I recently returned to the office for one day last week, exactly a year and a day since I had last sat in the chair at my desk. My goal was to try to make peace with the idea of an inevitable return to that environment at some point. I hadn’t realized that so many of my friends and colleagues had already returned to working in an office in some capacity, even if readers here at Curbside have mentioned that this was the case for them. After my initial, hard resistance to working from home, which was made necessary a year ago by the current pandemic, I have come to love so many things about it, not the least of which is maximization of my time during the day that might otherwise be spent commuting. It has been bliss for my inner introvert, though I am thrilled that vaccines are rolling out, even if it means the end to living a full life entirely within a half-mile radius of my home.
What will also be coming to an end with an eventual, mandatory return to the office is my ability to not to have to look my best for other people. To be clear, I am no slob. I have made clothing purchases online over the past twelve months knowing full well that the guy in the mirror looking back at me would be the only person who would appreciate my so cool new t-shirt or pair of jeans. Some people have joked about things like taking care of basic tasks (like getting dressed in actual clothes, doing laundry, etc.) requiring effort, but I have managed to even shave every day as well as prepare meals for the week. I say all of this not as a so-called “humble brag”, but as merely a statement of fact.
Speaking of shaving, I have shaved my head consistently for over twenty years now. The first time I did so, I was a teenager and was looking to change my image following a relocation to another state. This was before regular access to the internet, so I had no idea that shaving the back of my head with a razor against the grain for the closest possible cut was going to lead to a rear scalp full of painful ingrown hairs and red bumps. It looked like a rooster’s comb back there for a while. I learned that lesson the hard way, but thankfully, everything was healed by the time school started up that fall. The intended takeaway from all this was that shaving my head at that point in my young adulthood was completely voluntary, as all of my hair follicles seemed healthy and happy.
At some point in the early Aughts, I had been shaving my head again for a little while and decided I wanted to try to grow all my hair back. Things were hunky dory… for the first few days. As I approached a week’s worth of growth, I started to panic. “Wait…“, I said to myself. “Why can I see so much of my scalp up here between the hairs? This shouldn’t be! How does this compare with what it looks like on the side?” So, as I sat at rest at stoplights in the driver’s seat of my ’94 Ford Probe, I’d pick at my hair, turning from side to side, peering into my windshield-mounted rear view mirror.
The writing was on the wall. While neither my dad nor the men on my mom’s side of the family were completely bald up top and in the front, there was prevalent thinness. At some point shortly thereafter, I decided to call it a day and make a bald-shaven head my signature look, which I have maintained ever since. Getting back to pandemic-related quarantine, it has occurred to me that I may have squandered my only easy opportunity to see what my hairline situation is in present day before a regular return to office days and having to be seen more in public. It’s true that I could start the growth process now, but there is a part of me that is actually pretty terrified to obtain the confirmation I would most certainly receive that my hairline would now resemble that of a cross between George Jefferson and Mr. Spacely from The Jetsons.
What does it really look like up there? This same question has often been asked about vintage cars that sport various roof treatments like landau vinyl, carriage roofs, and the like. There have been more than a few instances of features at Curbside’s “Junkyard Classics” or “Curbside Recycling” where otherwise salvageable looking cars were likely scrapped following a pre-restoration discovery of widespread and serious rust on the metal roof beneath a fancy chapeau. This ’85 Eldorado, from this generation of GM E-Body’s final year of production, features the full Cabriolet Roof option from the factory. (There was also an available padded vinyl “Cabriolet” roof that capped the rear portion of the roofline.)
Very nice aftermarket wire wheels and whitewall tires would indicate that this was a pampered and prized vehicle at some point. It seems entirely possible that the first owner of this ’85 was one of over 74,000 buyers who wanted a new Eldorado before the smaller ’86 models arrived. Looking at this car’s condition as of five years ago when these pictures were taken, I’d say that all bets are off in terms of what the bare metal under that tan top looks like today, kind of like the struggling, little seedlings atop my scalp after twenty-four hours of inattention.
The problematic and infamous Cadillac HT 4100 fuel-injected engine with 135 horsepower came standard, with the 105-hp Oldsmobile 350 diesel as an option. I don’t hate the downsized ’86 Eldorados that followed, which sold but a third of what had moved off the lots in ’85, but my thought is that if this particular Eldorado had been one year newer, it probably wouldn’t have been there parked on the curb for me to photograph and would have been scrapped years, and perhaps decades, before.
