(first posted 10/15/2013) I’m not really a brand specific guy, but when it comes to American brands, I’m more Ford than GM. However, Cadillac is my favorite GM brand, if only because at one point it was known as the Henry Ford Company. When Henry and his board of directors parted company, Henry took his name with him, and “Cadillac” appeared over the factory door.
While those events may seem like ancient history, they happened about fifty years before this car was built, and this car was built about fifty years before today. In both cases, few people remain who witnessed the events in person.
While it may be fifty years old, I drive by this Cadillac 5 times a week. It may make some trips throughout the week, but between 7:30 and 8:30 AM, it is parked on Arlington Street near the intersection of 230th Avenue.
As you can see, the car is very clean and very original. The body shows just a bit of surface rust, the sheet metal is straight, and the brightwork is complete. If you think spotting a Cadillac of this vintage and condition just sitting on the curb on your drive to work seems a bit surreal, welcome to my world. I’ve been living in LA for ten years, and this sort of thing still seems a bit strange.
The name of this Cadillac is a bit surreal as well- Park Avenue? Isn’t that a Buick? Not in 1963…
I referenced the Cadillac Seville in header of this article, but long time Cadillac watchers know Cadillac used this nameplate on a number of cars. In this case, I refer to the “right sized” Seville introduced in 1975. It turns out that car wasn’t Cadillac’s first shot at downsizing. They also tried it from 1961 to 1963 with the Park Avenue.
The target was a Cadillac that was easier to park and drive. To accomplish this, the Park Avenue uses a shorter rear deck (can we say truncated trunk?), to provide a reduced rear wheel overhang. Fifty years later, this car still seems massive to my eye, but what do I know? Hell, I was barely a year old during the build out of the 1963 Cadillac.
Here’s a close up of that shortened rear deck. This, my younger readers, was the SMALL Cadillac in 1963. That sheet metal cover mounted over the rear wheel on the back fender is one of those “fender skirts” your Grandpa talked about. It is designed to make an already long rear fender look even longer. You might also notice there is no side marker light, Center High Mounted Stop Light (CHMSL), or rear view camera.
I do love the attitude of these Cadillacs. If any rear bumper could be described as “dismissive,” this is it. Between the size, chrome and the fins, this Cadillac tail disses all those lesser cars who follow.
Up front, where the fenders leave the tires and wheels out for the world to see, Cadillac stylists went for the full court press. 1963 pre-dates the factory alloy wheel, so instead they covered up those black steel wheels with bright chromium covers, complete with turbine styling. Low profile tires also remained in the future, so stylists covered part of that ugly black sidewall, creating the illusion of a lower profile sidewall.
Wow- The same labor devoted to assembling this front clip could probably build a complete sub-compact today. Today’s stylists work hand in hand with the body engineers and production line folk to create a car that is as easy to assemble as it is easy on the eyes. But in 1963, the stylists handed their final vision over to the engineers, and said “Build it.”
To better understand this interior, catch some episodes of Mad Men. Between the sofa style seat, and the jukebox style dashboard, we see the triumph of sixties style. I’m sure those who graduated in 1963 will tell us things were a bit different “out on the mean streets,” but Cadillac was selling an idea, not a car.
An idea we can distill down to a single image. For some, this picture says it all. You know who you are.
As a final thought, it occurs to me that this car and I aren’t that far apart in age. I’d like to think I look as good for my age as this Caddy does, but I doubt my wife will agree. However, I think we’ll all agree that this is a great looking Curbside Classic, and a great addition to 1963 day!