- The Washington Times - Friday, February 27, 2009

Sandy Kemper was on a three-week work assignment in Virginia in August 2000. As he was getting settled in his temporary Norfolk surroundings, he saw a classified ad in the local newspaper offering a 1959 Cadillac for sale. His interest was piqued because he has always been fond of cars from what he calls “the fin era.”

“I have always been a car guy,” Mr. Kemper explains. Even in his youth as a Cub Scout in Oaklyn, N.J., he and all the other scouts were assigned to make a scrapbook with a theme. “Mine was all about the theme. “Mine was all about the new 1959 cars,” he says.

He opened the next day’s newspaper, and the ad was not there. He assumed the car had been sold. Three weeks later, on his final day in Norfolk, the ad reappeared in the newspaper.

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What harm could there be in just looking at the car on my way out of town he thought. Then he saw the towering fins of the 18-foot, 9-inch-long Cadillac Coupe deVille that was covered with Vegas Turquoise Metallic Lacquer. He telephoned his wife, Anne, to give her the good news that they were about to become Cadillac owners.

The next weekend the Kempers drove back to retrieve the car. Driving the Cadillac to their Maryland home consumed about four hours. Mr. Kemper reports trouble-free driving “through all the extremes.” The sun was shining at the start of the trip. That soon changed into a severe rainstorm and then he encountered rush-hour traffic around the District. He says the Cadillac didn’t leak or overheat.

Research shows the 4,720-pound car had a base price of $5,252 when new and that Cadillac built 21,924 such models. The build date for this particular Cadillac is June 10, 1959.

Mr. Kemper discovered that the woman who purchased the car in 1959 got it at a Norfolk dealership. She drove it almost 90,000 miles in the next quarter century. Her son inherited the Cadillac in 1985 and his daughter inherited it in 1999. The odometer had recorded 93,000 miles by the time Mr. Kemper got the car.

“It’s a pretty spartan car,” Mr. Kemper says. There is no autronic eye, no cruise control and no air conditioner. However, it is equipped with white sidewall tires (originally 8.00x15-inches, now radials), heater, AM radio and E-Z-Eye glass.

The six-way power seats cost $118.45 and the power windows were also priced at $118.45. The heater was $128.70 while the combination of radio and antenna had a price of $164.60. Master controls operating the windows are on the dashboard dogleg created by the Vista-Panoramic windshield.

Beneath the expansive hood is a 390-cubic-inch V-8 engine that develops 125 horsepower. It is fed by a single four-barrel carburetor that drinks from a 21-gallon tank filled with premium fuel. Mr. Kemper reports highway mileage of 15 miles per gallon.

Inside the spacious passenger compartment in the turquoise-colored, leather-covered dashboard is the 120-mph speedometer. The carpeting is also turquoise as are the cloth and leather bench seats. Both front and rear seats have built-in pull-down armrests.

Although the low-slung car stands only 4 feet, 6 inches high, it is 6 feet, 8 inches wide. While comfortably seated on the inlaid upholstery, Mr. Kemper can operate the automatic transmission with the gear selector on the steering column. The gears are positioned differently than on modern cars. From the left the gears are: Park-Neutral-Drive-Low-Reverse.

In the time he has owned the Cadillac, Mr. Kemper says it has been relatively free of problems. He has replaced the water pump, had the generator rebuilt and overhauled the brakes.

Mr. Kemper’s Cadillac has now accumulated more than 93,000 miles, and he currently is reaping what he describes as “pleasure dividends.”

c For your car to become the subject of the Out Of The Past column, send a photo (frontal 3/4 view), plus brief details and phone number to Vern Parker, 2221 Abbotsford Drive, Vienna, VA 22181. Only photos of good quality will be considered. No customs or hotrods accepted.


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