Even if there was some rust apparent on the exterior, there wasn’t an abundance of it, so it’s possible that the metal roof of this car was fine. It is also in the little details on this Eldorado, like the “Cadillac” inscription on the sideview mirror, that reinforce my feeling that these cars made their owners feel special, even by the seventh model year of this generation’s run. Absent a miracle, neither this car nor my full head of hair is going to be brought back to its full glory, judging by the circumstances in each case. I consider it fortunate that I like the way I look with a shaved head. I would like to think our featured car is still cruising around Chicago with its interior headliner intact and showing off its fancy, tan fedora, completely unconcerned about what may be lurking underneath.
Wrigleyville, Chicago, Illinois.
Late February & early March, 2016.
The half vinyl roof on my Dad’s 1979 Cadillac Eldorado Diesel shrank out from under its perimeter moulding on top! We “retrimmed” it with aluminum roof flashing to hide the raw fabric edge. No rust, though…it was a California car that survived, Diesel and all, until traded in 1994 toward a Ford Taurus. By then the extra cost Firemist paint was flaking off its primer but the retreat of the roof fabric had not continued to where it was visible.
G. Poon, thank you for this firsthand knowledge. Can you remember how old the car was before you noticed the vinyl was shrinking?
I do really like that Firemist color, and I think it’s pretty incredible that your dad’s example remained in his ownership for fifteen years. That’s cool.
I wonder how this car would drive with the 350 Diesel. I’m one of the very few people who likes this engine and I drive an Olds Diesel.
Some of these Caddies had stainless steel roofs like the 57 Eldorado.
That would be the top level “Biarritz” model. They also came with upgraded seats. There is one down the street from me and someone liked vinyl roofs so much they covered the stainless portion with the carriage top, a travesty.
I have a 1979 Jaguar XJ with a vinyl roof. I never checked the condition of the roof. When I put a new headliner in I could at see from the other side that it was not rusted through. I guess that stuff lasts a long time.
This leads me to wonder what would tip someone off to rust-through without removal of the vinyl roof. I don’t have any knowledge of what it takes to replace a headliner (outside of CC contributor Aaron65’s account of doing that on his ’74 Firebird).
When you replaced the headliner, I imagine you pulled out the “padding” or whatever it’s called beneath the fabric, where you’d be able to see the bare metal. I could look it up on YouTube, but thanks for this as it got me thinking.
Serious rust? That’s nothing compared to some of the rust jobs I have taken on. That is still a neat car, I remember them well. Thanks for posting it.
I sympathize, I started thinning at 17 or 18. I’m basically growing a Picard right now and I keep it short as I think it looks better that way. Long hair and bald makes men look like Mr. Kidd from Diamonds Are Forever.
I share your loathing of vinyl tops. I wish that fad had never taken off.
Mr. Kidd!! I rewatched “Diamonds Are Forever” last December, and it was even better than I had remembered. I kept laughing at Bambi and Thumper.
I don’t actually have a problem with roof treatments, though some are better than others. What I was saying, rather, is that I think they often both cause and hide serious problems underneath.
Joe, on several occasions I have heard only a few perfect heads were created; the rest received hair. So you have that going in your favor.
I’ve been back in the office periodically throughout, except from September through January. Like you, I’ve been (mostly) keeping my grooming habits. Shaving has never been a daily thing for me mostly as it’s like laundry and dishes – you just have to do it again soon. However a coworker has taken to wearing pajama pants and he has jokingly complained about how heavy shoes are.
Discussions about “reconstituting”, as it’s being called where I work, are only now in the very preliminary stages. It’ll likely be summer or fall before going back.
I like this era of Eldorado but that vinyl roof would not have been my first choice on the dealer’s lot back in the day.
Diplomatically stated, Jason, on the vinyl roof. I have really come to appreciate the slicktop versions of these.
I am envious of those of you who can carry off the shaved-head look. I am a function-over-form kind of guy and no hair at all is the ultimate in low maintenance. I, however, have been blessed with an abundance of the stuff – which grows all too fast and must be tended to regularly.
I was a kid when the “black vinyl top” became a thing, and I recall liking the look then. I will confess that it still looks good to me on cars from the 60s and 70s. I will also confess that some of my favorites of that era are the rare versions that escaped the vinyl roof treatment – like the solid black slick-top 72 Newport coupe owned by a buddy’s dad.
The biggest problem with these roof treatments by the 80s was that many of the cars they were on were covered with so much other baroque gingerbread.
Shaving my head takes as much maintenance, I’d say, as when I used to have hair. It takes motor memory (I haven’t needed two mirrors in years!) and patience to make sure the end result isn’t patchy.
I think you nailed it with your assessment that many cars of the ’60s and ’70s looked decent with the black vinyl top. Even as I type this, I can think easily of a half-dozen examples of this.
