- The Washington Times - Friday, January 5, 2001

In the beginning of automotive history most every car was of the open variety. When closed cars first appeared they sold for premium prices.
After closed cars became the norm, convertibles commanded the higher prices.
Because roads and cars both improved, speeds increased, which spelled the doom of rumble seats.
Forty years later, as interstate highways spread across the land, speeds crept even higher and with the proliferation of air conditioning, convertibles met the same fate as the rumble seat.
Sales of factory-built convertibles kept dwindling until only Cadillac was left producing Eldorado convertibles.
During 1976 a total of 14,000 Cadillac Eldorado convertibles were manufactured and those were to be the last American factory-built convertibles.
The final 200 were slated to become special bicentennial editions. They were identical with white convertible tops to match the white bodies and dual pinstripes of red and blue. The last car was retained by General Motors for museum display purposes while the other 199 were shipped, one to each of the Cadillac dealers with the best sales records.
One of the much-coveted Bicentennial Cadillacs was sent to Capitol Cadillac, then located on 22nd Street NW between M and N.
The late Howard L. Jobe, the owner of Capitol Cadillac, was faced with a dilemma that would have tested King Solomon.
Many customers, acquaintances, relatives and several brand new best friends wanted to be the one chosen to be allowed to buy the last of the Cadillac convertibles.
Daniel Jobe, the current Capitol Cadillac dealer, was a high school student at the time of the nation's bicentennial and recalls how his father solved the problem.
"He sold it to one of his buddies in Miami Beach," he says, adding, "at sticker price." At least he got rid of the car without showing favoritism locally.
Another of the 199 Bicentennial Cadillacs was sold by a midwestern dealer and was babied from the start. After a couple of owners it was purchased by a Pennsylvania man. About 10 years ago that man, weary of caring for a museum piece, decided to get a modern car he could drive. After talking, he and Mr. Jobe agreed on a swap, a new Cadillac Spring Edition Sedan DeVille for the Bicentennial Eldorado convertible, which had been driven about 1,500 miles or 100 miles a year.
The owner drove the 5,153-pound convertible to Capitol Cadillac where the swap took place and then he drove back to Pennsylvania in his new car.
"These cars have every factory option except fuel injection," Mr. Jobe remarks. The enormous 500-cubic-inch, carbureted V-8 engine produces 190-horsepower. The fuel injection option boosts that output up to 275-horsepower.
All 200 Bicentennial convertibles featured:
Power seats.
Power brakes.
Trunk release.
Load levelizer.
Power antenna.
Power steering.
Power windows.
"Pull down" trunk lid.
Bicentennial red piping.
White leather upholstery.
Reclining passenger seat.
Bicentennial wheel covers.
AM/FM radio with 8-track.
Bicentennial red carpeting.
Glass rear-window defogger.
Thermometer on left mirror.
Bicentennial plaque on dash.
Hard boot for convertible top that owner says has never been used.
Since the car has been sheltered from the beginning Mr. Jobe had only to replace the tires. The tread was, of course, still good but because rubber does deteriorate Mr. Jobe thought a new set of tires was cheap insurance.
"I like to drive it around," Mr. Jobe admits. On the red dashboard near the 120 mph speedometer is an amber light and a green light to alert the driver when caution is advised.
The federal government was just beginning to dictate emissions controls in 1976, which is why the huge 8.2-liter V-8 choked by government-mandated emissions controls could produce such an anemic horsepower rating. Beneath the floor, integrated into the exhaust system , is a catalytic converter. The car burns unleaded gasoline.
After a few years Mr. Jobe discovered the weak point of the car the front and rear bumper extensions. He replaced them and had them painted to perfectly match the finish on the car.
"The triple-plated chrome has held up well," Mr. Jobe observes.
The odometer now indicates that after 25 years the Bicentennial Cadillac has accumulated 4,000 miles.
Mr. Jobe simply shrugs and says, "It's my favorite car."


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