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East Bay man’s ’57 Cadillac convertible an award winner

East Bay man's '57 Cadillac convertible an award winner

Cadillac has been America’s No. 1 luxury car since World War II. Other successful luxury cars have been built in this country, such as Pierce-Arrow, Duesenberg, Packard, Lincoln and Chrysler Imperial, but Cadillac has always been the best American luxury car brand. Almost everyone knows that, with people using the Cadillac name to imply the best products (for example, “that’s the Cadillac of golf clubs” or “that’s the Cadillac of toasters”).

Cadillac has been around for a long time. The car was named after Antoine de la Mothe, sieur de Cadillac, but he had nothing to do with cars. The French explorer founded Detroit in 1701. The Cadillac Automobile Co. was founded 120 years ago using the assets of the Henry Ford Co. after Henry Ford left that company after disagreements with some of his key investors (Henry later did well for himself).

General Motors acquired Cadillac in 1909 and by then it was already a premium luxury car. Cadillac was the first American car to win the English Dewar Trophy in 1908 for demonstrating the interchangeability of precision parts, which formed the basis for Cadillac’s slogan of the ‘Standard of the World’. Nor was it Henry Ford who developed the V8 engine; it was Cadillac. Cadillac was also the first to have a steel roof, full electrical systems, synchronized transmission and safety glass.

The last year Packard surpassed Cadillac was in 1949, when Packard produced 104,593 cars against Cadillac’s 81,545. In 1953 the first Cadillac Series 62 Eldorado convertible was built, which clearly became America’s most luxurious convertible, with even better cars in the pipeline.

Completely restyled from the previous year, the 1957 Cadillac offered impressive comfort in an enviable ragtop. They were nearly 3 inches lower than the previous year’s model and retained the “Dagmar” bumper guards (ask a senior who Dagmar was). The base price was $5,225, or just under 10% of what it would cost in today’s dollars. Standard equipment included power steering, brakes, windows and hood, an electric clock and Hydramatic automatic transmission. The car had an elegant front seat with folding armrest, and a chrome speaker was built into the back of the rear seat.

The hallmark of this issue is a 1957 Cadillac Series 62 convertible owned by Phil Toy, an East Bay native, a professional photographer who has won 29 national and international awards and specializes in photographing automobiles. Toy graduated from UC Berkeley in architecture but always loved photography. He says his engineering training has served him well in his profession and that he has always had a special fondness for Cadillacs.

“My grandfather had a pink 1957 Cadillac Sedan de Ville and as a little boy I grew up washing and waxing those fins. Years ago, a friend showed me a 1959 Cadillac. He let me borrow it for a weekend. The next thing I knew on Monday, I had to have it.”

That was his first Cadillac. The owner bought the Cadillac of this issue from a dealer many years ago for about $10,000, and it was in much the same condition as it is today. He said the only extra costs were for routine maintenance. He is not sure of the mileage as the odometer reads 17,000, but has probably been turned over at least once. The car has been repainted in the original factory color (“Orion Blue”) with a white interior and has a 365-cubic-inch V8 engine with an output of 300 hp.

“As a photographer, I value design and color,” Toy says.

This six-passenger Cadillac convertible is an award winner, winning Best in Show on Danville’s Hot Summer Nights show last July, and Toy has no intention of ever selling it (“I’ll never find one again,” is his reasoning. ). This Cadillac has most of the comforts of its time, but no air conditioning. That was a very expensive option in 1957, costing about $5,000 in today’s dollars. A popular feature in the 1950s was the hidden gas filler. Cadillac did best with the gas filler completely hidden under the left taillight.

As much fun as it is to win local shows, Toy told me that two of his Cadillacs, including this ’57 blue convertible, had been invited to Taiwan sponsored by the US Embassy for the America Week Celebration on July 4. 1994.

“It was a huge success. I was there for a month with the US embassy to do several PR events. ”

It seems that there are two types of classic car owners: collectors and dealers. Phil Toy is a collector of classic cars. While he has other brands of classics that he likes, I think Cadillac is his favorite classic car. My reasoning? He has at least half a dozen.

Do you have an interesting vehicle? Contact David Krumboltz at [email protected] For more photos of the vehicles from this and other issues or to read more of Dave’s columns, visit mercurynews.com/author/david-krumboltz.