- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Like many limousine companies, Tom Smith’s Prime Transportation company offers a variety of late-model luxury cars and stretched limousines for hire.

He says he provides transportation for about 250 weddings a year and that a few years ago he began receiving requests from wedding parties looking for elegant antique transportation.

The search began. He didn’t want to get an antique car only to gut it, replace the engine with something modern and install air conditioning. Then he would have an antique body riding atop a new car. He wanted to have the real deal.

Eventually the hunt for a reliable, original old car led him to Houston in pursuit of a 1938 Buick. Like all the other chases, it ended in disappointment. He did, however, hear of a dealer in Benson, N.C., who might have something suitable.

After returning to Camp Springs, Md., he contacted the dealer and learned that he had a 1941 Cadillac Series 62 Deluxe four-door sedan. Mr. Smith promptly drove down to the dealership just north of Charlotte, N.C., to inspect the car.

He found a remarkably original Cadillac that in 1980 had been repainted midnight blue. Records indicate that the car, with a base price of $1,585, was sold in Joplin, Mo. The original owner reportedly kept the car 39 years. Thereafter it went through the hands of several antique car dealers. With pre-World War II luxury oozing from the Cadillac’s pores, Mr. Smith, in August 2005, had no choice but to become its fourth owner.

The 7.00x15-inch white sidewall tires had been on the car so long they were suffering from dry rot. Consequently, the 4,050-pound Cadillac made the trip to Maryland on the back of a rollback truck. In the interest of safety, Mr. Smith immediately replaced the old bias-ply tires with radial tires that greatly improved the ride and handling.

Cadillac offered two Series 62 sedans in 1941, a Standard version and a DeLuxe version. A total of 7,850 customers opted for the $1,585 DeLuxe version and for the extra $90 the customer received:

• Fender skirts.

• Duotone fabric in six colors.

• Deluxe steering wheel.

• Lower door trim including color imitation leather trim pads with fluted scuff plates.

After a thorough inspection, Mr. Smith happily reports that the condition of his Cadillac is “just as advertised.” As expected, a whole new exhaust system was installed, everything from the porcelanized exhaust manifold on back.

If he had to pick just one aspect of the car that impressed him the most, Mr. Smith says it would have to be the condition of the interior. “The upholstery and headliner, especially the headliner, is in very good shape.”

Aa befitting a luxury car, the appointments are many and convenient. Between the two pieces of the windshield is mounted a day/night mirror and in the wood-grained dashboard, balanced by a clock on the right side, is a 100-mph speedometer. A rarity on any car in 1941 are the factory-installed signal indicators.

A three-door heater under the dashboard keeps the interior cozy in chilly weather and a cowl ventilator in conjunction with wing vents on all four doors circulates cooling air in the summer months. In the days before air conditioning, automotive designers engineered and controlled the air flow for the optimum cooling effect.

A pull-down center armrest in the back seat is just another measure of comfort for the occupants. The three-piece rear window is elegantly trimmed with chrome dividers. Beauty rings around the perimeter of each wheel add sparkle to the car, as do the three stainless-steel strips on each fender aft of the wheel well.

The owner’s manual warns against burning anything less than 80-octane fuel in the enormous 346-cubic-inch V-8 engine, lest it may not deliver 150 horsepower. The manual reports fluid capacities of 7 quarts of oil, 25 quarts of coolant and 20 gallons of gasoline.

Mr. Smith reports mileage of about 6 or 7 miles per gallon on wedding assignments but that includes much idling time, and even driving the bride and groom to the reception isn’t conducive to good gas mileage.

The task the Cadillac performs flawlessly is delivering the newlywed couple in style and comfort on its 126-inch wheelbase. As someone once said, that’s priceless.

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