Friday, October 12, 2012

1956 Cadillac Series 62 Sedan De Ville

"A discerning look at any of the nation's finer gathering places will usually reveal a surprising number of Cadillac cars in attendance. This is, we think, entirely logical. For through the years, Cadillac has been the consistent and overwhelming choice of those who choose without restriction. And how well they have chosen. In beauty, in luxury, in performance, in everything that makes a motor car a pleasure to own and utilize  . . .  Cadillac stands completely apart. We cordially invite you to see and drive this latest version of the 'car of cars' soon. Your dealer will be privileged to serve you at any time."

When waiting at the international airport "Juan Gualberto Gómez" in Varadero, you can find some truth in Cadillac's usually highly self-confident and exaggerated advertisement claims. Vintage cars constantly come and go to drop or pick up the lucky cubanos that have permission to leave the country. And among the many cars in the parking lot, there are always quite a few Cadillacs in attendance.

In the 40s, careful and strategic product planning had made Cadillac the number one luxury car maker in the U.S., and the 50s were the time to fortify this position. By the mid-50s, Cadillac had no serious contenders anyway: Packard got bogged down in the pursuit of customers in the lower priced segment, Ford offered its Continental in a much higher price range, Lincoln made extreme designs but lacked the important brand image, and Imperial was too much a Chrysler lookalike for the wealthy clientele. The luxury car market now was essentially taken by Cadillac. Case in point: in 1955, Cadillac produced as many cars in just three months, as Lincoln and Imperial combined built in the whole year.

A main reason for this success, of course, was the well-balanced design of Cadillac: stylish and progressive, yet conservative enough for most customers. No other brand walked this tightrope so well. A case in point is the Cadillac "face". While other brands changed their front grille design completely throughout the 50s, Cadillac sticked to its "tombstone" grille. By 1956, the formal egg-grate grille had become a pretty fine mesh, but the overall layout was still similar to the postwar appearance. Even so, the next generations of Cadillacs should replace their clean elegance with more and more chrome trim and gimmicks, a trend that culminated in the flamboyant 1959 lineup before Cadillac finally found its way back to a cleaner design in the 60s.

Between 1954 and 1956, Cadillac's lineup was merely an visual evolution of the previous generation, modernized with fashionable elements like a panoramic windscreen or bumper cones, inspired by aircraft design. Of course, Harley Earl's mantra of "longer, lower, wider" was thoroughly executed and thus, the cars showed much better proportions. In 1956, the last year of the generation's lifecycle, Cadillac added the "Sedan de Ville" to the lineup. This was Cadillac's first four-door hardtop, and combining the airy look of the Coupe De Ville with the practicability of a sedan it was an instant hit, and became much more popular than the standard Series 62 Sedan.

Above all, cuban choferes cherished Cadillacs: throughout the 50s, you could find more Cadillacs per capita in Havana, than in any other city on the american continent. Hence, today Cadillacs in all states of deterioration are a regular sight on Cuban roads, too.

Our pictured Cadillac Sedan de Ville is even equipped with an air condition, as the small air intake nozzle on the deck, between rear window and tailfin, indicates. We don't know if it still works, but in 1956, this was an expensive and not very common option, even by Cadillac standards.

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