Nothing better defines American Classic automobiles than the long tail-fins and chrome excesses of the '50s Cadillac and there is no finer example of this than John Foleys 1959 Cadillac Coupe de-Ville. Cadillac is currently the second oldest American automobile manufacturer behind Buick and among the oldest automobile brands in the world. Cadillac was born in 1902 it was formed when Henry Leland of “Leland & Faulconer” was called into appraise the plant and equipment of the Henry Ford company prior to selling them.
Instead of liquidating the firm Henry Leland convinced the Ford financial backers to continue in the automobile business using Leland’s proven single-cylinder engine. Henry Ford’s departure required a new name and on the 22nd of August 1902 the company reformed as Cadillac Automobile Company. The name came from the 17th century explorer Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac(founder of Detroit), who was an ancestor of Henry Leland and this also lead to the inspiration for the company’s crest which was based on the family coat of arms, in 1905 “Leland & Faulconer” and “Cadillac” merged.
From its earliest years Cadillac aimed for precision engineering and a stylish luxury finish. Its cars were and are still ranked amongst the finest in the USA, in 1915 it introduced a 90-degree flathead V8 engine with 70 hp and 180 ft pounds of torque it could reach a top speed of 65 miles per hour which at the time was faster than most roads could accommodate. In 1949 Cadillac developed the V8 engine known as the overhead valve system, this set the standard for the entire American auto industry. It introduced shatter resistant glass in 1926 and also introduced the turret top, the first all steel roof on a passenger car. A lot of the luxury items found in modern cars first appeared in the Cadillac the first fully automatic heater/ air conditioning system in 1964, and a fiber-optic warning system to alert driver’s to a failed light bulb, drivers air bags were offered from 1974.
Cadillac was purchased by GM in 1909 to become their prestige division devoted to the production of large luxury vehicles, in 1932 after Caddy suffered from record low sales and charges of discrimination, there was a committee formed to consider the discontinuation of the caddy line. When the then Cadillac President heard that legendary boxer Joe Louis had to get a white friend to purchase a car for him as he was not allowed into the Cadillac dealership because of his skin colour he introduced major changes including a big advertising campaign which included marketing the Cadillac brand towards black customers. As a result of this caddy sales had risen tenfold by 1940.
Our feature car is John Foleys 1959 Coupe De Ville, the Coupe was produced from 1949 up to 1993.
Johns love of old classics extends back to his childhood, and from a young age John always dreamed of having a garage full of Classic cars, his introduction into the classics didn’t start at American style but more of a VW Beatle all of ten years ago, which he still owns. After having the Beatle for a bit Johns focus slowly starting creeping from European classic towards the roar and glamour of the American style. He decided to make the switch and purchased his first yank over 7 years ago his 1968 302 black Mustang Convertible.
John has never looked back, after attending a Car show in Enniscorthy organised by Brendan Brady of the AAAI in 2006, the club stayed in Enniscorthy overnight. The following morning John and Co were collected by Brendan in his ‘59 Coupe de Ville from the hotel. This was John’s first spin in a Caddy and his heart was beating a bit quicker again. Foley had the bug and as soon as he arrived home, it was straight onto the internet and out with the current issue of Classic American to look for a Caddy of his own. After searching for a few weeks John found his Caddy in Birmingham a 1959 Coupe de Ville. John and a buddy booked flights and headed straight to Birmingham.
On viewing the car he knew he had to have it. He parted with the cash and drove the Big American Idol towards the car ferry, cruising down the motorway the caddy drove like a dream. John explains that the seats were as comfortable as sitting at home on the couch, the trip was very relaxing with no problems. Chaos soon followed as the lads missed the ferry not once, not twice but 3 times. Yes 3 times, seems like this car or John just did not want to leave the UK.
After he finally arrived home with the car, it proved to be very popular, picking up Best of Show award at the Blarney BBQ in 2007, trophies in Youghal and Limerick soon followed.
The Car is a V8 6.4 litre, 3 speed Auto, it has an electric bench seat, electric windows, power brakes, disc in front and drums at the rear and power steering. It’s a Persian Sand 2 door, with lots and lots of Chrome. The ‘59 Caddy has in most people’s opinion the nicest of the tail fins with the rocket shaped light built in. It’s the overall size and the fins which originally attracted John to Brendan Brady’s ‘59 some weeks earlier.
The car was originally white but received a full restoration by Classic Caddy’s in Canada about 7 years ago where she also received a change of colour. After the restoration the car was shipped to a customer in the UK, before being purchased by Gus.
Earlier this year John purchased his second Caddy a 1979 Eldorado, so the dream that began as a kid has become a reality as he now has a garage full of American Classics his Beatle, Mustang and now his 2 Caddy’s. So with that said there is only one question left. No. Not what will he buy next? But how the hell did he miss the ferry 3 times? I guess some questions are best left unanswered.