- The Washington Times - Friday, January 9, 2009

Before Matthew Smith’s sister was married, she drove a 1971 Plymouth Duster painted the distinctive “Crazy.” Little did her brother know that half a continent away there was a “Plum Crazy” fanatic.

Robert McEndree owned Bob’s Body Shop and Car Wash in Lenexa, Kan., and also had a fleet of tow trucks that served the greater Kansas City area. The trucks, regardless of make, were easy to spot because they were all painted Plum Crazy.

In the mid-1970s, Cadillac announced that the 1976 Eldorado model would be the last convertible. A total of 14,000 convertibles were built, and even with a base price of $11,049, they sold quickly. Mr. McEndree learned that if he was willing to pay extra for a special paint, the folks at Cadillac would be happy to oblige.

He went to the Roach Cadillac dealership in Kansas City, Mo., paid the extra $370 and said he wanted a Cadillac Eldorado convertible painted Plum Crazy. He was informed that Cadillac didn’t have such a color. He replied that Chrysler did, and that’s the color he wanted.

A factory-painted Plum Crazy Cadillac was delivered to Mr. McEndree. The car reportedly was used in a few weddings and an occasional local parade, but otherwise was kept in a climate-controlled, sealed garage until the death of the owner.

In spring 2007, pictures and descriptions of the Eldorado convertible were posted on a popular Internet site. That is where the familiar color arrested the attention of Mr. Smith, who had not seen that shade of purple since his sister’s Duster. He noticed that the 31-year-old car had been driven only 2,100 miles and virtually everything on it was original.

Mr. Smith enlisted the aid of a savvy bidder and gave him a limit above which he was not to bid. The bidder knew that Mr. Smith really wanted the car, so he ignored the instructions he was given and exceeded the limit by about 8 percent to place the winning bid.

“I lucked out,” Mr. Smith says.

A trucking company delivered the convertible to Mr. Smith in Northwest. “When it came off the truck,” he says, “it was beyond expectations.”

The convertible top was dusty and a connecting hose to the left rear air shock absorber was loose. Otherwise, the car looked as it did when it was new. “It was eerie,” Mr. Smith says.

To be on the safe side, Mr. Smith had the belts replaced, but everything else, including hoses, wiring and tires, is original. Papers that came with the Cadillac indicate that the original owner loaded the car with optional equipment. When everything was totaled, the out-the-door price was $12,933.

Everything about the Eldorado is virtually unused, which still amazes Mr. Smith. The original spare tire consumes a lot of the trunk space. On the inside of the trunk lid is the sticker bearing instructions to operate the jack. Inside the white leather upholstered interior of the convertible each sun visor has a surprise. On the back side of the passenger visor is a lighted vanity mirror and on the back side of the left one is a warning concerning the catalytic converter. The car was delivered with the original set of keys.

Although the 5,153-pound Cadillac is supported on a lengthy 126.3-inch wheelbase, Mr. Smith observes, “As huge as it is, it’s surprisingly easy to drive.”

The rear window in the convertible is glass and is also threaded with the telltale red lines of an electric defogger. “They thought of everything, Cadillac did,” Mr. Smith says.

Even though the striking convertible is “Plum Crazy,” the trim on the wheel covers is black, as is the carpet inside the car.

“It has been documented that this is the only time that Cadillac ever painted a non-GM color at the factory,” Mr. Smith says. “It is singularly outrageous.”

The extremely low mileage all-original Eldorado is now approaching 3,800 miles. Mr. Smith says, “at 70, there’s not a tremor.”

As for the Cadillac’s future, Mr. Smith says, “I plan to preserve it.”

• 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 hot rods accepted.

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