The Second World War would interrupt everything. It would interrupt lives, relationships and especially businesses. For those individuals that were fortunate to return they would have to try and pick up the pieces of their past, cope with their present and try to look forward toward the future. Businesses, particularly the automotive industry, would have to deal with a similar set of circumstances. Because of the war, they would be forced to pick up the pieces of what they had and try and make a way forward for themselves. In the case of Cadillac, however, it would have some very strong pieces in which it could piece back together in order to forge into the future. It would come down to a series and it was the Series 60.
One thing the war would provide to car manufacturers going forward would be—inspiration. And when the Sixty Special was redesigned for the start of the 1948 model year the car would feature trimmed fins that would be inspired by the twin-booms and vertical stabilizers of a Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter. But the Sixty would already have a number of design innovations and features from which Cadillac could draw to help bolster its production and sales.
In the late '30s the Sixty Special designed by Bill Mitchell would make its debut. And while it would be Cadillac's lowest-priced line it would feature a number of innovations that would set a new course in car design.
The Sixty Special would be void of running boards and would feature four front-hinged doors. Its aesthetic design would cause the car to look as if it were a convertible. This inevitably would attract the eye toward the rear of the car where an integral trunk would be found.
Laid upon an 'X' frame, the Sixty Special was lower than other Cadillacs but still offered plenty of room inside the cabin. In fact, with the absence of the running boards, the interior of the car would actually grow nearly half a foot without adding to the overall width of the car. Along with a new column-mounted shift lever, the Sixty Special would feature so many innovations at a special price that it would rightfully make up nearly 40 percent of Cadillac's total sales, and in just the first year of the car's production.
But with such innovations, and an obvious place in the public's heart, the Sixty Special would not remain a low-priced Cadillac for very long. Starting in 1939, the Sixty Special would take over the Series 70's place in the line. Most of the cars of the period that offered the design and innovation of the Sixty Special were those that were not driven by its owners but incorporated a chauffeur. Bodied by Fleetwood, the Sixty Special would become Cadillac's most luxurious line and would become very popular with owners that wanted to drive the car themselves. Therefore, the Sixty Special would be Cadillac's most luxurious line for the owner-driver. It would maintain this role with Cadillac all the way up to 1976.
The innovations would keep coming. 1939 would see the introduction of the forerunner of the moon roof. Called a 'Sunshine Turret Top Roof', the Sixty Special would offer the option of the retractable metal panel positioned above the front seat. The car would also come with the option of a powered retractable pane of glass separating the front and rear seats.
In 1940, Cadillac would offer three model options of the Sixty Special. A Touring Sedan, a base model, would be offered along with the Imperial Sedan and Town Car models. The Imperial Sedan would feature the pane of glass between the seats while the Town Car would come with the option of a leather roof, or, one that was painted.
The 1941 model year would see Mitchell's original design, in the opinion of many, reach its zenith in beauty. The design would feature a newly redone front end. And for the first time, the rear fenders would feature full skirts.
While Cadillac would continue to make the Sixty Special into 1942, and with another updated design, production would soon cease and Cadillac would instead focus on assembling military equipment.
When the war ceased and Cadillac returned to car production it wouldn't be too long before the company began rolling out Sixty Specials. However, unlike 1939, when the model comprised nearly 40 percent of Cadillac's sales, the 1947 edition of the model would see its percentage drop significantly all the way down to 14 percent. This could be attributed to the lasting effects from the war but it would also be worth noting that the 1946 and 1947 runs would be practically the same as the 1942 models.
Cadillac was aware of this and would stick with making few changes for 1947 because it was planning an all-new design to be unveiled in 1948.
In 1948, Cadillac would debut its latest design for the Sixty Special. The car would come with a completely new body design including the P-38 Lightning inspired tail fins. The car would also come with a whole number of features throughout the interior. Room and comfort were obviously at the forefront of Cadillac's concern for its luxurious model. The bench seat would include two-way power as standard. The instrument panel would be an intriguing rainbow design positioning all of the gauges above the steering column. This not only provided better visibility but it also created for leg room. One other feature the Sixty Special would boast would be in the inclusion of electrically-powered windows.
