I’ve become increasingly convinced over time that class is a state of mind over anything else. Amid the dense, hurried foot and vehicular traffic of holiday shoppers along Chicago’s upper-end Michigan Avenue retail district, I can almost hear a vacuum-like whoosh of money being collectively sucked out of people’s wallets and purses. Beautiful window displays showcase wares that are out of financial reach of many, glittering in the rays of perfectly-positioned pin-spot lighting. As I have many checks to write for the young ones in my extended family, my year-end budget is normally stretched pretty thin. Also, with all of the sales, some of which feature things I actually need or would otherwise buy, it’s hard to avoid the temptation to purchase things for myself and not just wait for the end-of-holiday bargains after the beginning of the new year.
On what is colloquially known as the “Magnificent Mile”, where I photographed our featured car, the upper-echelon nature of these high-end goods is often at odds with behavior I witness and identify as being less than charitable. Some pedestrians seem almost as if in a trance, as words like “excuse me” and “sorry” seem to be forgotten in the quest to get somewhere or to something first. Still, there’s something very festive about seeing so many people out enjoying what Chicago has to offer during the winter holiday season. As for me, even though I try to remain a part of the action, and even though I sometimes have forgotten to say “excuse me” (nobody’s perfect), I try to maintain some mental semblance of dignity and goodwill as I head toward my destination.
Twenty-Eighteen wasn’t a particularly easy year for me, which was part of the reason why my musings here at Curbside Classic weren’t as numerous that year as in ones previous. At the end of last year, however, I made a pledge to myself to compose and post at least one essay here for each full week of Twenty-Nineteen, which is a goal I attained. I stand by, and am proud of, each one of my pieces. I also have CC founder Paul Niedermeyer especially to thank for having given me the chance to do some creative writing here and hone those skills, share my photography, and express myself – sometimes even when cars were somewhat tangential to my main premise.
This past year, sitting down with notepad and pen or at my computer (usually on Saturday mornings) gave me a chance to put everything else on “pause”, focus on a vehicle and related subject to write about, and use my creative mind. Doing so provided a certain sense of structure at the official beginning of my weekends, as I sought to put some pieces of my life back together.
My circle of friends and acquaintances also got smaller this year. This isn’t an unusual process as we age and as we delve deeper into our passions, whether for work, hobbies, or whatever else is important to us. We simply grow into having fewer resources to allocate elsewhere. To this end, in 1940, Cadillac was still a very exclusive, low-production make. Total Cadillac production for 1940 was a touch over 13,000, including when just the chassis was manufactured. For 1940, Lincoln sold about 22,000 units, and the price spread between the lower and upper ends of its model range was about the same as Cadillac’s. Packard sold more units at around 98,000, but pricing of their lower-end One-Ten and One-Twenty models that made up the bulk of that figure was substantially lower than that of the entry level offerings from Cadillac (or Lincoln).
Compare Cadillac’s 1940 production figure of 13,000 to their sales record-year of 1979, when over 383,000 units were sold. It’s true that the Cadillac of 1940 was a much more bespoke kind of car than the mass-produced, almost ubiquitous ’79. I was a toddler when the newly downsized DeVilles made their debut for model year ’77, so the newer cars are definitely within the range of my observational experience, just a few years later, to recognize them as Cadillacs and appreciate their upscale nature. The 1940 model, however, is completely out of any firsthand experience I might have had with one. (If my maternal grandfather was still alive today, I’d love to ask him for his opinion of the ’40 Cadillacs, as he had once volunteered to me about the Cord 810 and 812 models, which he had remembered as new cars from his own young adulthood.)
This pre-war Cadillac glided down Michigan Avenue with a solemn, stately dignity and elegance unrivaled by anything else around it. (Check out the late model, similarly-shaped Lincoln MKT in the background.) Even comparing the presence of this Series 75 against that of a ’78 Fleetwood Brougham (like the one I spotted in Las Vegas this past September) would be like comparing the slick, graceful dance moves of Fred Astaire against those of John Travolta in “Saturday Night Fever”. I suppose both have their merits, but these days, as I continue to move onward and upward and look forward to what the year 2020 has to offer, I want to be a little more “Series 75”, even if only in my head.
Downtown, Chicago, Illinois.
Saturday, October 5, 2019.