30 September 2014

Car Stuff: Fantasy Garage #11 & 12

I've been thinking about what car should be added to the Fantasy Garage, and I think I have to rewind back into the earlier part of the 1960s. In the second installment of FG I stated that I preferred the styling of the 1962 Oldsmobile to its Cadillac cousin of the same year. But now I realize that I've unintentionally overlooked Cadillacs altogether so far, and during most of the 1950s and 1960s they were considered the pinnacle of automotive achievement and excellence. As a car lover, I need at least one Cadillac in my Fantasy Garage. But I think I want at least two.
The design for 1963-64 models is considered by many to be the best Cadillac design of the 1960s. I'm not quite ready to count myself in that group, mainly because the horizontally divided grille of 1963-64 model years, with the headlights placed in the upper half, reminds me a bit too much of the styling of the mid-to-late '50s, when the headlights were above the grille, and thus feels like a step backward. The '61-'62 front end design is more modern, but otherwise I think the '63-'64 design is quite good, particularly on the Sixty Special with its smooth sides and unique roofline. And all models of these two years benefited from the gradual shaving down of the fins, which by '64 are almost straight, mere vestiges of their outlandish 1959 peak.
The Sixty Special has one other styling element that I like, mainly because it's unusual. The rear doors have small vent windows at the back that open with the doors. This feature ran from 1961 to 1968, and was incorporated because the Sixty Special was built on a longer wheelbase, meaning its roof and rear doors were not shared with other models. They were longer, and in order for the door windows to be able to descend fully the small "quarter windows" needed to be added at the rear of the doors. This practice has been common in vehicle design for decades, but what makes this application uncommon is that the Sixty Special's doors did not have upper frames, so when the windows were open, the quarter windows "floated" out at the ends of the doors. (Note that the car in the above picture has non-stock side moldings.)
The Sixty Special was technically part of the Fleetwood subseries, as was the Eldorado. After being offered as either a convertible or hardtop coupe from 1956-60, it was convertible only from 1961-66 before becoming hardtop only from 1967-70 and then regaining the convertible for 1971-76. The early '60s Eldorado models are exquisite cars, among the most expensive Cadillacs when new and produced in small numbers: less than 1500 units each in 1961 and '62, less than 1900 each in '63 and '64.
Of these my favorite, as with the Sixty Special, is the '64. In an effort to give the Eldorado a slightly sportier look and set it apart from the "regular" Series 62 convertible, the Eldorado's rear fender skirts were deleted for this one year only (which helps to show off the optional wire wheels). The Fleetwood cars also had distinctive rear-end styling with small grilles on either side of the license plate opening, and lacked the body side moldings of other Cadillac models, having instead a wide metal decorative band along the lower body sides. These features gave them an overall appearance that was restrained and elegant, conveying quite clearly that these cars were the most desirable Cadillacs.

(Image credits, from top: Hans Tore Tangerud/Love to Accelerate; Professional Car Society; Google image search; Daniel Schmitt & Co.)

No comments: