Coming back from Best Buy, my mom and I passed the Container Store near the North & Clybourn CTA Red Line stop. I spotted this Cadillac (turned out to be a 1954) from the sidewalk, and immedately freaked out. Mom held my bags as I approached the car. The window was down, so I talked to the driver, thanking him for the opportunity to photography his sweet ride. I asked him what year the car was (I had thought it was a 1957, for whatever reason), and he told me it was a ’54.
I also asked him how long he had owned it, and he said for 50 years. I did some quick math: if the gentleman was in his mid-20’s when he purchased this then-six-year old Cadillac, that would put him roughly around his mid-70’s today. Bingo.
I told him he had made my day, and he smiled.
Found at Noble Square, Chicago, Illinois.
W. North Ave. at Sheffield.
More: CC 1954 Cadillac Series 62 Sedan – GM’s Greatest Hit #2
Can someone tell us about the design of the back doors? Was this sedan supposed to look a bit like a coupe?
I don’t see the coupe angle very well.
Much of what GM did beginning with its first new postwar designs and through the early 1960’s was jet and rocket inspired. I see jet engines attached to the rear of the car, culminated by its rocket flame tail light.
Absolutely beautiful car! I love it.
It was supposed to look like the side air intakes as in the jet fighters of the day, like the P 59, that had intake openings on both sides of their fuselage. Harley Earl was heavily influenced by jets.
Earl discusses the styling in the 54 Cad brochure, but I doubt he actually gives credit to that influence. http://www.lov2xlr8.no/brochures/cadillac/54cadd/54cadd.html
The early 50’s Cadillac roof lines all look very similar to this, and I think this style carries on to about 1957, when the 60 Special becomes a hardtop. The current Cadillac ATS and CTS sedans have a much shorter trunk and more slope to the rear window, but there is a lot of similarity.
Wow… talk about flashbacks, this car is almost exactly the same as the 55 Cadillac my grandmother had. Same color, four doors, etc. Many trips in that car to Boston before the interstates. You freaked out… I would have also and then some had I been there. I would have even entertained the thought of paying him for a ten to fifteen minute ride.
Thank you Joseph.
Thanks, Twalton. I’m trying to remember this moment, and it wouldn’t have been uncharacteristic of me for my mouth to actually have been hanging open as I approached the car with my Canon.
Impressive. I occasionally see this kind of owner mentioned posthumously, by the second owner/collector of well preserved original cars in classic car magazine articles, but I have never actually met one. The car being one of Cadillac’s top models of that era is even more remarkable.
Even if the 50 years of ownership was split between him and an older family member (father, grandfather), it is equally impressive.
This Caddy being as tall as the Toyota SUV parked behind it, the view from this classic luxury car must be commanding indeed. You would be able to see eye to eye with any Rolls-Royce driver, in every sense.
I’ve been making this point forever. Today’s CUVs are just getting back to what was once the norm, and an intrinsically roomier configuration. The longer-lower-wider mantra was a temporary and ill-conceived direction, except for cars that had sporting aspirations.
I’m waiting for the first proper CUV-height sedan; the current Subaru Legacy comes the closest.
I completely agree, and we have been beating the same drum.
London Taxis and Rolls-Royces never lost their old-fashioned practical height, but each is (intentionally) totally unsuitable for normal passenger car use for different reasons.
After a relatively minor accident totaled my 1987 Jetta I needed a quick replacement which came in the form of a low mileage 1995 Dodge Neon (in my opinion in many ways an underrated car). This was more or less replaced by a 2004 PT Cruiser that was basically built on the same platform, but while shorter overall was much more spacious and comfortable due to the upright seating position. As an added bonus, the rear seats are slightly higher than the front in a sort of “stadium seating” configuration.
Ford tried the CUV sedan with the 2005 Ford 500 and the Mercury Montego. Both didn’t sell to Ford’s expectations, partially on execution, but also partially on the styling that resulted.
I seriously considered replacing my 1995 Chrysler Concorde with the 2005 Ford 500. It was impressively roomy, had a truly usable rear seat and the trunk space was near the very top of the industry (may have been the top). In the end, we went with the very closely related Ford Freestyle CUV, mainly for the third row seating.
Ford probably thought they might have a runaway hit on their hands as gas prices were increasing and they had a sedan that some Tahoe and Explorer drivers might find palatable. The moon and stars just didn’t align for the 500 / Montego.
The FIVE HUNDRED is still around. They named it Taurus.
