My first car was my great grandma’s ’83 Cadillac Coupe de Ville. Yes, I was spoiled. While my contemporaries inherited much newer, more practical, reliable cars— think Corollas, Civics, and the like—I got the Caddy. It was passed on after my Great Grandma Beulah’s death and I was honored to take the keys.
The year was 1996. I was entering my senior year in high school and I had just gotten my license. No one had a car like that. All white on the outside, white walls, white leather interior, with burgundy trim, wood paneling inside, 3 (yes 3!) ashtrays and lighters (one for each passenger in the back seat), digital controls for the thermostat/radio, and seating for six. Looks were just one thing. This car was like a scud missile. Being heavier than most modern trucks, it just floated on the road, quiet as hell, and although its 8-cylinder engine could barely get the tonnage moving, once you got going, momentum and inertia took care of the rest. It was easy to hit 90 on the freeway and barely notice.
Everyone loved going for a ride, partially for the novelty, and partially because it was just so damn stylish and comfortable. When there was three of us, we’d all sit in the front seat just because we could. It was so wide, you could lay in the trunk sideways next to the full-size spare. Speaking of the trunk, it closed automatically; one gentle click and the motor took care of sealing the rest.
The details were impeccable too. Wood inlays even on the knobs of the radio; tiny Cadillac logos on the steering wheel and seat backs. The key hole for the trunk was even covered by a sliding ornament with the Cadillac logo on it, and the gas tank/port was hidden behind the license plate. Imagine how cool it was to show that feature off to your friends whilst refilling with $0.99/gallon gas?
This was the only car I’ve ever driven that girls were noticeably impressed by and actually requested rides in.
Then my dream began to crumble.
As a college student I could barely afford to keep the thing up. White Walls weren’t cheap. It leaked oil like crazy and I kept a case of oil and a few gallons of water in the trunk, which I used regularly. One time the muffler partially came off, spewing sparks all up Highway 17 heading back to Santa Cruz. I cut it off with a hack saw and almost passed out from exhaust inhalation. I even drove over Highway 17 with almost no brakes once, somehow hitting all green or yellow lights until the massive machine finally lost momentum and came to a slowing halt. I finally had to donate it to charity when a piston came detached from its rod. It was one of the saddest days of my life. I kid you not.
When I got engaged to my wife I warned her that I would drive a Cadillac once again, as soon as was reasonable, and that was a non-negotionable. I know, it’s a lofty goal, but when you love something enough, nothing can stand in your way.
Here’s a little taste of just one Cadillac song that I listened to today that brought back such fond memories of youth, dignity, freedom, and a pure love between boy and machine.