I’ve often said there would be world peace if everyone drove an early-1960s Cadillac. I’d bet a tank of ethanol-free premium on that, as that’s been my experience in 25 years of driving a 1962 Coupe deVille as far as 300 miles at a stretch. But what about after driving some 1,300-plus miles? Would that much seat time in an early-1960s Cadillac still leave a driver or passenger more content than a Buddhist monk after a day of meditation?
Rick Payton and I found out from March 22-25 when we drove his newly purchased Fontana Rose (pink) 1961 Cadillac Fleetwood Sixty Special from Austin, Texas, to Austin, Minn., a distance of some 1,350 miles. Rick had bought the car in a sort of vengeful trade. After buying an almost-finished 1959 Cadillac Fleetwood Sixty Special and then wrapping up its restoration, Rick showed photos of the car to fellow Cadillac & LaSalle Club member Clay Benson. Upon seeing the car, Clay told Rick he had to sell him the car. So, Rick grudgingly sold the 1959 Cadillac to Clay. A few months later, when Clay showed Rick photos of a 64,000-mile 1961 Cadillac Fleetwood that he’d just bought, Rick told Clay he had to sell him that car. The next thing I knew, Rick was trying to figure out how to get home the ’61 Cadillac he’d christened “Rosemary Margaret.”
“Why not drive it home?” I asked. “You know, there would be world peace if everyone drove an early-1960s Cadillac,” I reminded him. The next thing I knew, Rick talked me into boarding a plane to drive the 1961 Cadillac back to western Wisconsin with him. What could possibly go wrong?
Turns out nothing went wrong. The 1961 Cadillac performed beautifully, with only a minor hiccup happening at our hotel in Oklahoma City when the fuse blew for the automatic trunk closer. Everything else worked great — even the air conditioner was blowing cold as the four-finned lady glided past Hondas and Hummers at 70-some miles per hour on the interstate. The experience of watching modern cars fade in the Cadillac’s day/night rearview mirror reminded me of flying down the road in an old car with late Old Cars staffer Kenny Buttolph, who relished leaving disposable modern cars in his wake. “I wonder what those people think about getting passed by an old car?” Kenny would chuckle.
To be fair, we didn’t blindly get behind the wheel of the Cadillac and drive it home at highway speeds. Before Rick took possession, Clay had surveyed the car’s mechanics to ensure everything was in order and the car would be reliable. Regardless, we packed all manner of replacement pumps, belts and hoses, just in case. Not one spare part left the trunk for the duration of the trip.
The trip wasn’t just about flying home on a magic carpet ride — it was also to be a complete Cadillac experience. Along our route, we stopped to visit several fellow Cadillac & LaSalle Club members and check out a few landmarks. Here are some scenes from our adventure over 1,336 miles (according to the 60-year-old odometer) in which the car burned 98 gallons of dead dinosaurs at an average of 13.63 mpg and consumed half a quart of oil.
Was there peace on earth at the end of our journey? Unfortunately not. But there was enough peace in that Cadillac’s cabin that we forgot about the outside world, if only for a few glorious days.
Scenes from the trip
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