Cadillac 'Die Valkyrie' Concept Car Going to Auction
August 29, 2017 by Worldwide Auctioneers
One of the cars scheduled to cross Worldwide Auctioneers auction block at their Auburn Auction on September 2nd is this Cadillac 'Die Valkyrie' Concept Car. The Die Valkyrie was featured at the 1955 and 1956 auto shows in Europe and was also shown at Madison Square Garden's Auto Show. The front bumper on this car was made to look like a big 'V' to represent the American V8 engines. Brooks Stevens raced cars in both Europe and America and was very proud of the American V8 engines and used the front bumper to symbolize it. Most consider the Valkyrie the finest bodywork and execution done by Spohn. Interestingly, in this case, Spohn did not use any of his own styling cues, like those he typically used from the 1951 Buick Skylark by Harley Earl, but were strictly the design of Brooks Stevens with a Spohn execution. The seats are extremely plush and are possibly made from some of the pieces of a Mercedes-Benz 300 seat of the time period. It is also interesting to note while the top looks like a fixed top it is actually a lift-of very much like a 1955 Thunderbird.
Worldwide Auctioneers writeup:
As the creator of the first civilian Jeep models and mass-production designs for Willys-Overland and Kaiser-Frazer, Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based industrial designer Brooks Stevens yearned to return to designing opulent, bespoke cars such as his sleek 1945 'Diana' designed and built for Diana Lewis Powell, wife of actor William Powell of 'The Thin Man' fame. However, the time, expense, and unfavorable economics of such ventures were daunting. Stevens' eventual hiring of French public relations man Guy Storr was pivotal, with Storr's suggestion that Stevens should raise his European profile by designing a show car for the 1954 Paris Auto Show. Stevens' inspired reply to Storr's creative challenge was Die Valkyrie, the stunning vehicle offered here, said to be the right mix of French Design with American influence on an American chassis by one of the finest German body builders.
Based on a new 1954 Cadillac chassis supplied by General Motors, Die Valkyrie was low, wide, and long – nearly 22 feet overall. Its commanding presence certainly suited the name, drawn from the stirring music opening Act 3 of Richard Wagner's monumental opera, Die Walküre. The vehicle's American heritage and V-8 power were emphasized by a bold, V-shaped frontal motif including a large, unique chrome bumper and forward-slanted headlamp housings. Highlights included the hood – the longest of any prototype car at almost eight feet, the raked panoramic windshield, large removable hardtop, clean, fin-less rear fenders, generous rear deck, upright, blade-style tail lamps, and wrap-around rear bumper.
Innovations were many, including extra-wide doors allowing ease of entry and exit – even for rear-seat passengers, unique power-operated side windows with a large central pane between two vent windows per side, and a modernistic, Brooks Stevens signature black and white two-tone paint scheme, Stevens' favorite color combination. Other advanced features included illuminated Plexiglas turn signals atop the front fenders and Plexiglas headlight cross pieces to concentrate the headlight beams yet reduce, by 50 percent, the potential glare faced by oncoming drivers. The spacious interior featured plush upholstery matching the car's luxurious persona.
The body was built by Hermann Spohn in Ravensburg, Germany, the highly admired coachbuilder whose work usually graced Rolls-Royce and Mercedes-Benz chassis. Financial backing for the project came from Irwyn Metzenbaum, a Cleveland city councilor and auto enthusiast. Following completion, Die Valkyrie was shown at the Paris Salon, where it created a sensation for its fascinating body design and demonstrated the stylistic possibilities afforded by its compact V-8 engine and sophisticated chassis, in contrast to the inline fours, sixes, and straight eights long favored by most of the era's European manufacturers.
Next, Die Valkyrie toured Europe's auto-show circuit and then it was displayed at the 1955 New York Auto Show held at Madison Square Garden, where it received the 'Excellence of Design and Engineering' award. According to Mr. Bortz, an expert in the realm of concept cars, Die Valkyrie is believed to be the only such vehicle to have been awarded a U.S. Patent for its unique design. Clearly, many of its cutting-edge features have appeared, in one form or another, on many later production cars.
Next, Die Valkyrie was purchased by Brooks Stevens for his wife, Alice, and then from 1958, it formed part of the renowned Brooks Stevens Auto Museum collection. Following the passing of Mr. Stevens in 1995, this vehicle was purchased directly in 1997 from his estate by the Bortz Auto Collection in the Chicago area, where it has remained ever since. During 2003, Die Valkyrie returned to Milwaukee as a feature for a celebration of the life and work of Brooks Stevens at the Milwaukee Art Museum, entitled 'Industrial Strength Design: How Brooks Stevens Shaped Your World.' Fittingly, the banners along the streets to the Museum heralding the show featured the striking frontal design of Die Valkyrie. Subsequent exhibitions included the 2012 Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance and the June 2014 CCCA Grand Experience on the grounds of the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, Michigan. Blessed with unbroken provenance from new, Die Valkyrie is rightly considered one of the 10 most desirable prototypes still in existence from the 1950s and 1960s. Designed by Brooks Stevens, one of the most influential of all American automotive and industrial designers, Die Valkyrie continues to amaze all who experience it.
More info about the car can be found here: http://www.worldwide-auctioneers.com/auctions/details.cfm?vehicleID=58&id=60