- The Washington Times - Friday, December 21, 2001

It wasn't long after the Academy Award-winning motion picture "Driving Miss Daisy" appeared in 1989 that Barry Clayton was inspired.

Actors Morgan Freeman, Jessica Tandy and Dan Aykroyd were entertaining, but what drew Mr. Clayton's attention in the film were the vintage Chryslers, Hudsons and, of course, Cadillacs.

A car like one of those in the movie was just what he needed, thought the retired contractor.

Although the idea of owning such a grand old automobile surfaced occasionally as the years passed, it was dismissed, or at least subdued, until early in the summer of 2000.

That's when Mr. Clayton, while surfing the net, found a 1950 Cadillac. "I told my wife that I had discovered the ultimate in motoring luxury, a car you could really drive," Mr. Clayton reports.

"She told me she thought I may be crazy," he recalls her saying.

Despite her initial reaction, upon seeing photographs she agreed that the Cadillac was "pretty cool."

Mr. Clayton soon became pen pals with the car's owner in Murfreesboro, Tenn. After gleaning all the information he could via e-mail and telephone, Mr. Clayton had to make a big decision, fish or cut bait. He decided to fish.

"I called my friend and trusted mechanic Greg Ramsey," Mr. Clayton says, "and asked him if he wanted to go on an adventure."

Hearing an affirmative answer, Mr. Clayton bought a pair of round-trip airline tickets to Nashville.

The owner met them there, and the three men then motored to Murfreesboro to view the Cadillac, on which the odometer had registered almost 65,000 miles.

"When we got to the owner's house, he opened his garage to show us the car. There she was, just drop dead gorgeous. Irresistible styling with Cadillac prestige," Mr. Clayton says.

"I never realized how big and beautiful these cars were," he says. "I was really taken aback."

After a careful examination of the lengthy car that comes within an inch of being 18 feet long, a test drive was in order.

Mr. Clayton turned the key and pushed the starter button to bring the 331-cubic-inch V-8 engine to life.

"It was really weird when I went to put the automatic transmission into gear and there was no 'Park' on the selector," Mr. Clayton says with surprise.

From the left, the shift pattern is Neutral-Drive-Low-Reverse.

"After a 15-minute test drive," Mr. Clayton admits, "I was in love even more."

Because the steering was a little loose, he asked the owner if he thought the car could make a road trip to Washington.

He replied that he would not be afraid to drive to California. Mr. Ramsey borrowed a floor jack, dove under the car and tightened the steering box.

The real adventure was about to begin.

The previous owner was so diligent in protecting the dove gray and burgundy colored Bedford cord upholstery with mothballs that the cockpit was a chamber of death for moths." It brought tears to my eyes," says Mr. Clayton.

"We traveled just under 700 miles in [750 minutes] 12-1/2 hours," Mr. Clayton says. Whenever they stopped for fuel or food none of the other travelers on the highway could come close because of the terrible mothball stench.

The 160-horsepower engine performed beautifully and delivered fuel economy of about 20 miles per gallon, Mr. Clayton says.

He reports that the entire trip was made with the windows open. Even during a rainstorm, the windows were kept open a crack, he recollects, so they could breathe and keep their eyes from watering. Keeping things in perspective, Mr. Clayton reminds, "Fun is always fun."

Helping to make the trip enjoyable was the new front suspension featuring direct-action shock absorbers mounted inside coil springs.

The details on the 4,012-pound car are what impress him, including the slots in the chrome-plated dashboard through which the turn signal arrows flash.

Likewise, the 31/2-foot-long fender skirts, which are strictly cosmetic items, attract his eye, along with the rolltop ashtray for the rear-seat smokers.

Knowing little about 1950 Cadillacs, Mr. Clayton entered his new/old car in a show and was chastised for having an incorrect hood ornament with lighted red plastic wings. How un-Cadillac. The offending hood ornament has since been replaced with the original that actually came with the car.

After that incident Mr. Clayton verified the accessories on the car. It has absolutely no power-assisted equipment. However, it is equipped with fog lamps, syncro-matic AM radio with rear speaker as well as accessory sombrero-style wheel covers.

Since the long-distance run to its new home, the Cadillac has seen only limited local use, including occasional school bus duty for daughter Karly, 5, and son, Keven, 3. The children never fail to identify the car they call "the limo" in the line of minivans outside the school.

Besides the big, roll-down windows in the back doors, the children are treated to the rear quarter venti-panes.

All the window frames, as well as the dashboard, are painted in a burgundy hue.

The Series 62 four-door sedan with a base price of $3,234 was the most popular Cadillac model in 1950, the first year to feature a curved, one-piece windshield.

Bright rocker sill moldings, along with chrome extensions on the lower edges of the rear fenders between the fender skirts and rear bumpers, were hallmarks of the Series 62 Cadillac.

After years of struggling to overcome Packard as the luxury car leader, Cadillac achieved its goal in 1950, the first time the marque had built more than 100,000 cars.

With the odometer not even close to 67,000 miles, Mr. Clayton enjoys his Cadillac, but, as with all old cars, he says, "power steering would be good, power brakes would be better."

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