Mogul Mover: 1958 Cadillac Fleetwood Limousine

By Jeff Bennett

While the proliferation of ridiculous limousines with hot tubs and triple rear axles stank up the reputation of such vehicles in the eighties and nineties, they once were the stately transportation of the upper crust of society.  Limousines often carted around celebrities, captains of industry, and other such notables in a style that was befitting their wealth and power.  Many of the limousines built before World War II were outfitted with custom bodies from talented coach makers, but the postwar period found this task falling to the few luxury manufacturers that were left.  While the selection wasn’t as diverse, automakers such as Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors did a fine job of producing these beautiful automobiles for clients with the means to acquire one.  A perfect example of these nearly extinct leviathans is this 1958 Cadillac Fleetwood Series 75 limousine, which is currently for sale on craigslist in South Euclid, Ohio.  While the $14,500 price might seem a reasonable sum for such a magnificent automobile, the restoration costs would likely require you to have an Elvis sized bank account.

Cars like this pose a dilemma for the collector car community.  Restorations are prohibitively expensive for all but the most well cared for examples, and the resale value is often below that of more common versions of the same car.  Many of the parts and pieces are not being reproduced, and used parts to replace missing limousine specific pieces are difficult to come by.  Add to that the extra primer and paint, the huge leather interiors, and the insane cost of re-plating, and you see why these cars struggle to find new caretakers when put up for sale in this condition.

Yet, saving cars like this is important.  They are a link to a past that respected grace, elegance, and luxury, and a culture that promoted wealth and prosperity over feelings.  The cultural icons of this era, from John F. Kennedy to that aforementioned boy from Tupelo, Mississippi, are forever linked in our minds to cars such as this.  You just can’t imagine them riding in anything else.

This one will need some work before it is worthy of having the King, or a talented jumpsuit clad impersonator, ride in the back.  The seller tells us that they had it fired up in the mid 1990s and even managed to sand some of the paint off before they lost interest in the project.  As you can see from their sanding adventure, the car was originally blue, but was subsequently sprayed black.  Considering that the car has been stored in a concrete floored garage since 1978, it seems sad that no more effort was expended to put it back on the road before now.

The interior is fairly unusual in that it has black leather in the front and tan leather in the back.  Continuing our look in the back, we see that the car was equipped with a set of jump seats and all the bells and whistles of the era, from the ashtrays to the power divider window.  One possible huge negative is that the rear door glass on the driver’s side has been broken.  The pictures make it hard to tell if it is flat glass, which would be easy to replace, or curved.  If it is curved, the buyer had better hope that it interchanges with a standard four door Cadillac.  You would never find a replacement if it is limousine specific.

Under the hood of this 46,900 mile beauty is a 364 cubic inch Cadillac V-8 backed by a standard automatic transmission.  Noticeable is the air conditioning compressor on the passenger side of the engine.  While Packard is credited with having the first factory installed air conditioning system in 1941, the option was too expensive and the system too primitive.  Cadillac had played around with an air conditioning system in 1941, but the first serious attempts by the division didn’t really begin until 1953.  Despite constant development and an obvious need for the option in certain markets, air conditioning was still a rarity even into the late 1960s.  Considering how closed up occupants would be in the rear of this limousine, air was surely a welcome feature.

Unless you have a big garage and a need for another hole to throw money down, this car probably doesn’t make sense at this price.  There would be so much to do to bring it back to pristine shape.  The only advantage you would have would be the possibility of starting a vintage limousine business on the side.  People are willing to spend until it hurts for the perfect wedding, especially if her parents are paying for it.  Painted white, it could be a real money maker.  The question is not if it could turn a profit.  The question is, of course, could you afford to buy it and restore it first?

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Comments

  1. 68custom

    these early A/C systems had no electric clutch, the compressor was always running. this car was a beauty back in the day, hope it is able to relive it’s past glory! bet it looked great in blue!

    6+
    • Bill McCoskey

      By 1955, The GM Delco rotary compressors all had a clutch, same for Lehigh V-4 compressors used on some Buicks & Packards, V-twin Airtemp compressors on MoPaR vehicles, and single cylinder Borg-Warner compressors used in AMC, Ford, and aftermarket units.

