Car With A Use By Date: 1956 Cadillac Fleetwood

Many years ago there was an old joke that went something like this: “My father is really confused. He can’t decide whether Fleetwood Mac is a car shaped like a burger, or a burger shaped like a car.” This 1959 Fleetwood (that isn’t shaped like a burger) is listed for sale here on Craigslist. It comes with a clean title and could be yours for $18,450. Our thanks goes to Barn Finds reader Bill Walters for referring this one to us.

The seller of this particular Caddy is a man of few words. Fortunately he is a man of many, many pictures because otherwise this would be a very short article! As far as appearances go this doesn’t look too bad. I’m trying to work out whether there may be rust beginning to appear in the bottom of the driver’s door, or if it is a blemish in the photo. Apart from that one question, everything looks pretty good. All of the external trim appears to be intact and in good condition, as does all of the glass.

The interior looks quite good as well. This Fleetwood is fitted with power seats and power windows. Unfortunately there is no indication as to whether these operate correctly. The interior is by no means perfect, but for a 62 year old car with a claimed 70,000 under its belt, I don’t think that it’s too bad.

The rear seat also looks to be in quite fair shape. There is some stretching of the material on the seat and on the door cards, but generally it’s not bad. I love the amount of legroom these have in the back. It would certainly put a lot of “family-sized” cars to shame today.

This is a feature that I absolutely love about American cars from this era. Detroit were the real pioneers of “designed obsolescence” in consumer goods. In the economic boom period that followed World War II there was a marked growth in spending right across the population. Car manufacturers were releasing model updates every year, and were relying on people being reluctant to be caught with old or outdated goods. Car manufacturers tried to force their hands by installing badges proudly proclaiming the model years of a number of different cars, thus encouraging owners to update. Maybe this was a case of cars having a “use by” date before food did! This is not a criticism of the American car industry. If anything it is probably one of the most intuitive marketing strategies of all time.

Resting in pride of place is the 365ci V8. The only mention of it in the description are the words “runs great”. I will say that it all looks pretty clean under there, but not the sort of clean that you would expect from a recently detailed engine bay. The only concern for me is the state of the top tank on the radiator. To me it looks like someone took to it with a large-ish hammer. I’d like to know the story behind that.

This car hails from an era of conspicuous consumption. It hails from a time when money was plentiful and gas prices were low. Is it relevant today? Absolutely. Every major motoring nation had its own market leader back then. The US had Cadillac, the UK had Rolls Royce and Germany had Mercedes Benz. These cars were part of an exclusive club and were subdued and elegant. They are also a lesson in progress. Look at the standard features on this exclusive market leader. Now look at the features on your current family car. It makes you realize how far we’ve come, and how complicated life has become. As Cher once sang: “If I could turn back time.”


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  1. Steve A

    Kewl kar!

    Like 3
  2. C.Jay

    The top tank of the radiator is probably brass. Relatively soft when that thin.
    If some one was working on the car by themselves (as I generally am) and was removing the head or intake and balanced it on the top it could easily bend it.
    Looks like a nice daily driver!

    Like 3
    • lowbusman

      Looks to me that a bad or wrong rad cap was used. When the coolant is hot it expands and when it cools it creates a vacuum if the rad cap is faulty. The rad is very thin on the top, it would cave in the rad just like you see. Happened to me!

  3. Rich

    And it’s gone…

    Like 1

    The Fleetwood was a relative custom build at the factory. Not built on the standard assembly line but hand built in a corner of the factory in limited numbers. Most were black.

    The building where built still stands today in Detroit in total ruin. The 56 was the most beautiful of the 54-56 Cadillac. It just demands attention and respect.

    Sammy Davis lost his eye in a low speed accident when his head hit the steering wheel center (the bullet shaped horn button)

    Like 4
    • Will Fox

      Actually, Sammy Davis, Jr. Lost his eye in `54, while driving a new Cadillac cvt. He was turning a corner, saw a pretty hot babe walking down the sidewalk, and slammed into a parked car! His eye came in contact with the “necker knob” he had on the steering wheel!

      Like 2
      • mankosan

        Proof again that women cause more accidents.

        Like 3
  5. CCFisher

    Those are either seat covers or poorly-reupholstered seats.

    Like 5
    • Will Fox

      Vinyl seat covers. Which makes me wonder what the actual material looks like underneath. (You can see the upholstery pattern on the rear seat armrest, which wasn’t covered.)

      Like 2
  6. Miguel

    I had a 1956 Sedan De Ville.

    I would love another one in good condition, this time.

    A friend let me drive his 1956 Coupe De Ville to the Rose Bowl swap meet one time.

    The steering wheel would move about 90 degrees before moving the front wheels.

    I didn’t have blood pressure problems at the time, lucky for me, and yes we were on the freeway.

    Like 5
    • Ken

      I had a 1962 Buick Electra like that. The wheel moved roughly 70 degrees before it’d turn. Once you’d driven it a while you knew what it was going to do and got used to it. No biggie. :)

      Like 2
    • dweezilaz

      The Rose Bowl Swap Meet, Miguel ? Yes!!!

      Fantastic events.

      I suspect you’ve done Pomona as well, then ?

      Like 2
      • Miguel

        Yes. This was back in the ’80s. I, along with a friend, were members of the Cadillac Club. I can’t remember the exact name though. It was based in Palm Springs.

        The organizer had a space for us at the Pomona swap meet to show our cars which were always hearses.

        A funny story about that day at the Rose bowl swap meet.

        The friend I was with brought his 1959 Cadillac Superior limo style hearse.

        He was selling the collection of Hawaiian shirts his lover had left him.

        We hung the shirts on the fins of the hears all up and down the car.

        A guy wandered over and said, “I have had every model of the ’59 Cadillac but never a hearse”.

        I replied, “then you have never had a ’59 Cadillac”.

        He walked away after that.

        It was a beautiful, like brand new car. The only quirk I remember was the horn blowing every time you put it down in reverse. It was a fun car to drive.

        Like 3
      • Miguel

        It was a lot like this one but with all windows.

        Like 3
      • dweezilaz

        Great story Miguel.

        A funeral home could make easy money running a fleet of classic hearses for car fiends wanting to take their last rides in style.

        If I hadn’t chosen the burn barrel over the standard funeral service, any mortuary that offered a service like that would have gotten the business.

    • canadainmarkseh Member

      Why didn’t you guys just adjust the steering box, you can usually get 2 to 3 adjustments before declaring the steering box worn out.

      Like 2
      • Miguel

        It wasn’t my car and I didn’t know about the problem until we were well on the way to the show.

        Also I was 18 years old and had no idea how any of that worked.

        My friends mechanic lived in downtown LA and we were not that close to get him over there quickly.

        These days I probably would do it on the side of the road.

        Like 2
  7. Coventrycat

    The only thing people want the latest of now are stupid iPhones.

    Like 3
  8. Clay Byant

    They’re going to have a time identifying this Mac sandwich if you don’t get rid of the 59 handle you put in your writeup.

    Like 3
  9. George

    For all the people who have to turn sixty or seventy degrees-adjust or over haul your steering box.Then check your steering linkages for wear.

    Like 1
  10. Harry A White III

    Elvis says this car should be PINK !!

  11. Del

    Nice car.

    Good price.

    Like 1
  12. Jerry

    This my friends is an example of the golden era for Detroit. A very well designed, thought out car. I enjoy the subtleties like incorporating the exhaust with the bumper. The rear tail light hinges to reveal a concealed gas cap. And don’t forget the autodimmer on the dash. The icing on the cake are those gorgeous whitewalls.

    Like 2

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