The Myth of the Pink Cadillac
Nostalgia shows that history ain't what it used to be.
While thinking about this topic, I was surprised to discover Hagerty recently published an article on the anniversary of Bruce Springsteen's homage to a certain rose-colored American luxury car that Elvis owned. Elvis' Caddy was a '55 that he transformed from blue to pink, but the car that we think of when we see the words "Pink Cadillac" is arguably from 1959.
Elvis Presley's 1955 Cadillac 60 Special. (Image courtesy of www.classiccarstodayonline.com)
But did you know Cadillac didn't produce a pink Cadillac in 1959?
That is the power of nostalgia, which idealizes history and makes it perfect in ways that it never was.
Of course, the 1959 Cadillac is significant in so many ways. Its creation was in direct response to Chrysler Corporation's 1957 Forward Look, Virgil Exner's roster of fabulous automobiles that out-GM'd General Motors. Compare a 1957 Plymouth ("Suddenly it's 1960!") with the hollowed 1957 Chevy and it is readily apparent that Plymouth had the best thing going among the "Low-Priced Three." Even the all-new Ford looked old hat in comparison.
1957 Chevy Bel Air/Ford Fairlane 500/Plymouth Belvedere
When the designers at General Motors caught a whiff of the Forward Look, they went on a crash course to redesign the 1959 product line, from Chevrolet all the way up to Cadillac. This is the reason why GM's 1958 product line only lasted one year – GM wasn't going to be competitive in the market for 1959 with facelifted 1958s.
As America's "Standard of the World," Cadillac was redesigned as the ultimate expression of traditional Caddy style and Atomic Age styling for 1959. The shark-like fins would never achieve such heights on Cadillacs – or any other American car – ever again.
Perhaps you're one of those folks whose mind imagines a pink 1959 Cadillac as among the quintessential cars of the 1950s. Glance at this color chip page and you'll see that pink was not a color offered in 1959.
Wood Rose has a pinkish tint to it, but it certainly isn't the kind of pink you'd expect. So what about other years? Here's 1958's:
We're getting closer! Alas, I don't think 1958 Caddys are the first car that pops up in people's minds. The truth is that we have to go back to 1956 to find a color that truly resembles pink:
While 1956 Cadillacs are awesome, and the last of the Caddys with the humped-back fins, this isn't the car that most people picture when they think of "Pink Cadillac."
Can you think of another topic, automotive or otherwise, where the pull of nostalgia is stronger than the truth?