      1+
    • Loco Mikado

      Yep, in the winter you just took the belt off for the A/C.

      1+
  2. Thomas Cotrel

    It would make sense as a prom or wedding limo.
    I would not worry about originality and prioritize making it a daily driver. If rebuilding the engine is too problematic find a crate engine. Upgrade the brakes to discs all around, replace the electrics, don’t be afraid to go with OEM over NOS.

    5+
    • Brad

      Agreed, Thomas – I’d put most of the money into the paint and passenger compartment. This car is all about a remarkable first impression, not examining the engine bay at a cruise-in. I’d find a good 5.3 Vortec from some Silverado or ‘Burb and get it on the road.

      4+
  3. Miguel

    I think he is way off on his price.

    These limos have never had a high price tag unless they were connected to a famous person.

    He says it was a California car until 1978 then parked on a cement floor since then.

    How did it then get to have rust holes in the floors?

    This car will take a very special someone to tackle it.

    Good examples can be found for the same money or even less.

    I don’t think the miles, at 46,900 matter at all when the car is in this condition.

    3+
  4. CCFisher

    Black leather was common in the chauffeur’s compartment for a limo with a divider window, even when the rear compartment was upholstered with cloth. Also, I believe the ’57 Imperial was the first car built in the US with curved glass, so this car should have flat side glass.

    This would make a fun driver!

    2+
  5. Fred w.

    I agree that the glass is flat. Seller will eventually have to settle for a lot less due to the high restoration cost and low number of potential buyers.

    2+
    • Scott

      The glass is flat. I have a 58 limo. Beautiful cars. Lots of original chrome.

      0
  6. mike D

    I would tend to believe that blue was not the original color either , note the passenger window is spider webbed , agree the price is out of the ballpark, probably would pay that for one that is in better shape than this one . although things seem to be in decent shape, if someone is going to get it up and running for something other than their own use.. most everything would have to be replaced shame.. bet it looked really nice when it was new .. could go on and on with what ” improvements” I would do, but that would be some serious dreaming !

    0
    • Miguel

      How does a broken window show the color of the car?

      2+
    • mike D

      didn’t say the window showed the color of the car just more to add to the list of things to do , tho being flat glass, I guess it is easy to replace

      0
      • Miguel

        Sorry I read it wrong. That damned comma.

        1+
  7. Michael Schine

    Looks all there. 800 Produced, of a pampered premium car should not be difficult to sort and restore. Predict front floor pans have rust due to leaking of AC while driver was waiting on his passengers. Not uncommon for these early AC cars to drip from the AC systems and vents. Yes, flat side windows. Cadillac first used curved side glass in 1965. Seller is inconsistent on asking price. Here is only asking $8K. For a Cadillac enthusiast not a bad project or price. Wonder which HP engine this one has? Could be the Eldorado performance engine option. Very pretty White ’58 Fleetwood 75 Limo is on the internet. Bet this was originally white as well. http://topclassiccarsforsale.com/cadillac/351386-1958-cadillac-fleetwood-series-75-limousine.html

    0
      • Miguel

        The white car is not a limo but a 9 passenger sedan. That lowers the value just a bit.

        1+
      • Miguel

        This white car that is purported to be a Playboy car, I don’t think could be.

        Hef moved to the mansion in 1971 and this car has California plates from around 1965. I doubt he would have bought such an old car to drive around in. The car would have been 13 years old at the time.

        2+
    • Miguel

      It is highly unlikely it would have the Eldorado engine.

      The buyers of these cars were the passengers. Most of these cars had very few option for the driver.

      There would have been no need to spend extra on a more powerful engine.

      0
  8. Miguel

    And about rarity, on that site listed above topclassiccarsforsale.com there are no less than 4 1958 Series 75 cars for sale. That doesn’t scream rare to me.

    1+
  9. Mark S.

    Biggest problem is that it’s just to dam big for The average guy to store and restore. It would make a great long distance touring car especially if you modernized the chassie, brakes and drive line. I’d restore it in such a way that the back seats folded into a big bed. That would make it easy to pull over on a long trip and have a good nights sleep. A pop up miny kitchen in the trunk would be nice to have on a long road trip too. I’d make that so it could be removed when not needed. Just a dreamt up moment. I would never consider a car like this again just dam big.

