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1950's Cadillacs

parmparm Posts: 723
edited May 2010 in Cadillac
I have an inane question that’s been bugging me for a while about 1950’s GM body styles – specifically Cadillac’s. Not sure how to ask this, but I’ll try to be as succinct as I can.

Using Chevrolet as the baseline, we all know of the famous tri-year models in 1955-57. 1958 was a one-year only body style and the 1959-60 models started the low and wide styling cue. As far as I can tell, Buick, Pontiac and Oldsmobile followed the same suit. But, Cadillac was a bit different. Not sure about the differences in Cadillac’s 1950-53 line up because these cars aren’t quite as interesting to me. But, Cadillac’s tri-year period was 1954-1956. The 1957 Cadillac represented a model change which carried over to 1958. Then, for 1959-60, Cadillac fell in line with the rest of the GM family.

So, here’s my question. Did the 1954-56 Cadillac’s use the same platform as the tri-year (55-57) Chevy’s? Given it was clearly GM’s flagship line, Cadillac tended to get the new innovations first. Then, said innovations would trickle down to the rest of the GM family the following years. Having said that, it would also appear Cadillac again got a one year jump in 1957 – with the rest of the GM family having to wait until 1958 for this body style.

Here’s another way to look at it. Comparing a ’57 Chevy to a ’57 Buick/Olds/Pontiac is pretty much an apples-to-apples comparison (aside from engine differences). But, comparing a ’57 Chevy to a ’57 Cadillac is like comparing an apple to an orange. Correct?
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Comments

  • texasestexases Posts: 5,511
    edited May 2010
    Speaking from not much knowledge on this, I don't think Caddy used any Chevy-related platforms until decades later. So apples and oranges.
  • euphoniumeuphonium Great Northwest, West of the Cascades.Posts: 3,320
    As for as the 1950 Cadillac goes. My father took factory delivery of a Series 61 four door sedan. It was two tone; light green over dark green metallic. 331 ci V8 with a 4 speed Hydramatic. My impression was standard Cadillac from the dash forward, interior was of Chevrolet quality and all incorporated in a Buick Special body.

    The Series 62 was definitely a Cadillac with a longer body and wheelbase.

    Power steering was not available until 1952.
  • grbeckgrbeck Posts: 2,361
    Cadillac, Buick and Oldsmobile were all-new for 1954. They used the same basic body shell, with regular facelifts, through the 1956 model year.

    Chevrolet and Pontiac got all-new bodies for 1955, and used those bodies through the 1957 model year.

    Cadillac, Buick and Oldsmobile were again all-new for 1957. Those bodies were heavily facelifted for 1958, when Chevrolet and Pontiac were also given all-new bodies.

    The all-new bodies for 1957 were supposed to last through the 1959 model year for Cadillac, Buick and Oldsmobile. But Chrysler's all-new 1957 line shocked GM, and forced it to scrap its plans beyond 1958. GM's planned 1959 lines looked out-of-date compared to the 1957 Mopars.

    As a result, GM brought out all-new bodies for ALL of its divisions for 1959, and the 1958 Chevrolets and Pontiacs had the dubious distinction of being one-year-only bodies.
  • euphoniumeuphonium Great Northwest, West of the Cascades.Posts: 3,320
    the 1958 Chevrolets and Pontiacs had the dubious distinction of being one-year-only bodies.

    Too bad that can't be said about the '98 Town Car! :sick:
  • parmparm Posts: 723
    edited May 2010
    OK, yes that makes sense. I now seem to recall an auction where a Cadillac, Olds and Buick of the same year (1953? 54?) were being sold. The auction company made a big production about how they were essentially sister cars. So, I can see where some of my assumptions were wrong. But, my gut inclination that a '57 Cadillac and a '57 Chevy are different animals was correct.

    Seems like every time a '57 Bonneville rolls across the auction block, the commentators always make a connection to the '57 Chevy. I guess I just kind of assumed the family tree also extended to Buick and Olds too. Thanks for clarifying that for me. Mystery solved! ;)

    Yes, I too had heard that Chrysler's long and low design basically ate GM's lunch at the styling table and made The General call an audible resulting in some one-year orphan body styles. I remember seeing an interview with Dave Hollis (?) - who I believe was generally regarded as the chief stylist for the '59 Cadillac. He talked about how he and some fellow GM designers had sneaked around a Chrysler facility to catch a peek at Virgil Exner's new designs and were pretty much blown away by what they saw. Talk about sophisticated corporate spying. Too bad those days are gone. My wife and I are talking about getting a new car and I honestly can't get terribly excited anymore. Never thought I'd EVER say that. But, cars today are such well-engineered applicances and designed to look like everyone else's that it kind of sucks the passion out of the new car buying experience.

