Curbside Classic: 1962 Cadillac Fleetwood Sixty Special – Very Sixty And Very Special

I will readily admit that the 1961-62 Cadillacs were never really on my radar. I always felt the outrageous 1959-’60s outshone them completely, and the 1963-’64s seemed more dignified and restrained. And I guess, given the choice, I might still pick a ’60 over a ’61, but this incredibly original black Sixty Special has given me pause. Perhaps all I needed was to find the right 1961-’62 Caddy.

This is the second ‘62 I’ve caught in Tokyo—quite a strange coincidence in itself. Last year, I wrote up a Miller-Meteor limo. Unique sight for sure, but not necessarily something that elicited anything other than curiosity. To quote WC Fields, “I like to look at ’em, but I wouldn’t want to own one”.

OK, I’m not convinced by the front end. It’s very GM, but it doesn’t exactly scream “Cadillac” like the previous and subsequent designs do. Just me? Apparently not, as I understand that even Bill Mitchell thought this front end would have been a better fit for Chevrolet than Cadillac, hence the 1963-’64s harking back to the 1959-’60 design.

However, if you like tailfins—and who wouldn’t?—you have to say they really gave you a lot for your money in these cars. Not only were the ‘regular’ ones still very prominent at a time when most carmakers were busy deleting them, but Cadillac also provided a second pair pointed towards the ground, dubbed ‘skegs’ by the design team. Double the fins, double the fun.

And then there’s that formal roof design, with the one-year-only louvres on the C-pillar. I’m sure many of you based in North America will be familiar with these. But for those of us who didn’t grow up in Fleetwood-lined streets, the detailing really looks striking. My first up-close-and-personal 1962 Sixty Special experience was, I must say, impressive.

And it seems a fair number of well-heeled folks out there were equally struck by the 1962 Fleetwood sedan’s elegance; over 13,000 were sold, despite a hefty $6,366 USD (over $64,000 in 2023 dollars) price. And that’s how much it cost new in the US; in Japan, where this one was shipped when new, the cost must have been substantially higher.

Yes, this car has lived here just over sixty years. There are a couple of signs that do not lie: the fender-mounted passenger-side mirror is typical of larger LHD imports of the time, and the license plate is pre-1970. By the looks of it, the car is also largely original.

The interior has weathered the past six decades with a bit more grace than the body, as far as appearance goes. Who knows how many of the numerous toys this Cadillac came with still function as intended today?

Still, if CC lore is to be believed, Cadillacs of this era were extremely well-built and durable machines, especially compared to the ones made in the late ‘60s (to say nothing of subsequent decades). The ambiance in the back seat is certainly in that post-Space-Age, pre-Brougham time that makes early-’60s designs still look so clean and attractive today.

Under the skin, the 1962 Cadillacs were still pretty much identical to their forebears of the late ’50s. The 6.4-litre (390 cubic inch) V8 provided ample cavalry to spin the rear wheels, via the trusty (but now getting on a bit) 4-speed Hydramatic. Nothing overly radical like disc brakes; unit body; independent rear suspension, or overhead cams to worry about here.

And with the possible exception of the brakes, there isn’t anything to be second-guessed on the chassis. With minimal care, certainly compared to almost any contemporary European luxury car, a Cadillac of this vintage could be counted on to perform its duties with impeccable reliability. That sells, both at home and abroad.

What also sells is the image and the mystique of a name like “Fleetwood Sixty Special”. The ones I’m used to encountering, the ‘80s and ‘90s models, lost their distinctive nature along the model years. The Fleetwood name still meant something to some folks in the early ‘60s; even though it had been integrated in GM back in the late ‘20s, the memory of the coachbuilt era was still present.

GM even kept up the pretense as far as designing a new Fleetwood crest in 1960 to suit the style of the period. In those days, the last place where traditional coachbuilding was still thriving was Italy, so they designed something very much in that vein, complete with a crown on top.

I don’t know why so many Italian carrozzerie seemed to have a thing for crowns, but that certainly left its mark on the unlikeliest of places, such as the Fleetwood Sixty Special.

While we’re looking at shiny knickknacks, let’s check out what’s on the hood. The Cadillac crest is so flattened and stylized as to look like the car ran over its own emblem. I never did understand why they devised such a complex logo. Yes, it’s supposed to be the coat of arms of the French nobleman who founded Detroit, but who ever thought that would make a good car logo? Not that this is the only example, of course. Looking at you, Porsche.

But I’m really having to pick at the odd little nit to find anything to lob a few feeble criticisms at this utterly gorgeous automobile. Truth be told, I’m even starting to warm to that somewhat nondescript kisser. That might have something to do with the car’s condition.

The patina is truly outstanding, though I do hope that whoever is taking care of this car is able to manage the rust. Some bits are starting to look a little brittle. On the other hand, restoring it would be bordering on criminal. Don’t change a thing, just keep it aging slowly like a fine brandy.

This car used to be in a specialized dealer’s shop window, but they closed down their showroom a few months ago, so it’s been parked outside. I was lucky enough to catch it on the day they moved it; I saw it this week and it’s still there, but wearing a great big protective cover. It’s not much, but better than nothing.

Hope it finds a loving home with a heated garage soon. Sleeping rough at 60 is the wrong kind of special.

Related post:

eBay Find: 1962 Cadillac Fleetwood Sixty Special – Instant Respectability., by Gerardo Solis