Human nature longs to classify and quantify. It longs to make lists, to make sense of concepts that are hard to understand or can never be understood. Carl Linnaeus is perhaps the man whose name is most closely aligned with this tendency, but we all benefit and suffer from it. If you’re to ask for my favorite musical artist, I’ll tell you that it’s Ray Charles, Bo Diddley, and Nick Drake, because I can’t imagine having one favorite anything. If you ask me my favorite car, I’m likely to tell you that it’s a 1941 Lincoln Continental Cabriolet, quickly amending that answer to include a 1963 Buick Riviera and my own 1953 Buick Special. Recently, I wondered if I should add a new name to the list.
Last month, my wife and I took a nice 320-mile drive in my ’65 Mustang (my sentimental favorite car) to visit one of my favorite museums, the Gilmore Car Museum. It’s the perfect day trip destination during these trying times: It’s rural, it’s spread out over many acres, and even when it’s a little busy it’s not really crowded. I try to visit at least once every year or two. The Gilmore is unique because it’s many museums in one; clubs use Gilmore’s property to build a museum of their own, so both entities draw more visitors. For example, few people would be interested in spending a day at a Franklin museum, but they might love to see one if they also got to see classic muscle cars or full CCCA Classics.
One of the museums on the site is devoted to Cadillacs and LaSalles, and its building was designed to resemble a mid-century Cadillac dealership. Through its windows, I saw a car I’ve swooned over before, a 1955 Cadillac Coupe DeVille.
Upon seeing this car in the window, I actually started laughing because I was so infatuated by it. Luckily, having a lovely spouse at one’s side smooths over any possible ramifications of laughing to oneself alone on the grounds of a museum. But she knew from experience that we’d be spending some time at the shrine of Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac.
I think I’m fortunate to have unabating passions in my life, cars being the foremost among them. I love cars. I’m interested in almost anything you can show me, but a few truly and honestly give me the same pangs as a childhood crush. I’m sometimes embarrassed by the awkward emotional effect that a method of conveyance can have upon me, but it’s always been that way. I told my lovely bride last fall not to be worried if I got misty when we saw Ford vs. Ferrari at the theater with my parents. She laughed and asked why I would tear up at a car movie. My response? “Machines doing great things!” Twice in my life, a ’55 Coupe DeVille has evoked those feelings, so it has to be classified as a favorite, right?
I think so. Starting now, I’m going to focus less on trying to analyze my weird feelings about machinery and focus more on the object of those feelings, this supposedly low-mileage original (?!?) Cadillac. It has a beautiful interior and an attractive (to me…I love greens and blues) color combination.
It has the expensive air conditioning option, as evidenced by the air scoops behind the rear window.
It has a hood that conveys power, just as Harley Earl intended.
It has surprisingly tasteful trim and a lovely golden script.
It has the short-lived but up-to-the-minute “through the bumper” tailpipes, which looked good but weren’t conducive to long-lasting chrome plating.
It has obvious but not obnoxious tailfins, the fins that Cadillac pioneered. In 1955, they were still restrained, but they would famously grow to absurd heights within the next five model years.
I don’t add anything to my lists of favorites lightly. I’ve been listening to a lot of Townes Van Zandt this summer (it’s the “Summer of Townes,” as I say to my wife), but I doubt if I’ll add him to my list of favorite performers quite yet. In the Cadillac’s case, however, I’ve been gobsmacked twice to a grand extent, so I feel confident that when my lovely bride says “How have you never bought a Cadillac?”, she’s on to something big.