    However, the prospect of buying a collector car? Now THAT gets my adrenaline pumping!
  • parmparm Posts: 723
    edited September 2010
    1950 Series 62 Coupe

    These have always reminded of an upside down bathtub and they have a front end in desperate need of Nutri-System, but this one really looks good to my eye. Has this been chopped or lowered? Love the color combination and the interior looks very nice too. Almost looks like the top has been slightly chopped. Interesting that the photos don't show a head-on shot, which I think is the worst angle on these.

    I won't even hazard a guess as to how much this will sell for, because common sense out there is as rare as a sober bidder. :P It goes across the auction block on Friday almost half-way thru the day, so it may be on TV. B-J tends to give their better cars TV coverage.
  • euphoniumeuphonium Great Northwest, West of the Cascades.Posts: 3,320
    Series 61 is what it is for two reasons.

    Series 62 had a chrome piece just behind the front wheel well. (pants)

    Series 62 had a more luxurious interior.

    Neither had Power Steering, but still a great road car back then. :)
  • parmparm Posts: 723
    You're kidding me? A Cadillac in 1950 did not have power steering?
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,849
    1959 was the year that GM really started aligning their bodies, so that they could share as much roofline as possible. In 1958, there was still a distinct A (Chevy/Pontiac), B (Olds, Buick Special/Century) and C (bigger Buicks and Cadillacs) body hierarchy. However, just to add to the confusion, the frames were different! Chevy, Pontiac, and Cadillac used that dangerous wasp-waisted "X-frame", while Buick and Olds used a much sturdier setup that was a combination of X-frame and perimeter frame. So, a C-body Buick would actually use a DIFFERENT frame from a C-body Cadillac! Now, I'm not sure if the Cadillac X-frame was exactly the same as the Chevy/Pontiac frame. I'd hope that in addition to being longer, it was also beefier.

    For 1959, I don't know if they still used the A-body designation, but by that time the Chevies, Pontiacs, smaller Buicks, and smaller Oldsmobiles were all the same basic body, although they might have still called one A- and the other B-), while the Buick Electra, Olds 98, and Cadillacs were on the C-body. Again though, the frames were different. This time, Chevy, Buick, and Cadillac used an X-frame, while Pontiac and Olds used a perimeter frame. It wouldn't be until 1965 that all the big cars went to a perimeter frame, although the old Caddy 75 stuck it out on the X-frame for 1965.

    At a car show last year, I remember seeing a '59 Cadillac and a '59 Pontiac Catalina, both 4-door hardtops, parked side-by-side, and I'll be damned if I could tell a difference in the passenger cabin area. The Caddy was longer, to be sure, but all that extra length seemed to be in back of the rear window, and maybe a little bit in front. All the glass though, and door openings, seemed identical, and as far as interior room goes, I don't think the Caddy was any bigger inside than the Pontiac.

    I guess it could be an optical illusion. It's not easy to just look at the interior of a car and guess how big it is, without actually sitting in it. But, I do remember an issue of Consumer Reports, from around 1961 or 1962, where they were griping that a Ford Galaxie had more legroom in back than a Cadillac! So I guess it's possible that by the 1959-64 era, Cadillac was sharing a bit too much with Chevy, and that made the big cars a bit inadequate with interior room? Or, maybe a '60-64 Ford was just a BIG, roomy car!

    Chrysler had pulled a similar stunt in 1957, where all the cars except Imperial shared the same basic body. It wasn't as noticeable with the coupes, but with the 4-door sedans and hardtops, you could really tell. The Plymouths, Dodges, DeSotos, and Chryslers were all the same size inside. All they did was start off with the Plymouth, on a 118" wheelbase. To make a Dodge, they stuck 4" in wheelbase at the back, giving you a longer trunk, but no extra interior room. Then to make a DeSoto or Chrysler, they stuck an extra 4" in front, giving you a longer hood and fenders, perhaps making the engine bay a little less crammed, and giving a better ride, but again, no extra interior room. The Dodge/DeSoto/Chrysler did have a bigger trunk than the Plymouth, though.

    And, one good thing about the way Chrysler did it, is that instead of having Chryslers and DeSotos that were small for their class, you ended up having Plymouths that were big for theirs. The down side though, is that it still ended up giving less incentive to move up to a pricier brand.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,416
    One thing you can be sure of...it'll sell for less than the cost to restore it to that level.

    MODERATOR

  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,849
    I don't think the top has been chopped...it's just that these things were long cars with fairly small greenhouses, and that might make it look a bit disproportionate compared to something like, say, a Chevy Bel Air hardtop. However, it does look like it's riding on modern radials with wide whitewalls, and they might give it a lower profile overall than the original bias-ply tires.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,416
    "More Wine for my Bidders!"

