5 SURPRISING THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT CADILLAC
Think you know everything about America’s premiere luxury car brand? Here are some facts about Cadillac that might surprise even hard-core Caddy fans.
It’s All About The Parts
The assembly line is often given credit for being the revolutionary ingredient allowing the efficient mass production of automobiles. But without interchangeable parts, many – perhaps most — of the efficiencies of the assembly line would evaporate. Which brings us to Cadillac: the first auto company to actually make its parts truly interchangeable (call this feat “the revolution behind the revolution”).
In 1908, Cadillac had become sufficiently confident in its engineering prowess to answer the challenge issued by the Royal Automobile Club to enter a precision parts contest (it was the only car company willing to do so). The results – after a grueling evaluation in which three early 1-cylinder Cadillac Model K cars were broken down, their parts flung in heaps, and then successfully reassembled (without regard to which part had originally been on which car) – earned Cadillac the prestigious Dewar Trophy.
Cadillac’s early corporate motto — “Standard of the World” – owes a great deal to its pioneering use of standardized, interchangeable parts, a practice which General Motors would vastly expand as the 20th Century rolled on.
Ike’s Wartime Caddy
General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who as Supreme Allied Commander planned and executed the successful Allied invasion of Europe in June of 1944 and later served two terms as U.S. President, had a thing for Cadillacs, owning several in his lifetime and traveling to his first inauguration in a brand-new 1953 Eldorado convertible.
But there’s no doubt that Ike’s greatest Caddy was the armored 1942 Series 75 Sedan issued to him by the War Department as a staff car. This vehicle faithfully took the General to fighting fronts in North Africa, France, and elsewhere in the European theater from 1942 to 1944. Equipped with blackout lights, anti-reflective olive drab paint, and a red license plate adorned with five silver stars, the car looked drab from the outside, but its interior was as plush and shiny as any civilian Cadillac of the time.
After the war ended, the car followed Ike back to America, and then – once he became president – back to Europe to serve as the President’s transportation for a summit conference in Switzerland. In the mid-1950s, the car – declared surplus by the Defense Department – was secretly purchased at auction by a group of the president’s friends, returned to Cadillac for a complete reconditioning (including a repaint in its original wartime scheme), and parked outside the White House as a surprise for the President.
According to newspaper reports, Ike was greatly pleased to see his old friend again.
Today Ike’s luxurious staff car peacefully resides at the Eisenhower Museum in Abilene, Kansas, its odometer reading almost 200,000 miles of travel.
A Station Wagon for Elvis
Cadillac built no production station wagons, but that didn’t stop Elvis Presley – who owned (and gave away) many Cadillacs in his lifetime – from having one custom-built by GM. The King’s specifications for the 1972 DeVille station wagon included a 24-karat gold Cadillac emblem, 24-karat gold wheel spokes, and (naturally) a state-of-art 8-track tape player.
Elvis loved driving the big beige Cadillac wagon between his home in Beverly Hills and the stages of Las Vegas, where he regularly performed. After his final U.S. tour, the car was returned to Memphis, where it remained in service well after his 1977 death. Today this unique car pops up from time to time on auction sites (most recently on eBay, where it was listed for $1.5 million).
Interestingly, an identical 1972 DeVille wagon station was custom built for fellow Las Vegas denizen and “rat pack” vocalist Dean Martin, but this car’s current whereabouts are unknown.
About Those (Missing) Birds on The Cadillac Emblem
The Cadillac emblem, derived from the heraldic mark of Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, the founder of Detroit, has undergone more than 30 subtle tweaks since its introduction more than a century ago. Today, the emblem’s design has been made abstract — an intentional change GM states was “inspired by the works of Dutch artist and designer Piet Mondrian.”
Up until 1999, however, the Cadillac emblem featured six distinctive birds, and the identity of these avian creatures has long been a subject of debate. Some claim they are mergansers (a type of duck), but more authoritative opinion holds that the birds represent “martins:” swallow-like birds known for their swiftness. Adding to the intrigue, the birds on the emblem are presented “without feet,” which, in a heraldic context, indicates that they’re “perpetually in flight” in an “active search for knowledge.”
Whether the missing six birds will ever reappear on the Cadillac emblem cannot be known; but there’s absolutely no question that the latest Cadillacs are swift, artistically-styled, and that Cadillac is on a perpetually “active search for knowledge” for making them even better.
Cadillacs have long been known for their smooth-as-silk ride quality. What might not be as well known is that Cadillac’s latest cars use magnetic shock absorption technology to make the ride even smoother. This technology – known as MagneRide – makes use of a radically new breed of shock absorber, filled with magnetic fluid, in which slides an electromagnetic-equipped piston. Multiple road-sensing sensors on the car feed a programmable controller that sends variable voltage to each electromagnet, instantly adjusting the suspension to compensate for changing road conditions.
MagneRide – now in its third generation — made its debut on the 2002 Seville STS; it’s now standard on many new Cadillac models. Make sure you ask for a test-drive in one of these high-tech wonders the next time you visit us here at City Cadillac.