It’s been called the pinnacle of American car design. It’s also been vilified as an example of crass, stylistic indulgence. Whatever your point of view, the tail fins that adorn the 1959 Cadillac marked the high point of the “Fins and Flash” era in the time that gave us Rock ‘n Roll.
And rockin’ and rollin’ its way to Sun City on 4-6 August for Concours South Africa 2017 will be one of the most eye-catching ’59 Caddies in the country. Owned by Basil Papageorgio, this pink Series 62 Convertible is being readied in Basil’s Wynberg NxGen paint shop for its debut on the lawns rolling out from the Gary Player Country Club at the famous Pilanesberg resort.
“It’s been a three year project, restoring this Cadillac,” says Basil, who last year took class honours and first in class at the 2016 edition of Concours South Africa, with a mint, unrestored Pontiac GTO, more commonly known as “The Judge”.
“We will most likely bring the Pontiac GTO to Sun City for display purposes only this year, as it was a class winner last year,” said Basil. “But for now our focus is getting the ’59 Caddie ready. And we are almost there.”
This particular Series 62 has a fairly famous history in South Africa. It was once owned by the late Lolly Jackson, proprietor of the chain of Teazers strip clubs. The classic also featured on national television in a feature on Jackson’s cars, on the popular Car Torque motoring show on SABC3 in early 2007.
“Once we bought the car, it underwent a full body and mechanical restoration, at our NxGen classic restoration facility in Wynberg,” says Basil. “The colour we repainted the car is an original pink, using the Standox paint system. The interior was re-upholstered, the engine was rebuilt, and all the critical suspension parts were rebuilt. We imported the convertible top new from the USA and had it fitted here.
“It runs a 6.4-litre V8 motor and it’s not short on torque. You sort of float along on a cloud in this car.”
The Series 62 Cadillac convertible came standard with power brakes, power steering, power seats and power windows. This was in an era where no “ordinary” car had these luxury items, although nearly 60 years later these features are now standard today on everyday shopping cars.
As for the tail fins, they are officially recorded as the high water-mark in a styling fashion that began in 1948 with that year’s Cadillac. The fins on the ’59 Caddie are lethal-looking, made more so by the bullet-shaped tail lights, another unique feature on the 1959 Cadillac and a hallmark of countless scenes from Hollywood movies, which has made the 1959 Caddie synonymous with The American Dream.
In this era of American car design, models were restyled year by year. This was due to the tireless efforts of the great stylist Harley Earl, who fathered the tail fin era at General Motors, and also established a policy at GM called “Dynamic Obsolesence”, which encouraged consumers to trade in their cars as often as possible. Today’s computer and cell phone company executives owe a lot to the foresight of Earl.
Concours South Africa 2017 at Sun City runs from Friday 4 August to Sunday 6 August, 2017. The event opens with the HAGI Conference on Value in the Classic Car Market www.vccm.co.za on Friday morning. The conference is open to anyone interested in classic and collectable cars from an investment point of view, and to sign up visit the website www.concourssa.co.za.