I used to visit this junkyard around the corner from my home quite often when we first moved to Cleveland five years ago and photograph what was at the time quite the collection of cool, rotting old wrecks. Sadly, they've been disappearing over the last couple of years so I haven't bothered to go back there in quite a while. Imagine my delight on a recent Sunday morning when I hopped the fence and found something I had seen back there before; this delightful 1966 Cadillac Fleetwood Sixty Special.
I love old Cadillacs and these mid sixties beauties are particularly interesting for they represent the end of Cadillac's uncontested luxury market dominance. Up until 1964, if General Motors was to ask the mirror on the wall who had the fairest car of them all the mirror would undoubtedly say "GM" with their "Standard of the World", Cadillac. That changed dramatically with the introduction of the Mercedes 600 in 1964, a marvel of engineering significantly better than anything that Cadillac had. What's more, that Mercedes finally gave Cadillac something it never had before; real competition. GM is still playing catch up more than fifty years later.
Ah, but there was a time when a Cadillac truly was the fairest one in the land resplendent in amenities that mere mortals driving Fords, Chevies and Pontiacs could only dream about and the Fleetwood series like our Grand Old Dame here the dandiest of the dandy Cadillacs. A huge, powerful overhead valve V-8, turbo hydramatic automatic transmission, air conditioning and power everything in a day when power windows and seats that moved with the flick of button were considered an engineering marvel. This particular Fleetwood, a Sixty Special, is even equipped with headlights that automatically dim at a twilight setting set by the driver. So advanced was this feature that the dial for making that setting takes up a huge spot on the dashboard to the left of the speedometer.
One of many things that doomed Cadillac's position, aside from Mercedes and other luxury makes that would soon come ashore, was that GM pushed down Cadillac's technological innovations to their lesser divisions blurring the lines between not only a Fleetwood and a DeVille but a Cadillac and a Chevrolet. What with air conditioning even available on Chevrolets costing thousands less, what were you actually getting when you bought a Cadillac besides a status symbol? Makes you wonder where Cadillac would be today had they, after the Mercedes 600 debut, continued to invest in engineering innovations that helped put them in their once lofty position in the first place.
Good news is that although I'm of a generation that has difficulty making the leap of faith that Cadillac deserves a seat at the table with the likes of BMW and Mercedes these days, it's a testament to GM's diligence of late that my teenage boys have no problem with believing that a Cadillac is every bit as good as makes and models from Europe and Asia.
I don't plan on going back here any time in the near future; this last traipse (or transgression) was particularly not interesting seeing just how many of the old Lincolns, Dodge Challengers, Mustangs and Camaros are gone. When I do go back, I hope this Grand Old Dame is still there. There's lots more to document about her. Stay tuned.