Battling Hershey Mud: 1978 Cadillac Coupe de Ville

In a few previous stories, I have written about my grandparents and their Cadillacs.  Earlier this week, I wrote about their 1973 Coupe deVille and a number of people wanted me to continue the tale.  I will, but this 1978 Cadillac Coupe de Ville found for us by Rocco B. reminds me of a funny trip my grandfather and I took to Hershey, Pennsylvania for the annual AACA swap meet and car show.  Found on Hemmings Online, this West Allis, Wisconsin based Cadillac isn’t exactly like my grandmother’s beloved 1977 Sedan deVille, but it is close enough for me to spin a funny yarn around it.  Hopefully the $9,999 price is reasonable enough for one of you to purchase this relatively low mileage beauty and get into some adventures of your own in.

First, the Cadillac you seem here has just 75,025 miles on the odometer.  It was originally well taken care of by an elderly lady who lived in sunny Florida.  When she moved out to Fort Collins, Colorado, she sold it to a gentlemen who tended to its needs for a short time before ending up selling the car to the current owner.  After replacing the headliner and tires, along with a few other minor things, the car has been kept in heated storage.  The paint looks flawless, and the interior, while somewhat worn in areas, is very well kept for a car of this vintage.  Said to run and drive great, the seller claims to have all of the documentation.  The build sheet is even included in the sale.  The reason for selling this pretty Caddy is that the seller needs to buy a new pickup truck.  He must have never opened the trunk on the car, as I believe you could fit a small country within its confines.

Now, for the story.  For those not in the know on all things antique automobile, the Antique Automobile Club of America holds its largest car show and swap meet in Hershey, Pennsylvania on the first full weekend of October.  If you are into cars, it is a bucket list event.  In the years that I have been fortunate enough to have experienced the event, I saw some mind bending and amazing things.  Three examples would be a new old stock Tucker engine in the original packing crate, an original Moxie product mobile where the driver drove from a huge wooden horse on a LaSalle chassis, and the Chrysler Newport Phaeton that paced the 1941 Indy 500.  Yes, the exact car in all its unrestored glory still lettered from its stint at the 500.  That is the kind of stuff you saw at Hershey back in the day.

You also saw mud nearly every year.  If someone tells you they went to Hershey before they paved all of the fields, then ask them about the mud.  You can tell if they are true veterans by the face they make.  Hershey mud had the consistency of concrete mixed with chocolate pudding.  One year the mud claimed an 8″ tightly laced boot from my foot.  Another year I saw a motorhome sliding slowly down a hill with the rear wheels locked up and nobody in the driver’s seat and a guy desperately trying to get inside.  The mud was legendary.

It was this mud that caused such a problem for us on the last day of the meet the only year my grandfather and I went together.  Before it rained that last day, the trip up in their 1977 Caddy had been uneventful.  My grandfather had conned the car out of my grandmother, as it was considered “her” car.  She was meticulous about its care.  So much so that she had two milk crates worth of cleaning chemicals she lathered on and in the car.  She went through gallons of Wesley’s Bleach White cleaning the tires, and also carefully cleaned the wire wheels with some chemical I cannot remember.  Their front yard should have been declared a Superfund site by the Feds.  Us borrowing this big, clean, white Caddy was a big deal.

So the stage was set.  We were parked deep in what was a dry field that morning, but was a huge, wet swath of reconstituted cow droppings and sticky soil when we returned.  All around the field there were tractors pulling cars out of the mud, as the local farmers likely made half of their yearly earnings providing this utterly necessary service.  My grandfather, never one to let a dollar change hands over such a luxury as being towed by a tractor, simply told me to get in and put my seat belt on.  Way across the field was a standard size farm gate.  Our target.  He cranked it up, threw it in gear, and mashed the gas.  You could hear the wheels spinning, but we began to gain ground.

As the scenery began to blur, the car started to fishtail back and forth.  You could hear the front end hit mounds of mud, and you could feel the car bottom out as well.  The windows became covered with mud as he counter steered as best he could.  Amazingly, with such little traction, we were soon flying towards the gate.  The car became almost silent as his foot went from the accelerator to the brake.  All you could hear was the sliding of the tires in the mud and the bottoming out.  Looking up, we both saw it at the same time.  A tractor was putt putting down the road by the gate, and it was obvious that whole thing about two objects not being able to occupy the same spot at the same time was about to come true.

To this day, I still don’t know how we made it.  My grandfather managed to Curtis Turner that big old Cadillac sideways just after passing through the gate and went around the tractor with probably an inch or two to spare.  He managed to keep it between the ditches and drove around that farmer like he was a driver in a well choreographed stunt show.  We didn’t speak for about a minute.  Then, we started laughing.

Grandma sure didn’t laugh when she caught wind of what we had done to her beloved Caddy.  After hosing it off at one of those spray it yourself car washes on the way home, it looked OK at a superficial glance.  However, the constant sound of drying mud falling off and bouncing between the car and the road during the trip home let us know that we weren’t off the hook.  The trip home was a nightmare worthy of its own story, but we finally pulled into the driveway late Sunday afternoon.  I unloaded the car and got out of there.

Her first clue was when she opened the trunk to load up some groceries the next day.  Chunks of mud were packed up under the bottom of the trunk lid and they came cascading down on her head as the trunk hit the stops when it rose.  I was never told what she said to my grandfather, but I knew we had taken our last trip in the Cadillac.  There was another minor explosion when she opened the hood to check the oil and found everything bathed in dried up brown mud.  We even found some a year later when we pulled a wheel off for some reason.  Too bad, as it was a spotless car at one time!

They have since paved over all of the fields at Hershey, and the experience is simply not the same.  Back before the internet and eBay, Hershey was where you went to find that one of a kind car part.  Dealing with mud was the price you had to pay.  Still, I wish we would have rented a truck that year!

Ever been to Hershey back during the “mud years?  Ever take a nice car places it shouldn’t go?

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Comments

  1. Rex Kahrs Member

    Very entertaining story Jeff!

  2. grant

    Slid my mom’s Cavalier backwards into a lake up to the front seat backs once. Yes only a Cavalier but nearly new and she was proud of it. Had 3 days before the parental units returned and spent every minute of them cleaning that car. Seats and carpets out type cleaning. Got it all including trunk carpet but forgot the spare under the trunk floor. Dad discovered that a year or so later. I played dumb lol. Mom still doesn’t know.

  3. CATHOUSE

    I live quite close to Hershey and have been going to the show for many years so I know the mud quite well. I can remember setting up in the field now covered by the Giant Center. My drive to the vending spot was very close to your ride in Grandma’s Cadillac. That year required the guys with the big tractors with 4 wheel drive and duals on all 4 corners to get those big motorhomes back to pavement. Now all the vendors are set up on pavement but there can still be a mud experience for those coming as buyers as they are still parked in the fields across the street.

  4. W9BAG Member

    An absolutely beautiful car , and I really like the color. Love to have it in my collection. Really like your story, Jeff. It’s experiences like these that help bond a Grandpa & Grandson. Go muddin’ in Grandma’s Caddy !

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