Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Sunday Re-Run

Speaking of Cadillacs... and we were, weren't we?  There's this:

Old and Older Wheels

When all else fails I turn to cars…I’m speaking of a lack of motivation and/or nothing of note elsewhere. And so it is today… Here’s a couple of rides from my past, one of which is on my “All-Time Favorite Cars” list (maybe even THE All-Time fave, but most certainly in the Top Three) and the other was something I thought would be fun but turned out to be a money-sink. First the Money Sink…

This is a 1954 Cadillac Sedan De Ville, your garden variety doctor’s car of the mid-50s. A four-door sedan with a big (for its time) 331 cubic inch V-8 that was surprisingly powerful, even by 1992 standards. Surprising to a lot of Honda and Toyota owners, anyway, who had the temerity to challenge me at various stop lights in the metropolitan Deetroit area. That two-ton blue whale could charge off the line quite impressively for something as big and old as she was…

My buddy Greg, a power train engineer with General Motors, had (and still has) a 1955 Eldorado two-door coupe at the time, a beautiful car by anyone’s standards and one that I quite admired. I was very vocal in my admiration of that car…even though it was a “work-in-progress” restoration… and one Saturday morning Greg calls me up and sez something to the effect of “Hey! I found a great looking Caddy sedan that’s in pretty good shape down in Inkster (or somewhere like Inkster, anyway). You should check it out!” We talked a lil bit more, and Greg and The Second Mrs. Pennington talked a while, and then TSMP and I loaded ourselves up and headed down to Inkster. Long story short… I took my checkbook with me when we went to look at the car and I drove the Caddy home that afternoon. Thus began a year-long adventure in old car restoration.

I became intimate with Hemmings Motor News. Greg introduced me to several Big Dogs in the Detroit Cadillac restoration community, including a guy who ultimately did a lot of the mechanical work on the car. The Brown Truck of Happiness became a regular sight in our neighborhood. Most of my spare change was poured into that car…and it was about three or four months before she was truly road-worthy and safe, with reliable brakes and hoses that wouldn’t open up and spew coolant all over the street, among other things.  

Greg, TSMP, and I had one truly embarrassing moment before the Caddy was completely road-worthy… when the Caddy stopped dead…right in the middle of Woodward Avenue somewhere in Birmingham during the First Annual Woodward Dream Cruise. The three of us wound up pushing the car several blocks to Greg’s house, which (thankfully) wasn’t all that far away when she quit. And we got her running again…

TSMP christened the car “The Smokin’, Drinkin’, Partyin’ Car” and she most certainly was that. The best story about that car can only be told in “wink-wink, nudge-nudge” terms and involved TSMP and I splitting the upholstery in the Caddy’s back seat. Or, to put it another way…we were exuberant and the upholstery was old. In our garage. On a Saturday afternoon. Wink-wink, nudge-nudge.

But. I lost interest in the project after about a year, sad to say. There were so many things on my “to-do” list for that car…and most of ‘em involved significant sums of money, money TSMP had other uses for… that it became overwhelming. The cost/benefit equation got seriously out of balance, in other words. And then the 1995/96 Impala SS hit the market and I fell in motor-lust. The Caddie’s fate was sealed. I sold her and the family ride (a SAAB 9000) off to buy my ‘96 Impala. I don’t regret that decision at all. The Impala was just as much fun…if not more so… and not near as much work. But I do look back on that ol’ Caddy fondly. She was a lot of fun, even while she was parked in our garage.

Which brings us to Vehicle Number Two… which is a 1992 Vette. 1992 was the first year for the now-venerable LT1 small-block V-8, a 350 cu. in. power plant that put out 300 horsepower, which was simply wonderful, in and of itself. At the time. There are more than a few cars out there at the moment that would clean this car’s clock… no debate, no questions asked… and more than a few of ‘em are sedans, albeit rather pricey sedans, mostly of German origins. But in its day…WOW!

