Ike was president, the Korean War was over, and “Rock & Roll” was about to turn the music world upside down. The year was 1954. I was five years old, but was already very much involved with cars. I had a pedal car, metal toy cars and trucks, and a large plastic model of the first mid-1953 Corvette. At that time we were living in Montgomery, Alabama, and my Uncle Claude came to visit us in his 1951 Cadillac Fleetwood--black, massive, and its securely -overstuffed grey broadcloth interior made riding in this automobile an experience I never forgot.
These cars had been inspired (in the minds of GM designers Bill Mitchell, Harley Earl, Frank Hershey and Art Ross) by the P-38 twin-tailed WWII fighter plane. In 1948, these men brought this concept from the drawing board to life with the all-new tail-finned 1948 Cadillac that would be the style leader for the next decade.
In 1949, this design was fitted with the new 331 cid overhead valve V-8, replacing the reliable old L-head engine. The new V-8 was a tough engine, capable of speeds well over 100 mph, and was used through 1955. When I decided to get one of these cars, it was hard to decide which year to buy. I like 2-door cars in general, so I decided on a Coupe deVille. While the 1949s are considered to be the most valuable, there have been reports of hard hot starts because of a large voltage drop, and vapor lock, which turned me away from this particular year. In 1950, a new, heavier wiring harness and thicker heads were used, eliminating these problems. Then, in 1952, Cadillac added a 4 barrel carburetor, dual exhaust and power steering. In 1953, a twelve volt electrical system was adopted, and in 1954, the old hydraulic power window system was replaced with all electrics. With all of these mechanical improvements, plus still retaining the “Dagmar” front bumpers, tail fins and “fat fender” look, the ‘54 was the one I wanted. This decision made, about a year went by before I found a 1954 Series 62 Coupe deVille with all options, in robin’s egg blue, with arctic white top and original metallic blue leather and cloth interior. With only 57,000 miles, this car is like a 2-year-old car inside and out. Inside, one is surrounded by leather, including the dash. The impressive gauges, speedometer and WonderBar radio are unmistakably Cadillac. Chrome ribs across the headliner give a private, secure driving experience, while E-Z Eye tinted glass blends pleasingly with the color of the interior. And driving is just plain fun! 230 horse power, a 4-speed hydramatic, and power steering and brakes make for easy in-town driving and ultimate comfort on the interstate. I’m glad I bought the ‘54. These cars are great daily drivers. I would suggest to anyone thinking of buying a new luxury car to check out the 1954 Cadillac first!
OPTIONS: Power Steering, Power Brakes, Air Conditioning, Continental Kit, Sabre Wheels (a ‘55 option--this is a late ‘54 car), E-Z Eye Glass, Autronic Eye (automatic headlight dimmer)
PROS: Epitome of 50s styling, Excellent Handling, Good Gas Mileage, Very Dependable, Still Affordable, Parts Still Available.
CONS: Sensitive Steering, High Cost of Chrome Plating, Engine Compartment Tight to Work in. (and see later articles concerning overheating problems in air condition cars.)