If you caught my last post, you know that I am the lucky guy who got to spend three days in Scottsdale, Arizona for auction week. It was overwhelming in a good way. I went to Barrett-Jackson on Thursday, which I thought would get me there ahead of the crowds. Wrong! I used to live in Phoenix and went to B-J almost every year but since I moved to Houston, I haven’t been able to be back during auction week since 2010. It’s a lot bigger. It starts on Monday. By Thursday, what used to be a quiet day is now like what Saturday used to be. Saturday must be truly crazy now, though they have started staggering ticket prices so Friday costs more and Saturday still more. Perhaps that evens the crowds out.
Anyway, you walk in as a captive audience to large displays by each of the U.S. car makers plus BMW. These are actually pretty cool in their own right. Unlike local auto shows, the manufacturers show all the highest performance cars and not very many volume models. I lingered over a new Shelby GT500 that was sitting on its side with the chassis components highlighted. There were at least five new Ford GTs. FiatChrysler had a Demon (the 800hp monster), as well as several of the hotter versions of their various cars. I had to remind myself what I’m here for: I had 1,700 classic cars to try to see. Eventually, you exit into the marquee tent area. These are the museum pieces and the cars you’ll read about if you Google Barrett-Jackson highlights. There are way too many people, and the cars are all roped off, so I didn’t spend much time there.
There were a few cars that grabbed me by the eyeballs and wouldn’t let go, like the 1932 Cadillac V16 at the top of the post. It sold for $275,000. Full classics, sadly, are cars you almost never see on the street. Pictures are neat, but you forget just how amazing these cars are until you see them in person. Luxury cars from the 20’s and 30’s have a presence and charisma that’s hard to even get your head around when you’re used to regular modern vehicles. The size, the proportions, the chrome, the detailing. It’s all just amazing. I’m not very knowledgeable about these cars, but I do love them. B-J used to have more classics than they do now, since there are a couple of auctions in Scottsdale today that specialize in those. With the time available, I chose not to try to go to any, but I hope to someday as well as the ultimate classics destination: Pebble Beach.
These are pictures I took from the Barrett-Jackson website. This model is called a Special Phaeton by Fisher Body. For those who don’t know, you will never see two identical luxury cars from the Classic era because the bodies were all custom built. If you wanted to buy a new car, the dealer would sell you a chassis and you’d have a choice of body makers to finish the car, each with their own catalog of body styles, colors, and options.
Cadillac introduced their V16 for 1930 and changed it very little during its eleven year run. It displaced 452 cid until 1938 when it was decreased to 431, rating 165 hp. from 1930-1933 and 185 hp. from 1934 on. They sold 3,250 during its first two years, then between 50 and 297 every year thereafter. Of course, they introduced it just in time for the Great Depression. It seemed like a great idea when developing it during the heady late ’20s. Bad timing but in hindsight, it still probably could not be considered a mistake. LaSalle and the lower cost Cadillacs kept them afloat during the ’30s and the V16 model firmly established them as the leader in luxury car makes. Many independent makes, like the great Duesenburg or the Marmon, Cadillac’s only V16 competitor, didn’t survive the Depression,
The V16 was not the most powerful engine of its time. Duesenburg’s 420 cid straight eight made 265 hp, the real “muscle car” of the day. That’s to say nothing of Duesenburg’s supercharged SJ which made at least 320 hp…in 1932! The V16 was more about smoothness and refinement, in which it is said to be amazing. It was the first successful engine design with overhead valves and hydraulic lifters.
This is a 1939 LaSalle Series 50. It’s a really nice, restored car. A little history for anyone not familiar: LaSalle was a companion brand for Cadillac, sold by their dealers from 1927-1940 so they could have a lower priced car to sell. They were always attractively styled cars, which is what is interesting about the story. Harley Earl was the designer for a custom body company in California and was known to Cadillac executives for making especially good looking cars. They hired him as a consultant to work on the first LaSalle, which turned out to be a ground breaking car in styling. Based on the success of that car, he was hired full time to start an in-house design studio at GM, the first true design department in the industry. He led GM design for 30 years, and his protege and successor Bill Mitchell led for the next 19. That takes it from 1928 to 1977, pretty much the glory years of GM, when they were usually the leader in design for U.S. manufacturers and it all started with the LaSalle.