The Vette was TSMP’s daily driver in the Michigan Spring, summer, and Fall and was garaged during the Deetroit winters, at which time TSMP took over the SAAB and I drove the “other Vette,” an 80-something Chevy Chevette, which I will not talk about here, coz it was a nasty little car. The Chevette was entirely functional, in that it got me to my place of business and back everyday without fail, and asked for little more than gas. But I was oh-so-glad to see Spring roll around, which meant I got the SAAB back, and got to drive the other, other Vette occasionally. Let’s just leave it at that.

Corvettes used to be notorious for bad build quality and for being just a lil bit unreliable. Such was NOT the case with this car, Gentle Reader. The car was tight from Day One until the day I sold her, with only “normal” squeaks and rattles that develop in all cars, regardless of origin. As for reliability… I owned that Vette for seven years and replaced but a single item during that time…the air conditioner’s condenser. Other than that, nada. Zip. She still had the original spark plugs in her when she left my possession. I might still own that car today, had I not chosen a mobile life style.

There was a lot to like about that car. She was beautiful, fast, and just a little bit difficult to get in and out of. You might ask why I consider the difficulty of egress/ingress to be a good thing, and that’s a fair point. But…try and visualize, if you will, a good looking blonde in a skirt or a dress getting into…or out of… that car. Get the picture? That was a fine sight… Oh, My. Yes, it was.

A question I’m frequently asked is “How fast did it go?” I can’t answer that in absolute terms, but I know the car will do 135 mph…which is all the faster I ever took it. Vettes of that generation were supposedly good for 150 mph, and I have no reason to doubt it. I might have gotten her up near there had TSMP ceased beating on my head and shoulders when we hit 135. Distracting, that, at those sorts of speeds. Ironic, too, since TSMP drove the living HELL out of that car. It got to a point where I’d refuse to ride with her if she was gonna put her foot in it…which she did. A LOT. And she’d giggle like a mad-woman all the while, too. I rather enjoyed the giggling; but her driving? Not so much.

As always, click the pics for the larger versions. The Caddy pics were taken in our driveway in Ferndale, MI, and in Bloomfield Hills. The Vette pictures were taken midway between Deetroit and Harbor Beach, MI... on Lake Huron, in early Spring of 1992.
I'm hopin' the CTS will be one helluva lot more reliable than that '54 Caddy was.  IF I get it, of course.  smiley emoticons


  1. That's what I envision when I think of Vettes. Sweet -- and perfect color! Color is among the most important qualities, you know. Kinda like betting on racehorses.

    A friend had a Chevette when we were just starting to drive. UGLY car! But, you could scrape up several quarters and dimes and be able to cruise most of a day!

    I'm definitely sensing some caddie-lust building here.

  2. Great ride alongside, my friend! I enjoyed it immensely.

    And, you're gonna get a CTS, of course.

    I know you are.

    Rub Seattle Andy's nose in it for me, would ya'?

  3. I love the old caddy photos. The Vette pics are nice too. Car photos and memories are a nice replay when ya got nothin' else.

  4. Repairing and maintaining classic antique cars is not for the faint of wallet - that's what my dad used to say about it. And lord only knows - my dad would know it to the nth degree for sure. Muscle to classic antiques - he loved him his cars.

    The old caddy is a darling Buck. And the '92 Vette is just gorgeous.

    But I agree, I sense some serious Caddy-lust here and I don't suppose you'll be able to ignore it for too long. shouldn't.

  5. Like the heftiness of the old cars. Solid, stable, protective, nice. :)

  6. Color is among the most important qualities, you know.

    Yup. Funny story about the Vette... It was ME who chose the color. TSMP and I had a knock-down, drag-out fight over the fact she wanted... demanded... an automatic transmission. In a freakin' CORVETTE! But she had aces to my face cards: it was gonna be HER car, HER daily driver, HER commute in Dee-troit traffic, so she won where the transmission was concerned. Choosing the color was my consolation prize. So we wound up with an automatic sports car and a five-speed manual family sedan. Go figure...

    Andy: I think you're right about the CTS. But S-Andy's Infiniti could prolly take my garden-variety CTS. Now if I bought a CTS-V it would be an entirely different story... ;-)

    Kris: Your Dad was correct. Hell, maintaining ANY car in good operating order is expensive!

    Kath: That Caddy was hefty, indeed. ;-)


Just be polite... that's all I ask.