Well, sort of. Yes, the 2010 through current Taurus uses the same chassis as the 2005-2007 500 and the slightly updated 2008-2009 version renamed Taurus.
As I mentioned, the 500 was a sales disappointment for Ford. The upright / tall greenhouse styling wasn’t very popular with prospective buyers. I thought it was fine, but I’m more oriented to comfort and practicality.
The 2010 – current Taurus was a full redesign and ended up with a lower overall height, a higher beltline, and a rearranged interior with an oversize console. The result is a car that is plenty big on the outside, and cramped on the inside. The current Fusion now rides the same length wheelbase (different chassis) and generally feels more spacious inside – simply a better design.
The current Taurus is a return to the classic “longer, lower, wider” construct, and has also been a sales disappointment due to its cramped interior.
I don’t think CUVs & SUVs are all that roomy, simply because they need a high floor (hence less vertical legroom) for adequate off-road ground clearance & suspension travel. It would be interesting to do a parametric comparison, anyway.
Sounds like what we need is a CUV that thoroughly discards the SUV pretensions by sacrificing ground clearance for legroom and increased overall comfort.
You’re right. I got a ride in an RDX yesterday, and I’d forgotten how high the floor is. They really are more like cars on stilts. The cars from the 40s and early 50s had reasonably low floors, and all that height. It’s like sitting on a nice tall sofa.
I bought an AWD Freestyle in 2005. I wanted to get back into a car, but I wanted one with versatility. It was the closest thing to a real station wagon I’d driven in years. My girlfriend’s sister was coming from New Mexico, but we didn’t have a bed in the spare room. I’d seen an antique wooden bed in a shop that I liked. It measured 80″L x 44″w X 54″h. I loaded it into that Freestyle, slats, rails and all. Then I drove to a furniture store, purchased a box spring and mattress, loaded those in as well and closed the tailgate. I was impressed! Judging by the shapes of current CUVs, I doubt that any one of them other than the Ford Flex can boast that. I think that if Ford had put the tried and true Taurus name on the Freestyle and the 500 from the start, they would been a greater success. A long time Ford Dealer friend of mine was very disappointed when the Taurus X (Freestyle) was dropped. They were a big sellers here in the Northeast. As for this Cadillac, It’s great to see it. A friend of mine has a 1955 Chrysler New Yorker that his grandfather bought new. I love riding in it. I imagine that riding in this Cadillac would be quite similar, yet much more luxurious.
I think Chinese heard you, will this be the answer you’re looking for: http://www.leftlanenews.com/volvo-to-expand-cross-country-lineup.html
The problem with all the CUVs and this is that their floors are up so high, that the interior room isn’t really any better than regular sedans. it’s just a sedan on stilts.
50 years!!! That’s truly impressive.
One question though–if it was 6 years old when he bought it, it seems his ownership would be 55 years rather than 50. Even more impressive!
A beautiful car in a beautiful color, and well preserved and well loved. How perfect!
Great catch / math, Chris. This picture was actually from spring 2011 (hard to believe this chance encounter happened close to 4 years ago). The owner had an air of class and sophistication that matched the car. I also figured that a 6-year old Cadillac probably would have been reasonably expensive for a mid 20-something (think 2009 CTS-v in present day).
In 1962-3 my dad and I went down to Minneapolis from the our northern Iron range town of Chisholm to see my uncle and in his side yard he had a ’54 Cadillac in the same color as this car, but it was the standard model and not the 60 special. It had been sitting there for a couple years with a bad transmission but was in good shape besides that; and being just a year or so before I got my license I wanted that old car in the worst way; thought it was very cool (only we didn’t say cool then) and I asked my uncle what he was going to do with it. He said he would sell it to my dad for $100, but dad, being a log truck owner/mechanic said it would cost another $100 to have the tranny overhauled and it wasn’t worth it. Even in 1960 you could pick up these old Cadillac for $300-$400 or cheaper if not perfect. Yah, the depreciation curve was pretty steep back then. But I still would liked to have that car; then or now.
Great find and the car looks beautifully preserved. Makes my 30 years with the 70 C10 and 24 years (and counting) with the 86 Jetta seem like quick turnovers. Maybe it’s just the angle, but the Cadillac sure looks squeezed in close between that post in front of it and the car behind it. If I make it to 55 years with the Jetta, I’ll be 80!
