Back in the ’50s, the General Motors Motorama wasn’t just a car show, it was a huge cultural event that saw “Dream Cars” (what we would today call concepts) grace the stage along models in the latest haute couture fashion from France. And yet, like a dream, once the events were done, the cars that grabbed the public’s attention were quickly forgotten, and mostly destroyed.
However, even then, a few enthusiasts understood the importance of these cars and worked to preserve them. Extremely rare, and utterly irreplaceable, two such examples are being offered by Broad Arrow Auctions at its Monterey Jet Center Auction later this month.
The Cadillac Eldorado Brougham Town Car
This Cadillac, for instance, was protected by Harry Warholak, the owner of Warhoops Used Auto & Truck Parts in Warren, Michigan. A scrapyard where owners could find parts to keep their old models alive, GM intended for the four cars it sent there in 1958 to be broken down and sold for parts.
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However, Warholak was an enthusiast, and when he saw the Cadillac that had been shown off during the 1956 Motorama, he hoped that it would one day drive his daughter to the church on her wedding day, so he hid it away.
And a finer wedding car one can hardly imagine. Inspired by the Eldorado Brougham show car from 1955, the Town Car variant was intended to keep consumers interested in the concept while a production version was developed.
Drawn by a 19-year-old Robert Cumberford, working under the legendary Harley Earl, it added a crease in the rear roofline to make it look like a convertible (a trick later introduced to production Cadillacs), as well as delicate, electrically operated door handles.
Inside, almost everything was custom-made, with many parts cast in bronze or plated in gold. It also got mouton carpeting, polarized sun visors, air conditioning, an intercom to speak with the driver, gold-plated vanity trays, a (fake) thermos bottle, six tumblers, and a cigar humidor.
Unfortunately, although there was a powertrain, it was mostly used to weigh the car down, and keep the stance correct. It wasn’t until the 1989 that Warholak’s legendary collection of Motorama cars was discovered by outsiders, then it took until the mid ’90s for a restoration to take place. However, now, the car has been returned to its full, 1956 gleaming glory, this time with a powertrain that works. Offered to its next caretaker, estimates suggest that the car will go for $450,000 to $600,000.
The Oldsmobile F-88
The Cadillac’s wasn’t the only path to preservation, though. For instance, in 1954, Oldsmobile unveiled its take on the Corvette, the F-88 Concept. An allegedly fully engineered job, the car featured fiberglass bodywork that would predict the future for many a production car. For instance, the tail fins would be used by Cadillac in 1959, and the front fenders looked forward to the 1955-56 Oldsmobile.
In other respects, it was more like a concept. Inside, it had pigskin upholstery with a pearlescent finish, handmade trim, and a tuned 324 Oldsmobile V8 that made 150 hp (112 kW/152 PS).
Unlike the Cadillac, this car wasn’t simply handed off to a scrapyard. Seeming to understand the aesthetic appeal of the car, two more were produced for Harley Earl and Sherrod Skinner, a GM executive. While these two were later cannibalized to create future concept cars, the actual show car appears to have been carefully disassembled, and sold to none other than E.L. Cord, the namesake of the Cord motor company.
Shipped in boxes to Cord’s estate in California, the car sat in storage for years. Over the decades, it traded hands many times, and it wasn’t until the ’80s that the car was actually taken out of the crates and the packing hay was removed.
According to the restorers, the car was pretty much entirely complete when they finally got their hands on it, though some parts, such as the inner door upholstery and the plexiglass headlight bubbles, had deteriorated.
By 2005, it went to the Gateway Automobile Museum in Colorado, where it became the centerpiece of the collection, until now. In fine condition, the car will now be passed on to another collector, who can choose to let it sit, or could take driving. Either way, getting it will be a challenge, as estimates predict that it will sell for between $2 and $3 million.
Photo credit: Broad Arrow Auctions
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