- The Washington Times - Friday, January 25, 2002

During the 1964 model year Cadillac manufactured 1,870 top-of-the-line Fleetwood Eldorado Convertibles. Each 18-foot, 71/2-inch-long car rode on 8.20x15-inch tires mounted on a 129.5-inch wheelbase and had a base price of $6,630.
The 917th Fleetwood Eldorado Convertible left the factory wearing a coat of Firemist Red, one of 21 exterior colors available from Cadillac in 1964, and was promptly shipped off to a Cadillac dealer in Sacramento, Calif.
In the next 35 years that particular Cadillac had four owners, the second and fourth being the same man. After his second stint of ownership the car was nationally advertised for sale.
About 25 years earlier Steve Sisson had become enamored of the 1964 Eldorado convertible." I am not sure just what all the original grabbers were," he concedes. "It could have been the open rear wheel wells, wood-paneled glove box and door panels. It could have also been the bigger engine and the new Turbo Hydra-Matic transmission."
Regardless, Mr. Sisson had attempted to purchase a 1964 Cadillac in 1974 but the deal fell apart. As the years, and various other cars, passed Mr. Sisson never lost his desire to own one of those special 1964 Cadillacs.
In 1999 Mr. Sisson owned a 1953 Cadillac that, he said, "kept me from immediately fulfilling that desire."Before he could buy the 1964 Cadillac the 1953 Cadillac had to go.
As luck would have it, a man from Florida called in early spring of 1999 to inquire if the 1953 car were for sale. Hearing an affirmative response, he arranged to stop by Potomac for an inspection visit on a trip to New York. He purchased the 1953 Cadillac 20 minutes after he first saw it, Mr. Sisson recalls.
"All I had now was money, but no car," Mr. Sisson said. "This was about the same time my federal and state tax refunds arrived."
Mr. Sisson saw opportunity and seized it. "Fate had surely played a hand here. It was meant to be," Mr. Sisson affirms. "I was supposed to have a 1964 Eldorado convertible."
After an extensive search Mr. Sisson winnowed the likely candidates down to a red car near Salem, Ore., a black one in Torrance, Calif., and a third one, about 20 miles east of Sacramento.
One of the nice things about being a member of a national antique automobile club is that the other members with similar interests are scattered across the country, most more than willing to help.
Mr. Sisson called upon fellow Cadillac LaSalle Club members on the West Coast to inspect the cars. They reported that the Salem car had been sold and the Torrance car looked good, but drove like a truck.
"I turned my attention to the Sacramento car," Mr. Sisson said. A nearby club member checked out the car and reported that it was very nice; however, it had a few things that did not work.
Mr. Sisson decided he could live with the deficiencies and in April 1999 bought the car sight unseen, becoming the fifth owner of the Cadillac. After 35 years of sunny California the convertible was on a truck for the 2,800-mile trip to Maryland.
When the Cadillac finally arrived it was just as beautiful as Mr. Sisson had been led to believe by his West Coast compatriots.
As Mr. Sisson expected, the well-preserved convertible was super straight. "There wasn't an inch of rust on her," he said.
The previous owners had replated, repainted, reupholstered and rebuilt when required, Mr. Sisson said.
Still, he said, the engine compartment was really filthy and the trunk, besides being ragged, was empty.
"The only surprise was the total lack of a spare tire, wheel and tools. I never thought to ask about those," Mr. Sisson confesses.
"There were tons of things that didn't work," Mr. Sisson said. On the other hand, all the parts were there even if some were inoperative. Eventually, Mr. Sisson managed to get most of the gadgets working, including the FM radio, Twilight Sentinel, Comfort Control a completely automatic thermostatically operated heating/air conditioning system.
The 1964 4,605-pound Cadillac features a V-shaped split-grille along with an enlarged 429-cubic-inch V-8 engine that delivers a healthy 340 horsepower. All that power is transferred to the rear drive wheels via a Turbo Hydra-Matic torque converter transmission, standard equipment on the upscale Cadillacs in 1964. The Cadillac is 2 feet wider than its 56-inch height.
Another feature of the 1964 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible that captured the attention of Mr. Sisson is the lack of fender skirts. Although the high-dollar Cadillac convertible models had sported skirts since 1958 and would again in 1965, Mr. Sisson saw the open wheel wells as "unique."
Also distinctive to the car is the absence of body side trim. Mr. Sisson's car is dressed with a broad chrome rocker sill extending behind the rear wheel well as a similar lower fender molding.
"When I sought this car I wanted a car with modern amenities I could drive," Mr. Sisson explains.
His antique car came equipped with a powerful engine, air conditioning, all sorts of power equipment and even seat belts the first year they were standard equipment on Cadillacs.
"It's a nice car to drive," Mr. Sisson comments, "even my wife, Margo, is ready to go now."

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