Miniature Curbside Classic: Schuco Model 5505 Cadillac de Ville Convertible

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It is amazing, the things that turn up in most unexpected places. About fifteen years ago, I was in West Davenport, a primarily blue-collar and industrial section of town, when a red Mercedes 300SL “Gullwing” passed me going the other way on Rockingham Road. To say I was shocked would be an understatement: I nearly ran off the road.

So too, model cars can crop up in less-than-likely spots. I recently acquired the car you see here, a Sixties Schuco Cadillac. How many of these survived? How many were originally imported from West Germany when new? And what are the odds that I would find this awesome toy in the small river town of Clinton, IA?

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In my free time, I enjoy checking out antique stores. Guess what for? Of course, model cars. But I like looking at all kinds of old stuff, be it 1940s Bakelite radios, avocado-green 1960s club chairs or early 1900s tools. One I regularly check out is Uptown Antiques in Moline, and a few weeks ago while purchasing a 1962 Galaxie Sunliner dealer promo (a bit crunched, but only $10!) I noticed a flyer for an antique mall in Clinton.

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I asked the owner if it was worth the approximately half-hour trip north, and he said yes, there were lots of cool old items to check out. So last Saturday I made the trip to Tom & Audrey’s, which occupies an ex-Montgomery Ward department store downtown. As I walked in, I knew this was a good place to check out: It was loaded with booths. The question was, where to start?

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About halfway through the first floor, I came upon a glass case with HO-scale trains, a tinplate James Bond Aston Martin, and this intriguing Caddy convertible inside. As you regular readers know, I am a sucker for old Cadillacs (and Lincolns, and Imperials, and Volvos…). It was rather large, probably 1/20 scale, in silver with a red interior and what appeared to be opening doors, hood and trunk.

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One thing that struck me as odd were the three buttons between the bucket seats (yes, you could get bucket seats on the ’67 de Ville convertible!). My first impression was that it was maybe a vintage Barbie convertible or something. While feeling square about buying a doll car, I still wanted a closer look.

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The problem was that the clerk was helping a lady who must have purchased, I swear, twenty or more plates, saucers, and other glass knickknacks. The clerk had to wrap each item in newspaper and it was taking some time. Good for her, to find a bunch of stuff she liked, but I was getting antsy. I wanted to check out that Caddy!

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I kept circling back, but every time I did, there were more items being wrapped. Finally I gave up, thanked the lady up front, and went to check out a cool old general store, Smith Brothers, that a guy at the local Dodge/Chrysler dealer told me had all sorts of cool old stuff. He was right, as I found a Collectible Automobile issue (from 1989!) that I didn’t have. The clerk there charged me the original price, which was even cooler!

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After that, I stopped at a restaurant at the marina, ate, and went home. The whole way I thought about that Cadillac. As soon as I got home, I googled “1960s Cadillac toy” and was shocked–SHOCKED, I tell you–to discover that it was a West German-made Schuco!

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I never would have guessed that, considering the toy was a Cadillac. Now if it was an Audi or Mercedes-Benz I might have figured it out. This model came with an electric motor, and the buttons on the console engage forward, reverse or neutral. In addition, the steering wheel turns the front wheels. The detail is remarkable for a late Sixties toy.

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It was in very good shape too, other than some slightly dull plated trim and a dusty interior. Everything appeared to be there. Whoever was the original owner of this toy really took care of it.

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It appears to be powered by two D-cell C-cell batteries. The battery compartment is cleverly concealed in the trunk.

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Needless to say, the following morning I called them and asked if the car was still there. It was, and the guy I talked to said he’d hold it for me until I got there. I arrived in short order, and he even knocked 10% off the price. I left very happy!

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By the way, the original Schuco company lasted to 1976, when they went bankrupt. A series of less-than-successful owners kept Schuco going, but by the late ’90s they seemed to get back on track, offering a number of nice 1/43 and 1/18 diecast models, as well as reissues of the classic 1940s to 1960s Micro-Racers and Piccolo models. Glad to know they are still around and, by all appearances, doing well.

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As you can see, this is a very detailed car, with accurate wheel covers, scripts and emblems, and even the decal on the dash replicates the Cadillac instrument panel. I have yet to see if the motor works, but even if it doesn’t I don’t care. I love this Caddy, and it is definitely a keeper.

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