November 26, 2020

The Car History of Alex Beloff III

THE AMERICAN LUXURY CAR MARKET WAS DOMINATED BY CADILLAC.  THE 1957 ELDORADO BROUGHAM WAS AMAZINGLY COMPLEX AND FABULOUSLY LUXURIOUS.  IT WAS THE MOST EXPENSIVE AMERICAN CAR ON THE MARKET.  IT DEBUTED IN MARCH OF 1957 FOR A JAW DROPPING $13,074.  IN A YEAR WHEN THE AVERAGE SALARY WAS $4,657 AND A BASE BENTLEY S1 SALOON COST $12,000.  IN 1957 THAT WOULD BUY A LUXURY HOME.

THE 1957 ELDORADO BROUGHAM CAME WITH AN EXCLUSIVE BRUSHED STAINLESS STEEL ROOF THAT WRAPPED AROUND THE WINDSHIELD BECAUSE THE WINDSHIELD WAS A ONE OFF VERTICAL A-PILLAR DESIGN.  IT WAS A TRUE FOUR DOOR HARDTOP AND SEVEN INCHES LOWER THAN PRODUCTION CADILLACS.  IT WAS BUILT BY CADILLAC MOTOR CAR DIVISION AT THE CADILLAC PLANT CLARK AVENUE IN DETROIT MICHIGAN. THE STYLING RESPONSIBILITY WAS TO ED GLOWACKE WHO HEADED CADILLAC STUDIO.  ENGINEERING WAS HANDLED BY FRED ARNOLD, CADILLAC’S CHIEF ENGINEER.  THE 1957 MODEL WAS AN ALL STEEL BODY.  THIS CREATION CONCEIVED BY HARLEY EARL WOULD INSPIRE FUTURE CADILLAC DESIGN FOR YEARS.  EXAMPLE:  LITTLE KNOWN BEAUTIFULLY SCULPTURED TOP FENDER HOT AIR ENGINE EXTRACTORS WOULD APPEAR ON 1958 FLEETWOOD.  THE 1958 MODEL WAS SHIPPED TO ITALIAN COACH BUILDER PININ FARINA IN TURIN AND COMPLETED CARS SHIPPED TO THE U.S.  THEY STILL REQUIRED PAINT TOUCH UPS, POLISHING AND TUNE UPS BACK AT CADILLAC IN DETROIT BEFORE DELIVERY.  AS A NATIONAL JUDGE FOR CAR SHOWS, I CAN TELL YOU THAT THE 1958’S WERE PLAGUED WITH BODY STRESS AND FATIGUE CRACKS THAT WERE MAGNIFIED WITH AGE.  THE 1957 NEVER HAD THAT PROBLEM.

THE ELDORADO BROUGHAM BOASTED THE FIRST FOUR HEADLIGHT LIGHTING SYSTEM IN AMERICA AND WAS QUICKLY APPROVED BY ALL STATES BECOMING AN INDUSTRY STANDARD BY 1958.  THE CADILLAC 365-CUBIC-INCH V-8 IN THE BROUGHAM DEVELOPED 325 HP AT 4800 RPM.  IT FEATURED A 10/0:1 COMPRESSION RATIO AND TWO CARTER 4 BBL CARBURETORS MATED TO A FOUR SPEED HYDROMATIC TRANSMISSION.  POWER STEERING, POWER BRAKES AND AIR CONDITIONING ARE STANDARD.   IT WAS EQUIPPED WITH REMOTE CONTROL STARTING. THOSE OF YOU WHO APPRECIATE YOUR AUTOMATIC DECK LID OPENING AND CLOSING, IT WAS PIONEERED ON THIS CAR.  AT THE TOUCH OF A BUTTON THE TRUNK WOULD OPEN AND CLOSE – AN INDUSTRY FIRST.

SPECIAL BROUGHAM ONLY DASH, STEERING WHEEL, TURN SIGNAL INDICATOR AND FOUR ROUND GAUGES DISPLAY ENGINE OPERATIONS.  THE FOUR DOORS WERE FULLY PILLAR LESS.  THE INTERIOR GLOVE BOX VANITY INCLUDED A MIRROR, LIPSTICK HOLDER, COMB, POWDER AND PUFF, CIGARETTE COMPARTMENT ADJOINED BY SIX SMALL METAL DRINKING CUPS WITH MAGNETIC BASES.  THERE WAS A NOTE PAD WITH CROSS PEN AND PERFUME ATOMIZER FILLED WITH ARPEGE BY LANVIN FROM PARIS. FRONT AND BACK SEATS WERE CREATED TO COMFORTABLY ACCOMMODATE ONLY FOUR PEOPLE.  THE FLOOR WAS COVERED WITH MOUTON (SIMULATED FUR CARPET).  ALL DOORS LOCKED AUTOMATICALLY WHEN YOU PUT THE CAR IN GEAR.  THE CAR WOULD NOT START IF EITHER OF THE REAR DOORS WERE OPEN.  THE FIRST EVER MEMORY SEATS WERE STANDARD. A ONE YEAR ONLY VERY ATTRACTIVE FLOOR SPEAKER ENHANCED THE PREMIUM SOUND SYSTEM THAT ALSO FEATURED THE FIRST TRANSISTORIZED RADIO.  ELECTRONIC AUTOMATIC HEAD LIGHT DIMMING EYE WAS STANDARD.

ALL BROUGHAMS WERE STANDARD WITH THE FIRST AIR SUSPENSION SYSTEM ON A CAR.  WHEN WORKING AS DESIGNED, IT PROVIDED AN INCREDIBLY SMOOTH RIDE.  IT WAS PLAGUED WITH AIR LEAKS AT THE FITTINGS AND VALVES.  THE AIR SUSPENSION SYSTEM WAS OFFERED ON LESSER MAKES: BUICK, OLDSMOBILE AND PONTIACS FOR 1958 ONLY YET IT WAS AVAILABLE ON CADILLACS UNTIL 1960 WHEN GM DROPPED THE SYSTEM.