Here’s a few photos from the B-J website.
I liked this example a lot. Model year 1939 is probably my favorite year for later LaSalles because they made the grille even more slender and it still has the separate headlight pods. In 1940, they moved the headlights into the fenders, which I don’t find as attractive personally. This one is a really nice color, it’s a convertible and it looks like it was restored very well. What’s not to love! It sold at B-J for $33,000.
LaSalles always had eight cylinder engines, usually V8s. For 1939, they had the same engine introduced for 1937, a 322 cid V8 making 125 hp. This was a Cadillac engine with slightly smaller displacement.
Here is Barrett-Jackson at its most glamorous: exclusive, low production convertible restored to within a inch of its life and selling for lots of money. This 1953 Eldorado sold for $181,500. I don’t know if that is good money for this car, but it’s more than I paid for my house and enough to put at least three nice new cars in my garage. It was sold individually as one of a set of four cars that were introduced at the 1953 GM Motorama, all running through the auction back-to-back (as CarrieonSapharie witnessed and commented on at my last article)
I apologize that my photo is not the greatest. Here’s a few from the B-J website.
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against restored cars. Restoration is an amazing and wonderful thing, particularly when the project starts with a derelict that is lucky not to have been crushed years ago. It shows some of the best qualities of what humans can do, creating order out of chaos to make something righteous and beautful. I admire the craftsmanship, persistence and attention to detail that it takes.
This car is the counterpart to the 1952 Coupe de Ville I showed in my last article. That one is a mostly original car, apparently well-sorted to be able to be driven for pleasure, and probably priced within reeach of the average enthusiast. This one is a museum piece that probably never travels more than a couple of miles without being on a trailer. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just a different side of the hobby.
This is a really cool car, but let me go on record to say I don’t like continental spares. Especially aftermarket ones.
The first year for the Eldorado was 1953. Cadillac continued using the same formula through 1966, with the Eldorado sharing the basic body and wheelbase of the standard model, but with fancier trim and equipment and sometimes a unique body panel. For 1953, the main differences were a wraparound windshield, low cut doors, different interior trim, steel convertible top cover , wire wheels and most all options standard. All that for an 87% price premium over the regular convertible. ’53 was by far the lowest volume year when 532 were made, with approximately 200 known to still exist. Interestingly, over half the survivors are owned outside the U.S., with the majority being in Sweden. I’ve heard before that there is a large cult of old Cadillac enthusiasts in Sweden. The world is a strange place!
According to Barrett-Jackson’s website, this is only the second 1953 Eldorado sold at any of their auctions nationwide since 2006.
Silver had this very presentable looking 1957/58 Eldorado Brougham. It’s clearly a driver, but looks quite solid with no obvious flaws. I’m pretty sure the silver paint on the lower body is not original and the tires are radials. If I looked at the window sheet, I don’t remember what it said. Silver’s website does not have auction results and the car profiles they had before the auction aren’t on the site anymore. All I have found is an unofficial top 10 sales list and this car wasn’t on it. Since the lowest priced top ten car was $49k, I’m assuming this one didn’t sell because it surely would have brought more than that. If any of you know a way to tell a ’57 from a ’58 from the outside, please chime in. Could this be the opening shot in Detroit’s Brougham Epoch? Or maybe just a foreshadowing…
I can’t resist showing the model I made of a ’57 Brougham. It’s a reissue of a pretty crude contemporary Revell kit, but it turned out OK.