    1+
    • Brad

      I like it, Mark. Hook it up to a jet black 1960s ‘canned ham’ trailer with zebra upholstery, just for the hell of it.

      1+
  10. Van

    I really think an executive limo service would work. Restomod the car, engine, brakes, trans (ac).
    I can’t imagine the company CEO not being impressed.
    Crank up the rat pack on the XM, pass out quality booze.
    I think this young man is due for a promotion.
    Sir, this young man is the same age as
    the car.

    1+
  11. Ronald G Bajorek jr

    I love this car

    0
  12. Bill McCoskey

    If someone has the desire to operate a vintage limousine service, the best way to end up with $1,000,000 after 5 years of hard work and rarely having your weekends to yourself, is to start with $2,000,000.

    99.9% of all limo rentals are by people who want to go from point A to point B with more passengers than a sedan can handle. They don’t really give a damn if the car is modern or vintage, as long as the car and driver are reliable.

    Almost 80% of all vintage limo rentals are in the form of weddings, and they all take place on weekends, mostly on Saturdays. Proms? You don’t want to do proms! Between the kids puking in the car, to damages from sharp objects & worse, proms are only 2 nights for 1 or 2 weeks of the year!

    If you think you will make money renting your car[s] one day a week, and still pay for running expenses, AND HUGE INSURANCE COSTS, you’re going to be very disappointed. Don’t even think about running a “for hire” limo service on antique tags with non-commercial insurance. If you have a claim, you will quickly discover you don’t have any insurance because all the vintage vehicle insurers specifically forbid this type of use.

    Before the big limousine business shake-up over steeply rising costs, and consumer tastes changing towards the use of “black cars” [dark 4-door sedans with driver], I ran a successful vintage limo service [in Washington DC] with 8 to 12 vintage vehicles, but it was still a part time business. I was able to keep them running because I also owned a large antique car service and restoration facility.

    I closed the company in 1990 when for the 4th year in a row my liability insurance doubled in cost, with zero claims! To give you an idea of how much the limo industry shrunk, 2 years later the DC area yellow page ads for limousine rental had been reduced from about 15 pages, to one single page.

    7+
    • Brad

      Thanks for the splash of cold water, Bill. Certainly sounds like you’ve been in the trenches – it’s a fun idea on paper but I don’t need to go through the experiences you did.

      0
    • mike D

      Bill, thankx for the wake up call, seems like years ago I saw an article about ” vintage limo service” it might even have been you.. and that was always in the back of my mind to make $$ , if I only had $$ to start .. also to add to the list is when the suckers break down so, now my age, and dream are working against me you do make a lot of sense .. but.. on the other hand.. imagine this MO sheen in a glossy black paint sparkling wheel covers . and what not .. but if not for anything else.. to buy it and just drive it, and watch the stares

      0
    • carsofchaos

      Excellent insight and info Bill. I have a friend who thought it would be a good idea to rent out 3 or 4 of his late model Town Cars to Uber drivers. The insurance costs per month alone sunk the idea quickly, not to mention the wear and tear on his vehicles.

      0
    • carsofchaos

      Excellent insight and info Bill. I have a friend who thought it would be a good idea to rent out 3 or 4 of his late model Town Cars to Uber drivers. The insurance costs per month alone sunk the idea quickly, not to mention the wear and tear on his vehicles.

      0
  13. Vince H

    Engine size is 365. Buick was 364.

    0
  14. Nova Scotian

    …funny I don’t hear of any movie moguls or financiers of money commenting on restoring this forgotten barge.

    0
  15. Dovi65

    She was a real looker in her prime.It’s too bad that most limos didn’t fare well over time.
    If only I had the bank account to restore this machine. I’d have to clear the adjacent lot to be able to park her off the street. Hope this one goes to a good home

    1+
  16. carsofchaos

    Dig the car. Restoration makes no real sense financially or otherwise, get it safe to drive, convert the brakes, get the machanicals right, fix the broken glass, and enjoy it as is. You’ll be a hit at the car shows.

    0

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