September 1-4, 2011
1955 Cadillac Series 75 Presidential Limousine
Lot No. 4157
Auctioned on Saturday, September 3, 2011
Ex-President Dwight D Eisenhower
High Bid of $160,000
Chassis No. 557555865
The histories of American presidential limousines are quite well known, and it’s widely recognized that there’s always a fleet of similar cars in use by the Secret Service. But presidents and their families often have their own preferences and needs for transportation, both official and informal. So it was for Mamie Doud Eisenhower, First Lady of the 34th President of the Untied States. The Eisenhowers desired a car that could be used by Mrs. Eisenhower, and also serve as a formal and parade vehicle when needed. In March 1955, an order was placed with Cadillac for an eight-passenger Imperial Sedan, body style 7533X. It came off the Fleetwood assembly line in basic black, with dark gray plain broadcloth upholstery, power brakes, E-Z Eye tinted glass, a rear compartment radio, heater and air conditioning. From the factory it was sent to Hess & Eisenhardt, professional car conversion specialists, in Rossmoyne, Ohio. Hess & Eisenhardt took the basic Imperial Sedan, and replaced the rearmost part of the roof with a section and rear window from a Series 62 Coupe de Ville. The result was a pillarless “hardtop” limo, allowing an excellent viewpoint for press photographers. A sliding sunroof was added so that the President and Mrs. Eisenhower could stand in full view of the public when desired. Inside the leading edge of the sunroof was a grab rail to ease the strain of standing in the moving car.
The division partition of the Imperial sedan was retained, and the driver’s compartment upholstered in blue leather, with a black padded dashboard. The rear compartment was finished in buttoned gray broadcloth. The firewall data plate shows the special order conversion was complete on May 27, 1955. The car remained in the White House garages for the remainder of Eisenhower’s term. In January 1958 there was a request from GM to lend out it for display at the Washington auto show, which the government summarily rejected. After the Eisenhowers had left the White House, the car was reportedly sold to an American General. In 1988 it was acquired by Olivier Delafon, a French collector of presidential automobiles and cars of state. It was kept in his collection until acquired by the current owner, another European collector, in 2006. The car remains amazingly original. In fact, the original trunk-mounted air conditioner, with clear plastic ducts extending to the roof, remains intact.
Much is made of the first-line White House cars, from the Sunshine Special to the “Bubble-Top” Lincoln Limo that took Eisenhower into his first term, to the star-crossed presidential Continental that played a part in the nation’s sorrow in Dallas in November 1963. The Eisenhowers’ parade car has remained largely beneath the collectors’ radar, slumbering quietly in Europe for more than two decades. Now it comes home to America.