The 1949 edition of the Sixty Special would see some changes to the previous year's design. The rainbow instrument panel would be replaced with a much more horizontal design. Also, the 1949 design would be the last time a split front windshield would be used. But perhaps the biggest change would come up in front of the passenger compartment. Other features of the 1949 model would include elongated rear doors and an exterior trim package that was absolutely distinctive to the Series 60 Special that year.
The 1949 model of the Sixty Special would feature Cadillac's new 331 cu.in. 5.42-liter, V8 engine. This short-stroke engine had a high compression that made for a smooth and quiet engine despite developing 160 bhp. This new engine developed 10 more horsepower but was approaching 200 pounds in lighter weight.
The Sixty Special would continue to go through evolutions. The fourth generation, built between 1950 and 1953, would have a special distinction within Cadillac. Building off of the momentum gained with the popular updates and features of the 1949 model, Cadillac would go on to sell, for the first time in its history, 100,000 cars in 1950. In fact, the 100,000 car to roll off the line fittingly would be a Sixty Special.
The Cadillac Sixty Special would continue in production for decades after its initial debut back in the late-1930s. In fact, when production of the Sixty Special ended in 1993, eleven generations of the model had been made over the course of more than fifty years.
One of the 1949 models that helped to infuse new life into the Sixty Special series would be offered at this year's RM Auctions at Amelia Island, Florida. Chassis 496081739 would feature the 331 cu.in. V8 engine and a two-barrel Carter carburetor. Boasting of a Hydra-Matic automatic transmission and the familiar soft independent front coil spring and semi-elliptic leaf spring rear suspension, this particular Series 60 consists of Harley Earl styling and P-38-inspired tail fins.
In 1949, Motor Trend would select the Series 60 Special Fleetwood as its first Car of the Year and this particular chassis happens to be one of those acclaimed 60 Special Fleetwoods. Boasting a wheelbase stretching 133', this particular chassis would be purchased brand new by Edwin and Kathleen Suddarth. They would purchase the car at Don Lee Cadillac in California.
Over the course of the next near fifty years, chassis 496081739 would live a rather quiet existence. Then, in the late-1990s, the car would undergo a thorough restoration. The restoration would bolster the condition of the car and would lead to it catching the attention of its current owner in 2008.
The true beauty and elegance of this particular Series 60 still had not been fully realized after its restoration during the late-1990s. Therefore, the current owner would take the Series 60S Special Fleetwood and would invest $35,000 to bring the car to its current condition and quality. But the owner wouldn't stop there. In an effort to make the car a true tourer, Tired Iron Works of Monrovia, California would be contracted to add some more amenities to the car.
The car electronics would be updated to a 12 volt system. And with the update to the 12 volt system an air conditioning system would be added. At well over 4,000 pounds, steering a car of this size is not exactly an effortless affair, at least not in the same vain as most Cadillacs. Therefore, power-steering would also be added to the car to make steering comfortable and easy.
Other such updates and refreshments made to the car would include a rebuilt fuel system with a proper fuel pump and new fuel lines. Additionally, the carburetor would be rebuilt making for a properly running and comfortable car inside and out.
Complete with whitewall tires, and beautiful brightwork accenting a deep maroon finish, this chassis would be entered in the Winter Park Concours event in November of 2011 where it would win Best in Class honors. This would be no easy feat given the fact Cadillac had been featured at the event. Boasting of a clean and striking interior, this truly extravagant 1949 Cadillac Series 60S Special Fleetwood Sedan would be estimated to draw between $50,000 and $80,000 at this year's RM Auctions at Amelia Island. Sure enough, this imposing, grand and elegant Series 60 would go on to earn a sale price of $52,250.
Sources: 'Lot No. 185: 1949 Cadillac Series 60S Special Fleetwood Sedan', (http://www.rmauctions.com/CarDetails.cfm?SaleCode=AM12&CarID=r188&Currency=USD). RM Auctions. http://www.rmauctions.com/CarDetails.cfm?SaleCode=AM12&CarID=r188&Currency=USD. Retrieved 16 March 2012.
Wikipedia contributors, 'Cadillac Sixty Special', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 7 March 2012, 10:03 UTC, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Cadillac_Sixty_Special&oldid=480636778 accessed 16 March 2012