    "Launch the TV Cameras!"

    "Summon the Shills!"

    Let the bidding begin.......

    MODERATOR

  • parmparm Posts: 723
    So, when was power steering available on non entry level Cadillacs?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,416
    edited September 2010
    you mean entry-level?

    Across the board power steering for Cadillac was 1954. First offered as an option in 1952 my book says.

    I think Chrysler beat them to it. 1951 Chrysler Imperial, called "Hyraglide".

    Of course, military vehicles and commercial vehicles had this earlier IIRC.

    MODERATOR

  • parmparm Posts: 723
    Actually, I mean do mean "non"-entry level. Cadillac usually had an entry level model. In the mid 1960's, it was the Calias (sp?). Before that, it was the Series 62. In 1950, I'm guessing the Series 61 was the entry level model. When it first came out, I suspect power steering was standard on the "non"-entry level models such as the Deville line - thereby providing an inducement to the entry-level buyer to move up to the more up-scale model such as the Series 62 in 1950.

    In a nutshell, whatever year power steering was standard equipment on Cadillac's up scale (ie., non-entry level) model, that was probably the first year it was available at all (in the Cadillac world).

    Wow! Power steering wasn't available until 1954? I'm surprised to learn that. Not that cars of the early 1950's could be considered as "svelte", but Cadillac's were particularly hefty. Surely, Cadillac had some gimmickry (even if employed only by the marketing dept.) that made steering somewhat easier and to differentiate them from Buick and Olds, did they not? I thought women were one of the groups targeted by Cadillac's sales department - supposedly because they were easier to drive?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,416
    edited September 2010
    Power steering was very expensive to produce in the early days, so it makes sense that it would filter from luxury models down to entry level over a period of years.

    So according to my sources, NO Cadillac had power steering in 1951, then top of the line models got it in 1952, then all models in 1954.

    People were used to cranking those steering wheels using their body weight. As for women, they were ferrying bombers in WW II, so I imagine any woman who really wanted to drive a Cadillac just did it, regardless of the steering.

    I don't see women behind the wheel in these ads until well into the late 50s/early 60s. All guys.

    My impression from studying very early 50s Cadillac ads was that women were mostly passengers. A little later on, we see them behind the wheel.

    MODERATOR

  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,849
    Well, I did a little digging around online, and it looks like Chrysler was the first to offer power steering as an option, in 1951. 1954 was the year Cadillac made power steering STANDARD across the board. So, I'd imagine it first came out as an option in either 1952 or 1953 (or even late 1951?).

    Those cars were heavy, but with the big steering wheels, and different ratios for the steering gear, and smaller tire footprints, they probably weren't all that difficult to steer. Maneuvering in tight spaces as slow speed, such as parallel parking and such, was probably hard, but otherwise, they probably weren't THAT bad.

    I'm sure that when the power steering pump failed in my '68 Dart, but I kept driving it, that probably required a lot more effort than an old 50's car with non-power steering. And even that wasn't bad in most driving, although in tight, low-speed maneuvering, it was quite the bicep/tricep builder!

    I wonder what the "lock-to-lock" (how many turns of the steering wheel to go from full-left to full-right) was on those older cars? On my old Dart, for power steering it was 3.5 turns, and for manual it was 5.3. Modern cars are much tighter. My 2000 Intrepid was only 3.1 turns lock to lock, while my 2000 Park Ave is 2.93.

    I'd hate to try driving my Park Ave with no power steering. Nose-heavy FWD, fairly large tires, and that tight lock-to-lock would probably make out for a heck of an arm workout!
  • euphoniumeuphonium Great Northwest, West of the Cascades.Posts: 3,320
    1952 was the first year for optional power steering in the Caddy. It wasn't an option before that year. My Dad would increase the air pressure in the front tires and lube the steering mechanism every 500 miles, but when on a long trip, the air pressure was reduced. He drove that Series 61 for 10 years & 150,000 miles. For cardiac reasons, he bought a new 60 Pontiac Catalina with the 389E engine, Hydramatic and power steering. Back then, the Freeways were Funways. :)
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 44,416
    Chrysler's power steering was notorious for being the most pinky-friendly. Those 50s Mopars really did feel like the steering wheel was simply not connected to the tires except by perhaps a voice-tube from an old steamship: "Turn left at the corner helmsman!"

    (from the steerage below) "Aye, Aye, Captain!"

    MODERATOR

  • parmparm Posts: 723
    1950 Series 62 Coupe

    Assuming this car is as good as it looks, I would think the highest this car would sell for in a private transaction would be around $30K. But, at Barrett-Jackson, it's probably worth closer to $40K . . . . . which, of course, means it'll hammer sold for closer to $50K (and that's before buyer's commission). :confuse: Let's see how close I am.
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