OUT OF THE PAST: 1959 Cadillac delivers pleasure

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In August of 2000 Sandy Kemper was on a three-week work assignment in Norfolk. When he first arrived he saw a classified ad in the local newspaper offering a 1959 Cadillac for sale.

His interest was piqued because he likes cars from what he calls “the fin era.”

“I’ve always been a car guy,” he explains. As a Cub Scout in Oaklyn, N.J., he was assigned to make a scrapbook with a theme. “Mine was all about the new 1959 cars,” he says.

He opened the next day’s newspaper and the ad was not there. He assumed the car had been sold.

Three weeks later, on his final day in Norfolk, the ad reappeared in the newspaper.

What harm can there be in looking at the car on my way home he thought. Then he saw the towering fins of the 18-foot, 9-inch-long Cadillac Coupe deVille that was covered with Vegas Turquoise Metallic Lacquer. He then telephoned his wife, Anne, to give her the good news that they were about to become Cadillac owners.

The following weekend the Kempers drove to Virginia Beach (that’s almost in North Carolina, he says) to get the car. It was now September.

Driving to their Silver Spring home consumed about four hours. Mr. Kemper reports trouble-free driving, “through all the extremes.” The sun was shining at the start of the trip. That soon became a severe rain storm and then came Washington’s rush hour traffic. He says the Cadillac didn’t leak or over heat.

Research shows the 4,720-pound car had a base price of $5,252 when new and that Cadillac built 21,924 such models. The build date for this particular Cadillac is June 10, 1959.

Mr. Kemper discovered that the woman who bought the car in 1959 got it at a Norfolk dealer. She drove it almost 90,000 miles in the next quarter century. Her son inherited the Cadillac in 1985 and his daughter, in her turn, inherited it in 1999. The odometer had recorded 93,000 miles by the time Mr. Kemper got the car. “It’s a pretty spartan car,” Mr. Kemper says. There is no autronic eye, no cruise control and no air conditioner. However, it is equipped with white sidewall tires (originally 8.00x15-inches, now radials), heater, AM radio and E-Z-Eye glass.

The six-way power seats cost $118.45 and the power windows were also priced at $118.45. The heater was $128.70 while the combination of radio and antenna had a price of $164.60. Master controls operating the windows are on the dashboard dogleg created by the Vista-Panoramic windshield.

Beneath the expansive hood is a 390-cubic-inch V-8 engine that develops 325 horsepower. It is fed by a single four-barrel carburetor that drinks from a 21-gallon tank filled with premium fuel. Mr. Kemper reports highway mileage of 15 mpg.

Inside the spacious passenger compartment in the tur- quoise-colored, leather-covered dashboard is the 120 mph speedometer. The carpeting is also turquoise as are the cloth and leather bench seats. Both front and rear seats have built-in pull-down arm rests.

Although the low-slung car stands only 4-feet, 6-inches high it is 6-feet, 8-inches wide. While comfortably seated on the inlaid upholstery, Mr. Kemper can operate the automatic transmission with the gear selector on the steering column. From the left the gears are: Park-Neutral-Drive-Low-Reverse.

In the time he has owned the Cadillac, the owner says it has been relatively free of problems. He has replaced the water pump, had the generator rebuilt and overhauled the brakes.

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