Reminds me of my ’51 60 special. These are Loooong cars. Longer than my ’63 Imperial. Loved the back seat. Mine had these triangular foot rests just under the front seats. It also had a heater vent plumbed between the upper and lower cushions. Never saw that before.
Mine was dark green with a light green mohair & leather interior. That carpet must have been 2 inches deep. Found mine in the lower floor of a house down in Galveston. It and its stablemate, a 56 Packard Carribean, were walled into the garage. We had to tear the cinder block wall down to get both cars out. Sold the Packard “on the hook” of the wrecker and took the the Caddy home.
One of the few cars where you could litterally balance a nickle on the radiator cap while it was running. You couldn’t hear it 5 feet away.
Finding a ’51 Cadillac walled into the garage of a house down in Galveston sounds like part of a Robert Earl Keen song. 😉
Love this car, love that story.
Joseph, great find. Did the owner happen to mention how many miles he has driven the car during his ownership?
67Conti, this would have been a great question to ask! I guess I was so gobsmacked by the car at the time that I didn’t think to ask other great questions. That the driver talked to me at all (and didn’t roll up the window) was a huge plus!
This reminds me of a black ’54 Coupe de Ville in good original condition that lived in my neighborhood in San Diego a few years back. We always referred to the elderly owner as “Olive Oyl,” she was very diminutive, sat very low in the driver’s seat (looking through the steering wheel, as my father used to say), dyed black hair tied back in a bun, and she would frequently come steaming through the neighborhood taking that enormous old Cadillac out for a spin. It was an unmistakable sight, you could see her coming a block away. She always smiled, and we would wave, but I never had a chance to talk with her. We saw her often, right up until moving away in 2007, so that old Caddy was quite a survivor. Fond memory, very heartwarming to see her still enjoying her old treasure.
I’ve been a long time fan of the ’54 – ’56 generation of Cadillac, ever since I saw the highly underrated 1990 film Coupe DeVille.
I’ve always loved these ” Dagmar ” Cadillacs and used to ride in the Limousine models back in the very early 1960’s when Carrol Transportation in Boston relegated them to ‘ also ran ‘ status because they looked so old .too old for Funeral Cars anymore .
They all ran like tops and were very quiet until the mufflers fell off .
I’d love a ’51 ~ ’54 Coupe .
Thanks. I probably wouldn’t have had the nerve to walk up to the owner, glad you did and posted this beauty,
Only a fool drives a cadillac through a chicago winter.
I didn’t know that the trees have leaves on them in Chicago during the winter. Global warming? 🙂
Tomko, Joseph stated that this encounter took place in spring of 2011. This owner is no fool.
The next time you encounter this Cadillac, you need to go into more detail with its owner. Example – ask him how many miles it has, is the engine and/or transmission original, etc.
Marbe some necessary overhauls, but likely as original as the owner. But please, become friends with him and let us know. He’s probably one interesting person.
And prehaps if you get to know him well and genuinely, maybe he`ll will the car to you after he checks out.
PJ, Hatman, you guys are absolutely right – if I ever have the opportunity again, I’d love to ask the owner these questions. I’d also like to know the story behind his acquisition of this car, and what it was like to own it through each successive decade from the 1960’s on. Sadly, I haven’t seen this car since 2011 and don’t make it to that part of town that often. I could actually pinch myself again that this particular encounter actually happened. He definitely seemed like one cool cat from the old school…I was kind of in awe of both car and owner. The car befit him perfectly.
Old school of the old school, beyond original gangsta et al. Even for 2011 this is pure magic, I’m beyond impressed. What this site is about. I bet the interior smells of Old Spice, dry cleaning fluid, bourbon and tobacco. As good as a woman :), yet different.
This is living breathing museum piece. Unrestored and correct, I would be terrified to even drive her. It would be liked being loaned the Mona Lisa and having her hang in your living room. Im glad to see her still on the road, alive and well loved. I don’t see any slush on the ground, he knows what he is doing. I bet you could offer him a million cash for her, and he’d politely tell you what you can do to yourself. That photo in front of the midcentury revival building alone is a treat.
Man, the longest I’ve owned a car is going on 12 years, at least I still have her. Ive caught the disease.
Looks like a Series 60 Special sedan, according to the brochure. Other than the rear door hash marks on the 60 Special (not on the Sedan deVille), I can’t tell the difference between them…
Here’s a page from the ’54 brochure:
This is like an experience I had in the Dallas- around 2009: I saw a very elderly couple driving a minty double white red dashed 76-78 Biarritz that looked almost over polished. Of course I dropped my camera and didn’t get a photo and almost wrecked the rental car, this happened in front of the IM Pie designed Dallas symphony hall in their Arts’ District.
