longer wheelbase -- a car that's definitely a challenge to parallel park.
"The mid-1950s were golden times for Detroit's Big Three auto manufacturers," said Walnut Creek resident Tony Lukaszewski (Luke). "All three had spectacular models in 1955, but Cadillac firmly established itself as the 'Standard of the World' eclipsing Packard which never quite recovered after World War II."
Foreign luxury cars were not yet a major factor in this country and driving a Cadillac was the sign of success. Driving a Fleetwood Cadillac was the conspicuous symbol of wealth and position.
There were 18,300 Series 60 Fleetwood Cadillacs built in 1955.
"I bought this car about a year ago and I think I'm the fourth owner," he said. "The last 10 years or so it was in a private collection."
Luke always has his eye open for an interesting vehicle. "Now and then I check in with Volo Auto Museum in Volo, Illinois, where I found my two 1941 Chevrolets," he said." They were the agents for this Cadillac and sent Luke a detailed CD with photos and specifications and the sale was made.
He wasn't specifically looking for a Cadillac, and I asked what motivated him to buy this car.
"I can tell you in one word," he said. "Color. I saw it on the Volo Museum site and was just a sucker for the color. It reminds me of a wonderful era. It's funny how cars mirror women and to me this car reminds me of the Marilyn Monroe-era especially with the coral and ivory color."
Luke's Cadillac has been repainted the original color called Pacific Coral with a Cape Ivory top once, but everything else is original on this 55,000-mile luxury sedan. Pacific Coral was a feature color for the 1955 Cadillac and the car has a coral and ivory interior as well. The two comfortable bench seats have appropriate space to seat six people with more than ample legroom.
The list price of a 1955 Cadillac Fleetwood was $4,728 which would be equivalent of about $41,000 today. The Fleetwood name comes from an old coach builder called Fleetwood Metal Body. They built large fancy vehicle bodies for the very wealthy starting in the early 1900s but were bought up by Fisher Body in 1925, which was bought up by General Motors in 1931.
The Fleetwood name was only used with the top of the line Cadillacs. To identify it as a Fleetwood, the 1955 model had 12 vertical chrome hash marks on each of the rear fenders plus a Fleetwood script on the trunk lid. The Fleetwood name was used on premier Cadillac models as late as 1996.
This 4,545-pound Cadillac is powered by a 250 HP, 331 c.i. V-8 engine and has Hydra-Matic drive. The automatic transmission gear indicator reads N, D1, D2, L and R. Reverse also works as the parking gear. The long hood is for styling, as there is almost room for two suitcases between the radiator and the egg-crate style grille. A Cadillac styling standard was the "bullet" bumper guards that were started in 1942 and used through 1958. They were sometimes referred to as "Dagmar" bumper guards, but you probably have to be of a certain age to understand why.
One of its¿ "gee whiz" features is an automatic headlight dimmer. This is a very futuristic-looking device that sits on the far left side of the dashboard. At night it senses approaching cars' headlights and automatically dims the Cadillac's lights.
For some reason, hiding the gas filler was in style. Some cars hid the filler behind a spring-loaded rear license plate holder, but Cadillac hid their filler under the left rear taillight. One had to push the small round reflector under the taillight and then lift the taillight to find the gas cap.
Arriving in a Cadillac was special, but arriving in a Cadillac with air conditioning, a $620 option ($5,332 today), was the ultimate. Air conditioning was only available in luxury cars with the exterior fresh air intake vents located behind the rear doors and the A/C unit was in the trunk. Cool air was blown through two clear plastic vessels just inside the rear window into tubes that delivered the cool air to vents above the doors.
I asked Luke how much he planned to drive his Cadillac. "Not much," he said. "I'll probably drive it enough to keep it juiced up and healthy including various local car shows and to the coffee shop."
Apparently he's not completely confident of that plan as he added, "But, it sure is a pleasure to drive. It's smooth as silk."
Have an interesting vehicle? Contact David Krumboltz at MOBopoly@yahoo.com.