"The Best and the Worst"
Maurice Hendry, our official historian who lives in New Zealand, has informed me that Road & Track, the authoritative US motor magazine, has included five Cadillacs in their 100 best cars of the century. They are: 1908 for interchangability of parts, 1912 for electric starter and lighting, 1930 V16, 1959 for flamboyance and, despite its early problems, the 1981 4-6-8 that has now been adopted by Mercedes. As Maurice says in his letter, five out a hundred, in other words one in twenty, is an amazing number considering the vast number of makes produced over the years and the fact that Road & Track is mainly devoted to foreign imports into the US.
The Daily Telegraph on the other hand listed the 100 worst cars of the century. This included two Rolls-Royces, two Aston Martins, two Mercedes, two Jaguars, one Ferrari, one BMW the Dodge Viper and, despite the huge numbers and variation in models, only one Cadillac. Here is Giles Chapman’s somewhat amusing story on the Cadillac:
"As a first car, a Cadillac deVille convertible, with 7.2 litres of V8 engine, 8mpg if you’re very careful and more electric toys than in Steven Speilberg's attic, was a stupid choice.
Yet, when an American car importer showed me a snapshot of this 1967 model, with its groaning electric roof in full swing and the Baltimore sunshine glinting off its bonnet, my £3,500 savings were as good as blown.
When it arrived, I was dismayed to see daylight through rust holes on its sills and a bent front wing. My first journey consisted of a half-hour trip back from the dealer's garage and then a two-hour walk after it ran out of petrol in Oxford Street. Running this car was never going to be easy - or cheap.
Then again, it is one of the most needlessly large and heavy passenger vehicles of all time; 20ft-plus of boxy steel, heavy chrome trelliswork for a grille, seating for six large Ohio golfers and an engine noise akin to the rumbling of a nearby Tube line.
In a British context, of course, it achieves little more than a Mondeo estate. Driving it in the UK was like piloting some great container ship around the Norfolk broads with an elephant-like roar of scrabbling rubber if you tried any sort of driving that could conceivably be called ‘cornering’.
On one trip to Barcelona we signed away more than £1,000 in credit card slips for the fuel alone. Doing 90mph on the French AutoRoute’s probably meant a constant 6mpg if we were lucky.
Back home in London, sadly, my modest hack's income couldn't keep pace with Detroit running costs. The paint soon lost its shine, the white hood turned dingy grey and the badges were removed by screwdriver-wielding ne'r-do-wells. Finally, the council left a note on the windscreen asking whether the car was abandoned.
So I sold it back to the (grinning) man I bought it from for £2,000 and took a 42 per cent loss in under a year. That's youth, foolishness and Cadillacs for you, I guess."