Perhaps most of you are familiar with the Eldorado Brougham. It was priced at $13,074 for both years, an 87% premium over the Series 62 Eldorado, the next most expensive non-limo in the line. The car is rumored to have cost Cadillac $10,000 more to build than they charged . They were planning to give it disc brakes and fuel injection, but left them off to control cost. It did have its own wheelbase and suicide-door body, a brushed stainless steel roof, an (unreliable) auto-leveling air spring suspension, dual 4-barrel carburetors, unique aluminum wheels with special low-profile, thin-whitewall tires (though this car has modern radials, the lack of wide whitewalls is actually the correct look), air conditioning, memory power seats that moved rearward when the door opened, rear door handles that disengage when the car is in gear, plus all other options from the regular line as standard. Engines were run prior to installing, with only the smoothest running going into Broughams, and when completed the car was thoroughly test driven. Dealers were instructed to always service Broughams first. Basically, GM pulled out all the stops at a time when they could afford to throw money at a prestige car. They didn’t want to be out-prestiged by the Continental Mark II, which “only” cost $10,000.
According to the Cadillac Database, 487 ’57-’58 Eldorado Broughams are known to exist. Out of a production run of 703, that’s an impressive survival rate. B-J has sold ten at all its auctions since 2003, including the same car twice; it sold in Palm Beach in 2012 for $55k, and four years later in Scottsdale for $123k. Auctions are so fickle.
If you like pink Cadillacs, this 1957 Series 62 Coupe de Ville should do it for you. It sold at Russo and Steele for $24,000, which seems really reasonable for a car that looks like a really sharp, high quality restoration. It was one of a handful of Caddys there and by far the nicest.
Here are some additional auction site photos.
The 1952 Coupe de Ville I profiled in my last post had 190 hp, and it was the most powerful U.S. car that year. The 1957 Cadillacs had 300 hp (325 in the Eldorado Brougham) and they were not even close to the most powerful. The horsepower race in the ’50s was incredible. From 1951 to 1959, Cadillacs increased their horsepower every year between 10 and 30 h.p. The ’51 Coupe de Ville weighed 4,156 lb, which grew to 4,720 in the ’59 model, but the power gains far outpaced the weight gains.
One of the most striking cars at Silver was this 1958 Eldorado Biarritz (French for ritzy convertible). Really pretty car. The only obvious flaw was the side window fit on the passenger side.
This also wasn’t on the top 10 list and apparently a no sale. Barrett-Jackson this year had a restored ’57 Biarritz, which I didn’t photograph, that sold for $220,000. 1958 production was less than half of ’57’s, at 815.
The wheels are beautiful Cadillac Sabres. Available on 55-58 Cadillacs, they were the first production aluminum wheel. Made by ALCOA and Kelsey-Hayes, they were actually a hybrid of a forged, chrome-plated aluminum hub riveted to a steel rim.
Back at Barrett-Jackson, they had a 1962 Eldorado Biarritz. This car pushes a lot of my buttons. I looked at it for a long time. The website says it was restored 15 years ago. It still looks pretty perfect, except the leather on the seats is cracking some. It sold for $60,500.
Lurking behind it is a customized 1941 Fleetwood, which I didn’t photograph.
There’s one of those ubiquitous low-mile C4s photobombing the Caddy.
Has a prettier wheel cover ever been made?
Barrett-Jackson sold this 1963 Series 62 for $36,300. Very nice looking car, though I saw it driving back from its auction and it didn’t sound particularly smooth. I’ll generously assume it was just not fully warm.
I only got the one photo, so here’s a couple more from the B-J website.
I am a fan of pretty much any ’60’s Cadillacs, but even more so the ’63-’64 models. I’ve always thought they share many styling cues with the ’59-’60 models, but toned down and squared off a bit, like it’s Bill Mitchell’s interpretation of a Harley Earl design. The shape of the grill and bumper, the placement of the headlights, the character line on the front fenders running from the brow over the headlights to the edge of the door. The rear fender and fin is very suggestive of the ’60, as are the taillights. That would make sense if it was on the ’61 model, but they went with significantly changed styling for two years, then came back to evolve the 1960 design for 1963. Strange, but I’ll take it because I think the ’63 is great.
So that’s most of the restored Cadillac swells I saw. Barrett-Jackson was actually a little thin on Caddys this year, I thought. The next article will be on later, unrestored Cadillacs, which should be more interesting to some of you here on Curbside Classic.
other Scottsdale articles: