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OUT OF THE PAST: 1976 Cadillac wears a coat made by Chrysler
Question of the Day
Before Matthew Smith's sister, Susan Benson, married she drove about Bethersda in a 1971 Plymouth Duster painted the distinctive "Plum Crazy." Little did her brother know that half a continent away there was a "Plum Crazy" fanatic.
Robert McEndree owned Bob's Body Shop and Car Wash in Lenexa, Kansas and also had a fleet of tow trucks that served the Greater Kansas City area. The trucks, regardless of make, were easy to spot because they were all painted Plum Crazy.
In 1979 Cadillac announced that the then current front-wheel-drive Eldorado model would be the last convertible. A total of 14,000 convertibles were built and even with a base price of $11,049 they went quickly. Mr. McEndree learned that if he was willing to pay extra for a special paint the folks at Cadillac would be happy to oblige. He went to the Roach Cadillac dealership in Kansas City, Mo., paid the extra $370 and said he wanted a Plum Crazy Cadillac Eldorado convertible. He was informed that Cadillac didn't have such a color but he replied that Chrysler did and that is the color he wanted.
The factory painted Plum Crazy Cadillac was delivered to Mr. McEndree Jan. 15, 1976. The car reportedly was used in a few weddings and an occasional local parade but otherwise was kept in a climate-controlled, sealed garage until the owners death. Even the fiberglass bood is painted in Chrysler's "Plum Crazy."
In the early spring of 2007 pictures and descriptions of the car were posted on e-bay. That is where the familiar color arrested the attention of Mr. Smith who was merely browsing electronically. He noticed that the 31-year-old car had been driven only 2,100 miles and virtually everything on it was original.
Mr. Smith enlisted the aid of a savvy bidder and gave him instructions and a limit above which he was not to bid. The bidder knew that Mr. Smith really wanted the car so he ignored the instructions he was given and exceeded the limiit by about eight percent to place the winning bid.
"I lucked out," Mr. Smith now admits.
A trucking company took a fortnight to deliver the car to Mr. Smith in north west Washington. "When it came off the truck," he says, "it was beyond expectations."
The white convertible top was dusty and a connecting hose to the left rear air shock absorber was loose. Otherwise, the car looked as it did when it was new. "It was eerie," Mr. Smith says.
To be on the safe side, Mr. Smith had the belts replaced but everything else, including hoses, wiring and tires, is original.
Papers that came with the Cadillac indicate that the original owner loaded the car with optional equipment including:
Reclining right seat..$221.
Dual comfort seat.....185.
AM/FM 8-track audio...93.
Rear window defogger..77.
Remote trunk lock......68.
Fiberglass top boot......63.
Visor vanity mirror.....60.
Carpeted floor mats.....47.
Remote right mirror....30.
Wiper control system...28.
Door edge guards........7.
The benevolent manufacturer did not charge for the front license plate mounting bracket.
When everything was totaled, the out-the-door price was $12,933.
Everything about the car is virtually unused which still amazes Mr. Smith. The original spare tire consumes a lot of the trunk space. On the inside of the trunk lid is the sticker bearing instructions to operate the jack. Inside the white leather upholstered interior of the convertible each sun visor has a surprise. On the back side of the passenger visor is a lighted vanity mirror and on the back side of the left one is a warning concerning the catalytic converter. The car was delivered with the original set of keys.
Although the 5,153-pound Cadillac is supported on a lengthy 126.3-inch wheelbase, Mr. Smith observes, "As huge as it is, it's surprisingly easy to drive."
The rear window in the convertible is glass and is also threaded with the telltale red lines of an electric defogger. "They thought of everything, Cadillac did," Mr. Smith says.
Only once has Mr. Smith taken his "Plum Crazy" Cadillac on trip out of the immediate area. He drove several hundred miles to Bethany Beach and reports, "At 70 there's not a tremor."
Even though the striiking convertible is "Plum Crazy" the trim on the wheel covers is black, as is the carpet inside the car.
Atop each front fender, visible from inside the car, is a lamp monitor. Each one has three small lights, the left one to remind the driver the hedlights are on high beam, the center one to alert the driver that the headlights are activated and the right light indicates that the parking lights are on as well as the turn signals.
"It has been documented that this is the only time that Cadillac ever painted a non-GM color at the factory," Mr. Smith says. "It is singularly outrageous."
The extremely low mileage and all oriiginal car is now approaching 3,800 miles. A week from now it will be at the Cadillac LaSalle Club Grand National meet in Cherry Hill, N.J. where it will certainly show well. As for the Cadillac's future, Mr. Smith says, "I plan to preserve it."
About the Author
Second- and third-stringers eye 2016 if front-runner stumbles
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