1959 Cadillac Series 62
Year of manufacture1959
Belgian delivery from new
1959 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible
Chassis no. CA.59.F.080491
Engine no. 59.F.080491
"No single automotive design better characterises the industry's late 1950s flamboyance than the 1959 Cadillac, which incorporated totally new styling." Standard Catalogue of Cadillac, Ed. James T Lenzke.
Founded by Henry Leland and Robert Faulconer, the Cadillac Automobile Company of Detroit, Michigan completed its first car in October 1902, the firm's superior precision manufacturing technology soon establishing it as the foremost builder of quality cars in the USA. Cadillac was among the pioneers of the V8 engine, and introduced the first synchromesh gearbox on its 1929 range. Always innovators in automobile technology, the company continues to produce cars recognised everywhere as symbols of wealth and prestige.
During the 1930s it seemed that almost every year brought with it a landmark advance in the development of Cadillac's long-running V8 engine, which by the decade's end had been rationalised to a single 346ci (5.7-litre, 150bhp) variant, the expensive V12 and V16-engined coachbuilt models having been dropped. The Series 62's beautiful Fisher-built 'Projectile' or 'Torpedo' bodies had first appeared on the 1940 range and featured a revised front-end treatment for '41, establishing a pattern that would last for several years. Only detail changes were made in the immediately post-war years before the range was comprehensively restyled for 1948, emerging with Harley Earl's Lockheed P38-inspired tail fins for the first time. With 150 horsepower on tap, the Series 61s and 62s had a decent turn of speed while the chassis was considered remarkable for its manoeuvrability.
Although Earl's tail fins had made their debut the preceding year, 1949 was nonetheless a landmark year for Cadillac, this season's models being the first to benefit from the company's new 5.4-litre, overhead-valve V8. Replacement for Cadillac's long-running 5.7-litre sidevalve, the new engine was untypical in having over-square bore/stroke dimensions and, despite the overhead valve gear, managed to be both more compact and lighter than its predecessor. A maximum output of 160bhp meant that 100mph was within the reach of most models, with comfortable cruising between 80 and 90. Revisions for the succeeding few seasons were chiefly limited to styling changes. Hydraulically operated 'power' windows was a feature of the Convertible and Coupe DeVille by this time, while Hydra-Matic automatic transmission was standardised from 1950 on all Series 62 models. The Series 62 was the larger of the two mainstream Cadillac model lines, being positioned between the 'small' Series 61 and the long-wheelbase Series 75 reserved for the Fleetwood-bodied limousines.
A new X-braced chassis frame enabled the 1957 Cadillacs to feature longer, lower bodies - 13 styles in total - all of which sported dual rear lights and tail fins larger than before. Automatic transmission, power steering and power-assisted brakes would continue to be standard on all models.
After the big mechanical changes for '57, Cadillac confined itself to facelifts the following year before stunning the world with its '59 range, which represented the zenith of the 'tail fin' era. Quite apart from its outlandish styling, as controversial today as it was back then, the '59 line-up marked the introduction of a new 390ci (6.4-litre) 325bhp V8 engine. Now widely recognised as one of Cadillac's best, the new power plant was almost completely overshadowed by the coachwork it propelled; with their pillar-less profile, huge tail fins, glitzy chrome, colour-matched interiors and 'jukebox' dashboards, the 1959 Cadillacs are peerless icons of a bygone age and among the most highly prized of all post-war American automobiles.
Supplied new in Belgium by C F Wismeyer & Co of Brussels, this magnificent Cadillac Convertible was kept by its first owner Dr Henri Petit until his death in 1980. Thereafter the car was kept by his son Paul, who sold it on in 1985 to the second owner, Thierry Culiford. Mr Culiford kept the Cadillac until 1998 when it passed to the current vendor's (recently deceased) father, only its third owner in some 40 years.
The car retains its original red leather interior, radio, and period accessories, and has a new soft top, while the paintwork was probably re-sprayed in the original colour of white a few years ago. Cosmetically delightful, it also performed faultlessly when road tested by a Bonhams specialist. As one would expect of a quality car that has had few owners and obviously been cherished by them all, this Series 62 Convertible comes with a huge file of correspondence and invoices for servicing for the period 1959 to the 1980s, etc in addition to the original invoice and guarantee card when sold new. The files also contain the first owner's 'international driving licence' from 22nd April 1965!