TO THE TRAINED EYE, THIS CADILLAC IN ANY CONDITION WAS A RARE FIND.  SINCE I STILL HAD MY HOME IN INDIANAPOLIS, I WAS COMMUTING DAILY TO THE DEALERSHIP IN PERU.  FLYING DOWN THE ROAD JUST NORTH OF CARMEL INDIANA, I SPOTTED IT!  SITTING IN AN UPSCALE MOTEL PARKING LOT KISSING THE GROUND LOOKING LIKE IT HAD FOUR FLAT TIRES TOLD ME THE AIR SUSPENSION DID NOT WORK PROPERLY.  IT ALSO TOLD ME PERHAPS MANY OTHER COMPLEX FEATURES WERE NOT WORKING WHICH TRANSLATED INTO A POSSIBLE REAL BARGAIN PRICE IF FOR SALE.  AN INQUIRY AT THE MOTEL REVEALED THAT IT BELONGED TO A GM DELCO ENGINEER WHO WAS ON ASSIGNMENT OUT OF THE COUNTRY.  THE PROPRIETOR SAID, HE IS DESPERATE TO SELL IT.  WE HAD AGREED ON AN EVEN MORE ATTRACTIVE PRICE.

I HAD A PROFESSIONAL WRECKER CAREFULLY PICK THE CAR UP.  I KNEW ENOUGH ABOUT THE AIR SUSPENSION TO BYPASS THE LEAKS AND GET IT TO STAND UP ON ALL FOUR TIRES THAT WERE FLAT.  I REMEMBER FORMER BOSS FENTON GINGERICH TELLING ME THOSE USED TO COME IN TO THE SERVICE DEPARTMENT IN THE EARLY 60’S LOOKING LIKE THEY WERE PRAYING BECAUSE THE FRONT AIR BAGS WERE SHOT AND THE REAR AIR BAGS WERE WORKING.  ANYTIME THEY SAW ONE APPROACHING FROM BLOCKS AWAY, EVERYONE HAD AN EMERGENCY AND LEFT THE DEALERSHIP.  WELL I WAS FORTUNATE.

CADILLAC KNEW OF MY DEVOTION TO THE PRODUCT CLEAR BACK TO THE 50’S.  CLIFF WAGNER, CADILLAC MOTOR CAR DIVISION DISTRICT MANAGER SAID, YOU ARE IN LUCK.  YOU MUST BE LIVING RIGHT BECAUSE LARRY CARRINO, CADILLAC MOTOR DIVISION SERVICE REP IS ASSIGNED TO YOUR AREA AND HE IS AN EXPERT ON AIR SUSPENSION.  LARRY CAME TO THE DEALERSHIP.  WE REPLACED EVERY WEAK AREA WITH UP TO DATE AIR SUSPENSION COMPONENTS AND IT WORKED PERFECT EVERY TIME.

I SAID, LARRY, WHAT HAPPENS WHEN IT IS FREEZING OUTSIDE.  I UNDERSTAND MOISTURE GETS IN THE SYSTEM AND FREEZES.  HE SAID, I HAVE THE CORRECTIVE ACTION FOR THAT RIGHT NOW.  WHEN YOU OPEN THE HOOD TO THE RIGHT SIDE YOU SEE A SMALL TWO PISTON COMPRESSOR.  HE RAISED THE AIR RECEIVING VALVE AND CAREFULLY ADMINISTERED DROPS OF LIQUID ALCOHOL WHICH ELIMINATED FREEZING.  I HAD MY CHIEF MECHANIC, MIKE NICHOLAS, REBUILD BOTH CARBURETORS, PERFORM A MAJOR TUNE UP AND SERVICE THE AIR CONDITIONER HEATING SYSTEM.

I HAD HEAD DETAIL MAN GARY BRING THE TIRED BRUISED WEATHERED ORIGINAL LACQUER PAINT BACK TO LIFE.  IT WAS BEAUTIFUL.  THE WHEELS WERE STEEL WITH CUSTOM ALUMINUM INSERTS THAT WERE GORGEOUS.  THEY WERE CALLED DEEP FLUTED WHEELS.  OF COURSE IT HAD FUNCTIONAL DUAL EXHAUSTS THROUGH THE ATTRACTIVE BUMPER OUTLETS.  THE DASH WAS DIFFERENT TO ACCOMMODATE FOUR APPROPRIATE RACE CAR TYPE GAUGES (GENERATOR, FUEL, OIL, TEMPERATURE).  THERE ARE OTHER TOUCHES FAR TOO NUMEROUS TO MENTION.

DORIS KING WAS IMPRESSED BY THE CAR.  WHILE IN CALIFORNIA, SHE MENTIONED IT TO THE OWNER OF  “CARS FOR THE STARS” MUSEUM LOCATED IN NIAGARA FALLS NEW YORK.  HE CONTACTED ME IMMEDIATELY.  I HAD ALL OF THE NECESSARY PAPERWORK AND TITLES TRACING THE CAR TO ITS ORIGINAL OWNER – THE ONASSIS FAMILY IN MARYLAND AND SOLD IT TO THE MUSEUM FOR A STAGGERING PRICE.

ALEX WAS A CADILLAC JUDGE IN 1976 AT A CADILLAC LASALLE MEET IN INDIANAPOLIS CENTER ARENA AND SAW THIS BEAUTIFUL ELDORADO BROUGHAM.  LOVE THE LICENSE PLATE!

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