Saturday, October 2, 2010

1947 Cadillac Fleetwood Sixty Special



"An indefinable something – more than luxurious appearance, or superlative craftsmanship, or matchless performance – places Cadillac in that restricted category reserved for products which are beyond all serious competition. Even the casual observer can sense the quality; but the full measure of its meaning comes only to those who possess a Cadillac. In essence, it is expressed in the owner's unmitigated satisfaction – in his unqualified assurance that here is personal transportation in its nearest approach to perfection. Perhaps you are one of the many so eagerly awaiting delivery of new Cadillacs. If so, we wish to assure you that everything possible, consistent with Cadillac's standards, is being done to get your car into your possession. But despite our best efforts, some delay in delivery is still inevitable. We feel confident, however, that you will wait with patience – because you are waiting for a Cadillac!"

A mighty Cadillac Fleetwood Sixty Special is a rare sight, even in Cuba with its vast resources of Detroit Iron. When we found this car in Havana, it was amidst a restoration, although it merely needed it: the interior and engine bay had just a little patina, but here todo was original. The missing chrome trim pieces were waiting in a nearby garage to be reinstalled and finish the job.

The owner, Ibrahim, had an interesting story to tell: "This carro was one of three which were imported in 1947 by the owner of the Hotel Nacional de Cuba to be used as the hotel's limousines. All three cars were kept for two years, and used to carry such illustrious guests like Mafia mobster Meyer-Lansky and friends, when they held their gatherings in Havana. This particular car was later sold to a senator from Santiago de Cuba. After the revolution, the car was seized and got in possession of a convent in Santiago. After decades of serving the sisters, it was sold to an old guy in Havana, who had been in all likelihood the chauffeur of the convent during all the years. Finally, his son sold it to me after his old man had died four years ago."

Like so many stories in Cuba, it's difficult to tell what's right or wrong, but the enthusiasm and sincerity of Ibrahim, who by the way is an erudite car aficionado, make such a history quite credible. And when we went for a quick ride in the surprisingly quiet and rattle-free Cadillac, it really felt like starring in an old Hollywood movie...

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