When I was growing up, though, I wasn’t really keen on these cloth, convertible-look tops. Many of them didn’t look “authentic” to me, which cheapened the look of some cars. I think the top on this Eldorado was one of the better-executed ones.
Nice one! They may have been slooowww, but those Eldorados certainly had a style to them that was lacking on future Caddys. Side mirrors were never again so cool looking. This generational Eldo was one of the few cars (maybe the only?) availabe with the buyers chouce of a fake convertible top or a real convertible top.
Your hair situation of course reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where the guy who’s been shaving his head for the style for years grows his hair out and is distraught to find out that he is BALD! I’m sure you’d agree that those of us bummed about going back to the office can at least take solace that we have jobs.
Jon, that Seinfeld episode, like so many, was gut-bustingly funny. I haven’t watched Seinfeld reruns in years because at some point, I felt like I had watched every episode four or five times. That guy Elaine was dating, and then became depressed and a slob because his hair wouldn’t grow back. LOL!! I’m glad I’m at peace with my follicular situation.
The only good thing about the fake rag top is that it doesn’t have the wreath and crest on the sail panel. I didn’t remember that these were ever available from the factory.
As one who has also shaved his head almost daily for the past 20 years – and who can barely tolerate vinyl tops – those faux cabriolet tops strike me as the automotive equivalent of a combover.
The combover… hahaha!! I think this imagery is going to stick with me for a long, long time.
I saw a newer and smaller 90s Caddy the other day with an imitation “convertible top” (bows and all) and the spare tire on the back the other day. They spanned the distance between the spare tire and the trunk lid with a snap on vinyl section. Nope…
That was my problem with certain Caddys – too many doo-dads. For many years there was a fellow with a 1990s Mustang convertible with every baroque doo-dad he could find in the catalogs.
It was an interesting combination.
I knew the answer to both these questions early in life. I had a Dad who went bald at 26 and had a penchant for secondhand Caddy’s.
Nice to see an old Caddy still cruisin’ around,
even if it has a tent on top.
I started going bald in 2008…I finally gave up trying to hold onto it in 2013 and went bald for a charity even at the radio station (St. Baldricks). Been bald ever since…and the occasions I slack on shaving my head remind me why I keep it up.
Hearsay to some, but I don’t like the imitation convertible roof treatment. Padded vinyl can look good on a “Sheer Look” styled car, but that is as far as I’ll go. My 95 DeVille had it, but I didn’t enjoy the look (or having to keep it clean).
And a helpful tip to my fellow chrome dome’s – the HeadSlick shave cream and razor are a godsend…
Tom, I have heard about the HeadSlick things, so I can appreciate your recommendation. I will need to check them out.
I think one of my favorite faux-cabriolet applications would have been on the ’82 Mustang, but then an actual Mustang convertible arrived for ’83, so there was that. And then that ’82 cabriolet roof treatment was suuuuper expensive.
I’ve had the sister cars, early 1980’s Olds Toronado and Buick Riviera…
Currently still have a 1979 Cadillac Seville, the last year for RWD, more stable for boat trailer towing than Olds with IRS rear end, Pewter gray color, would have preferred silver, has red leather interior, EFI Olds 350 V8, TH400 auto tranny.
I’m 73 and still have the full head of 3″ dark hair I inherited from my English grandfather on my Mom’s side… her Mom was red-haired Irish… that also held up pretty well… forget my Dad’s side, even the young girl cousins didn’t have much hair and all wore wigs… I thought they looked like ‘That Girl’, Marlo Thomas (who’s dad, Danny Thomas, is from here), until my Mom told me they had wigs on… although my Dad’s hair hung in there pretty good, but receded front hairline even in 1st grade…
Mr. JOSEPH DENNIS,
Off topic, but maybe you can help?
I recognize the neighborhood and wonder if you might know…
Is the Maxwell Street Market up and running, open again?
I couldn’t find a solid answer on the City’s site nor the market’s Page. Page seems a year out of date. Wonder if you’ve seen or heard anything?
Thanks in advance.
JimDandy, this car was actually a couple of blocks from Wrigley Field and not near Maxwell Street Market. I also looked it up online, and it may have moved to the suburb of DesPlaines? I’m actually not sure. I did get to go a couple of times, and thought it was terrific.
Anyway, the original market is west of downtown, but this car was north.
Thank you. I just meant that maybe you were close enough to have a pulse on it – compared to me, a few states away.
I know the Market was being pushed around to different spots in the Dan Ryan and Roosevelt area but now it seems to have faded away? I’ll make a field trip one day to find out for sure, before I pull all my hair out over it.
More off topic… last time I was in the Windy City was during peak Covid. Unbelievable to see it like a ghost town. Sunday, New Year’s day, winter storm, never saw it like that.