The heavy chrome arching at the door tops sweeping into the C-pillar, while de-emphasizing the painted vertical door frames, was intended to create a visual tie to the popular 62 and Coupe de Ville hardtops.
The difference between the standard C-body 129″ wb Series 62 sedan and the extended C-body133″ wb 60 Special is a fine example of GM slight-of-hand. Both models share the common body structure through the rear doors and rear backlight. The additional four inches was not built into passenger compartment, but added behind with longer quarter and Misterl’s famous extended deck. Compare the fender skirts on a 62 and 60 Special, you’ll see the longer section at the forward end for the 60 Special.
The overall lengths also reveals how well Misterl used the extended deck on the upmarket 60 Special. At 216.4″ for the 62 Sedan compared to 227.4″ 60 Special, only four inches was utilized by the wheelbase, the other seven inches to lengthen the rear deck for a more impressive appearance. For an eight percent price premium, the buyer got more standard equipment, a nicer interior and a trunk that could out fanny any car on the block other than a Coupe de Ville. GM cashed in handsomely on every 60 Special sold.
I just get envious when I see things like this. Wish I had been able to keep my 57 Chevy in this shape.
OK, I’ll be doomed if my lady knows of this website. But I’m sure he’s had a better relationship with this car 🙂
At one time GM stylists thought that the short hood that reflected the V8 under it and the long tail were like the proportions of an airplane. Long hoods were passe. They went out with the straight 8 and V12s and V16s. Cars like the late 40s Buicks and Packards had the long hood because they had straight 8s. When Buick developed their V8 they were quick to shorten the hood and add the wrap around windshield to give the “cockpit” appearance. In the sixties the tail remained long and the hood became longer and cars sported more balanced proportions. After the birth of the Mustang, the long hood short deck look was in, at least for the specialty compacts and later personal luxury cars. The stand type cars retained the long hood and long deck. GM changed the rules with their redesigned mid size coupes in 1968.
Simply a gorgeous car! A prime example of why GM was so dominant in the 1950s.
Very nice, well preserved model.
Always liked the Cadillacs of that period, especially the ’54-56. When I was a child, a neighbor owned Coupe deVille with light blue body/white top. It was a nice car and rode very, very smoothly, as I recall.
I suppose the reason I liked those Cadillac was because it reminded me of a jet fighter, with the bullet nose grille, “air intakes” in the rear fender and “jet exhaust” in the rear bumper. Then there was the tail fins that made it instantly recognizable as a Cadillac.. I suppose some would regard the 1959 model as going a bit overboard in that department, but by then the Cadillacs reminded me of a spaceship.
Regarding the tail fin influence that began with the 1948 model: Read that Harley Earl was influenced by the Lockheed P-38, a World War 2 fighter with twin engines and twin tails.
Don’t mean to offend, but have always been curious why Blacks prefer Cadillacs. Was it because it was a flashier and flamboyant car?
Cadillacs appealed to anyone who wanted maximum perceived prestige; Buicks were for those who wanted something a bit more understated.
I’m a person of color, so I may be able to answer that question. When you’ve suffered a lifetime of poverty and deprivation, much of it due to institutionalized racism, you’ll take luxury and prestige anywhere you can get it once your fortunes improve. I suspect that most postwar Irish, Italian, and Jewish mobsters and businessmen, most of whom grew up in poor immigrant communities, preferred Caddies for the same reason.
That also explains why most folks who lived during the Great Depression spent their twilight years driving around in giant Fleetwoods and Continentals instead of a more practical Chevy II or Ford Falcon.
A notable exception to this rule was mob boss Angelo “The Gentle Don” Bruno, the then-boss of the Philadelphia mob. Bruno liked to keep a low profile, so instead of a Caddy or Lincoln he drove around in a Caprice. His attempts to avoid the spotlight backfired when his own underboss, Antonio “Tony Bananas” Capinegro, assassinated him as he sat in the passenger seat of that same Caprice smoking a cigarette outside his apartment. The gruesome photo of Bruno, still sitting upright with his mouth agape and the back of his head blown off, was a media sensation.
