- The Washington Times - Friday, May 26, 2000

After a career in the military Jim George returned to the Prince William County, Va., farm where he had grown up.
With a patience that seems inherent in farmers Mr. George thought long and hard before finally deciding to get an antique car.
"I'm a GM man," he concedes, which narrowed his choice somewhat. After looking at literally thousands of pictures of antique cars, he decided he couldn't go wrong with anything from 1932. "I just like the looks of 1932 cars," he said.
Additionally, he said his dream car had to be a convertible coupe. If the top didn't go down, he didn't want it.
In the autumn of 1997 he began his search in earnest. After more that a year of chasing down misleading disappointments, Mr. George found a 1932 Cadillac convertible coupe for sale by a dealer in Canada.
He was told the car's history, which started with its delivery to the Don Lee Inc., dealership in Los Angeles, where it reportedly was purchased by a movie studio. The studio owned the car 29 years, and somewhere along that line there may have been some connection to actor Clark Gable.
From 1961 to 1998 an Ohio antique automobile collector owned the 17-foot-long Cadillac before selling it to the dealer in Canada, who then turned it around for a quick profit.
After examining pictures of the car and hearing it described over the telephone, several months of negotiations commenced. The deal agreed upon was that in January 1999 the car would be trucked to Virginia and, if it was as advertised, there would be a sale.
The January day the car arrived was one of those rare warm, shirtsleeve winter days. Mr. George watched as the green Cadillac with its black fenders was unloaded and then fired up the 353-cubic-inch, 115-horsepower V-8 engine. It was silky smooth, running virtually in silence.
A six-volt battery in a compartment behind the right side mount provides the juice to start the car, while a 2-inch updraft carburetor feeds fuel to the big engine.
Mr. George carefully drove the Cadillac over his grease pit, where he examined the parts of the car not normally visible. "The prettiest part of the car," he said, "is the underneath part of it."
The 4,675-pound Cadillac came equipped with dual side-mounted spare tires with metal shrouds, a chrome-plated goddess radiator cap ornament and a pair of Trippe lights.
After the inspection Mr. George said, "I found the car better than advertised in some ways and not as good in others." By and large the car was satisfactory, which sealed the deal.
Mr. George changed all the fluids including those in the 30-gallon gasoline tank, the 26-quart cooling system and the eight quarts of oil in the crankcase.
The long car rides on a 134-inch wheelbase supported by 7.00x17-inch white sidewall tires mounted on yellow wire wheels with 40 spokes each. Mr. George said that according to the factory build sheet, the wheels were black when the car left the factory. The car can be turned around in 44 feet.
A number of firsts occurred on the 1932 Cadillac such as the instrument cluster being moved from the center of the dashboard to the left in front of the driver.
To make the gauges more visible Cadillac dropped one of the four spokes in the steering wheel. Around the perimeter of the wheel are 60 ribs to aid the driver's grip.
The two large instruments anchoring either end of the instrument cluster are the clock, at left, and the 110-mph speedometer on the right.
To the left of the centrally located temperature gauge are the gasoline gauge, top, and the ride regulator, bottom. To the right of the temperature gauge are the ampere meter, top, and oil pressure gauge, bottom.
Cadillac in 1932 dropped the tie-bar brace between the headlights in front of the radiator.
Above the walnut dashboard each wiper has its own control.
Sprouting from the floor is not only the gearshift lever, but the hand brake as well. In the center of the dashboard in a vertical progression are from the top: lighter, throttle, choke and ignition. After the ignition switch is turned on the starter is pressed with the driver's right toe as the accelerator is operated with the heel.
The ashtray is found recessed into the leather upholstery near the right-door handle of the suicide-hinged door.
Among the thoughtful touches are the no-draft ventilation wing vents. For the driver exclusively is a small crank on the face of the seat near the floor to adjust that seat.
A clever design element is the use of the windsplit atop the housing for the 9 and 1/2-inch headlights. The same windsplit decorates the fender-top parking lights as well as the taillights and the gas cap.
The rubber tread of each running board is highlighted by 11 thin stainless steel strips. Mr. George will have no exhaust worries since the exhaust system has been replaced with stainless steel.
A pair of gracefully curved landau bars stand ready to help lower the fabric top. Mr. George has not attempted to lower it since he's unsure of the age of the fabric, causing him concern that it could be damaged by such action. The rear window is glass and the fabric panel holding it is secured by seven snaps.
While driving with the top raised, the rear window panel can be left open to ease communication with any rumble seat passengers.
Mr. George's son, James Jr., is probably the rare teen-ager who has ridden in a rumble seat.
Very few Cadillacs like this one were built. Mr. George's car carried a base price of $2,945 in 1932.
He got in touch with the man in Ohio who had owned this rare car for 37 years to learn where he could locate any parts if they should be needed.
Mr. George told his wife, Brenda, that his faith in the goodness of mankind was reinforced when the Ohio man sent him a pair of new 9 and 1/2-inch lenses for the headlights. He explained he had forgotten to leave them in the car when it was sold.
The George family, for now, is enjoying the new acquisition and having fun learning more about their 68-year-old Cadillac convertible coupe.

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