My hairline was already receding in my final year of school, so by the time I emerged from two years of obligatory conscription in the Defence Force, keeping the Army number 1 buzz cut as my hair style was a foregone conclusion. To those of you who have luxurious hair enjoy it on my behalf!! I’m rooting for you!
I think vinyl tops were one of the most cynical chapters from the planned obsolecence play book, they certainly never lasted in the African sun, and they didn’t do too well in your freezing winters either..
Pikesta, you bring up a great point about vinyl tops and the effects of trapped moisture in extreme weather conditions. Aesthetically, some look alright, but if not properly engineered and / or installed, planned obsolescence, for sure.
You know, Joseph, for somebody whom I’ve never met, I feel I know you better than any of the others here at CC. 🙂 Neat tie-in with the Caddy’s roof.
I’ve (almost) always had a full beard myself. Grew my hair to my shoulders around ’70, and added a beard when I could. Low maintenance, and a way of rebelling against the paternal evil overlord. I did shave my beard off and had my hair cut short for my college graduation photo, then grew the beard back, so it’s been “Since 1978!” When my wife found the grad photo a few years after we were married, her comment was “Keep the beard.” So. Nowadays I look at young guys with shaven heads and think “Just you wait another 30 years…..”
But on to car roofs. Taking your theme off at a tangent, what is it about the car’s roof that has singled it out for such a wide variety of hack jobs and appliques? Now I’ll admit my first car had a vinyl roof; it was a base-model bronze Cortina bought used, and I thought it looked much better than its unclad cousins. The top provided a visual contrast that the largely-unchromed base model needed to give it a lift. The colour of the roof (light grey) made more difference to the visual effect than the actual texture, but somehow in 1974 a contrasting colour paint on the roof would have seemed so passé – interesting, that. The silver-painted steel wheels helped too.
Then design seemed to go through another phase, and vinyl roofs became passé; and much like brick cladding on a weatherboard house, their detractors were legion. But as with accessory ’57 Ford-style side chrome flashes, there were always some who didn’t get the message that style had moved on, and insisted on Ye Olde Style Vinyle Roofe, (often with extra added descriptors) being added to vehicles where it really wasn’t suited. Like Camrys. Urk!
Nowadays a contrasting roof colour seems to be coming back, but confined to the top panel. A white roof top on a bright coloured Mini looks cool, as well as being a nice nod back to the original. And food for thought.
Peter, great points. The contrasting-color vinyl roof does provide a neat break between the roof and the beltline on many cars, with the exception of on some fastbacks. Also, the contrasting-paint metal roofs looked cheap to me, as that was not a look I grew up seeing.
I’ll agree that the vinyl roof trend did hang on longer than I expected it to, especially when the aero look started to creep into the picture.
That’s a cool-looking Cortina. I thought these cars incorporated the “Coke bottle” look particularly well for their shorter overall length.
Hey there Joseph! Another great essay!
But I hate to tell you this… The cabriolet roof on the feature car is NOT a factory one! The factory one had a simpler “touch down molding”, that did not have the faux snaps, plus it extended below the roof line onto the rear quarter panels a bit.
I’d also bring up that certain luxury cars from that era featured factory full vinyl roofs that where designed with moldings that allowed some of the roofs painted metal surface to show. This worked well when the vinyl was one color, and the paint was another. A good example would be the 1969-1973 Coupe Devilles. I’m not sure what the actual term was for this style of roof, but us Brooklynites used to them “Toupee Roofs”, cause they looked like a bad hair piece that a bald guy would wear.
PS… I started losing my hair at an early age. I noticed it on my first college “spring break” when I was with my buddies down in Ft. Lauderdale. I was 18 at the time. I’m not brave eough to shave the rest off… I just keep it really short.
Oh, man – you are absolutely right. Not factory. I thought I had researched that part properly – whoops! Won’t be the last time I was wrong. 🙂 The snaps should have been a tell, and the lengths of the roof treatments are different.
On the other roof covering examples you reference, I think you’re talking about the “halo roof”. It looks good on some examples, but it’s not my favorite look only because, to your point, it did resemble a toupee, and it also killed the illusion of even looking like a convertible with that painted metal section visible.
Thank you for pointing these things out!
Joseph Dennis When it comes to vinyl roofs, I have mixed emotions about them. They look great on many cars, but from a practical standpoint, they lead to more maintenance and trouble down the road. As to what is under my hat, at almost 69 years old, I’ve been blessed with fair amount of hair. Once it was brown and now mostly gray. My once Eddie Munster like widows peak is lone gone and I notice that the raindrops take far less time to reach my scalp than they use to.