Yeah, its true. Many “wise guys” liked their Caddies, and quit a few were found slumped behind the wheel -dead. Like the scene in “Goodfellas” where the couple were found dead in their brand new pink Cadillac with the price invoice sticker still on the side window .At appx 110th. St and Park Av. in Manhattan.I even had a “mafia moment” in a friends`71 Eldorado convertible when he lent me the car for a day and I was cruising with the top down,and “Mack the Knife” was playing on the oldies station.
There’s a rather famous video clip commonly showed in most mafia documentaries.
After Nicodemo “Little Nicky” Scarfo took over the Philly mob, Scarfo and his cronies became embroiled in a bloody civil war with a rogue mob faction lead by the Riccobene brothers. There were heavy casualties on both sides. Eventually the whole situation got so out of hand that The Commission ( the mob’s board of directors ) ordered the fighting and killing to stop- or else.
The famous clip shows one of Harry “The Hunchback” Riccobene’s men slumped over the wheel of his silver ’77-’79 Coupe DeVille, equipped with Vogue Tires and aftermarket wire wheels. The interior was a bloody mess.
Theres a early 50s Caddy twodoor at Southwards museum that was owned by some US gangster the windows are nearly 2 inches thick and bullet resistant some have the bullet scars in them it has a gun ports in all the glass for returning fire, quite a car unfortunately photos of it are buried on the cohort and in a harddrive no longer here.
I also think it was a case of wanting to prove your own worth to the rest of the world by showing you could afford some flash. It’s a longish read, but this study by Thomas J. Sugrue goes further in-depth about black America and the automobile.
Some older folks might also have remembered that in the thirties, Cadillac would actually sell cars to black customers. (I don’t doubt there were some ugly exceptions, but it was a divisional policy thing pushed by general manager Nicholas Dreystadt.) A lot of other luxury automakers often wouldn’t. Younger postwar buyers might not have been aware of that, but some people may have inherited some brand loyalty from parents or grandparents even if they didn’t really know where it came from originally.
And now, the urge to procure prestige and luxury has begun transferring to Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, Lexus, etc if the actions of used car dealers of color are an indicator. Cadillac is still well in the running, Lincoln much less so.
Also, back then there was no Fair Housing Act, etc., so a person of color, redlined out of the good neighborhoods even if he could afford the house, had to look elsewhere for class and status. Automobile ownership was one of the few places where he had the same freedom as whites, Cadillac was ‘the best’ back then, so you just put the two together . . . . . .
your quick math seems to be off by 10 + years if he has owned it 50 years it was 11 to 12 years old when purchased
50 years in 2011 – see above
Beautiful car,No doubt about that.This is from a different, and IMHO,a better era. This is when a Cadillac was a Cadillac. When you had a car like this,you really had something. Maybe thats why Cadillac was mentioned in many rock and roll songs of the 50s and 60s .It was the best,and everybody knew it !
Agree! In the 1950’s a Cadillac and a Chevy were two distinct, different cars…and nobody confused the two.
The term “the Cadillac of —–” was a declaration that this was the finest of it’s kind. It’s amazing to realize the prestige and mystique of this American product, probably never to be equalled or realized by any other marque. This was the pinnacle of attainment for the common man. Even the products of Mercedes Benz or Rolls Royce will ever enjoy such celebrity. This mind set existed in this certain period of history when Cadillac was viewed as a national treasure and was seen as the embodiment of American power.potential,optimism and achievement. I’ve had a ’56,’57,’64,’70 and ’77. They don’t build them like that anymore…
In other words, Cadillac was the American Dream on wherels.
Well I am on this ownership path too. Bought my 1955 Pontiac in Nov. of 1974 at age 26 and it was noteworthy to me that this past November (2014) I have owned this car for 40 years. I am now 66. Was looking for a ’55 Chevrolet when I stumbled across an ad for this Pontiac. A near pristine 2 dr. post sedan with a visor- I think that combination of attributes steered me from my objective of buying a Chevrolet. No regrets. I was even able to meet the previous owner 35 years later (http://jalopnik.com/5660207/man-reunites-with-long-lost-1955-pontiac).
Incredible story and beautiful car!
So….25, 30 or 50 years from now: would this Cadillac be more desirable or would a 2015 Cadillac STSR4.5MFSUV be the more Coveted Car of the two?
No brainer-the `54 of course.
I have one too! It’s actually a Series 62.
Her name is Lucille.
Wow ~ Dagmars ! .
Fins ! .
Top quality build ! .
Style and class ! .
What’s not to like ?.
I logged so many miles in these in the mid 1960’s .