My Car Quest

October 23, 2020

Pinin Farina’s Missing Cadillacs

General Motors was having a love affair with Italy in the ’50s. These are the love childs…but some were lost in the wilderness…

by Wallace Wyss –

On occasion you find a one-off special named after the person who is buying it, or maybe the wife, like the several Ferraris named after Lilian, Princess of Réthy, the spouse of King Leopold III of Belgium.

But here’s one that was named after a U.S. President’s wife—Jackie Kennedy. It was created by Italian coachbuilder Pinin Farina the same year that her husband, John F Kennedy, was elected President of the United States.

Cadillac Jacqueline

Cadillac Jacqueline – photo from Old Concept Cars

Cadillac Jacqueline

Cadillac Jacqueline – photo from Old Concept Cars

The car is a very restrained design, from the side looking sort of mid-60s Oldsmobile-ish. The roofline is very thin, similar to what American Tom Tjaarda was doing at the time. He never told he he worked on it but he was with Pinin Farina in the late ’50s. The car was originally shown during the 1961 Paris Auto Salon.

Some feel the car was built by Pinin Farina in a hope to get another contract from General Motors, as they had done a few Cadillac Eldorado Broughams (maybe to counter Chrysler’s Ghia-bodied Imperials). When it went up for auction in Paris at Bonham’s Paris sale on February 5, 2011, the prediction was it would take in €200,000 – 300,000.

Bonhams said it was one of four Cadillac-based styling exercises built by Pinin Farina between 1958 and 1961, but this author has found a Pinin Farina Model 62 Cadillac made in the year 1954. Ironically, while researching this story I came across pictures of other Pinin Farina-built Cadillacs that preceded the Jacqueline, including one called the Starlight. This might have been commissioned by Cadillac, as General Motors introduced it at the Paris Motor Show in October 1959.

Pininfarina Cadillac Starlight

Cadillac Starlight – photo courtesy of Pininfarina.

The story went on to say that before that there was another PF Cadillac prototype called the Skylight, which was an open car of similar styling.

The Starlight’s big innovation was a coupe roof of Plexiglas, which could be covered with four metal plates inside. That in turn was preceded by a coupe version of the same car, which also was shown at the European Auto shows at the same time.

“Jackie’s” history involved a stay in the Pininfarina Museum for three decades, then bought as a rolling “pushmobile” by Belgian Ferrari dealer, Philippe Lancksweert, who some experts say might have paid around $40K.

In the mid-1990s it was purchased by the President of Cartier and noted car collector Alain Dominique Perrin, who sent it to Florida to be made roadworthy by Frank and Tiano Tetro of Harbor Auto Restorations in Pompano Beach, FL using a 1960 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz chassis. Be forewarned, buying a car like this is an expensive proposition as you are finishing the engineering where the creators stopped just at the styling. In 1996, it was converted at considerable effort and powered by a 325 hp Cadillac motor. The result was a fully drivable car, but it has only covered delivery mileage since its mechanical restorations.

1959 Cadillac Edlorado Brougham, one of 99 built by Pininfarina. GM Archives

According to Larry Printz of Hagerty magazine, Pinin Farina hand-built 99 Eldorado Broughams for 1959 and 101 the following year. Printz also says the desingers were Chuck Jordan and Dave Holls, GM designers in Warren, Michigan.

I saw the car at the RM Auction in Monterey in 2007. There they estimated the value at $350,000 – $450,000. Bidding reached $260,000 but it was not enough to meet the seller’s reserve. At the conclusion of the auction, the car left unsold and the next auction listing I found for it was in Paris in 2011, where it sold for 213,000 Euros (roughly $289K). It didn’t appreciate much in five years.

This writer’s conclusion: with the Jacqueline, Pinin Farina made the mistake of pandering too much to American taste when it was conceived, thinking if they made it “look American” GM would buy it. I think if PininFarina (by that time they had combined “Pinin” with “Farina”) would have done something more boldly Italian (and forget those quad headlamps for starters) it would be a more sought after car. At any rate, Cadillac lost money on every one of the 200 Broughams they had built at Pinin Farina earlier, so were not about to jump into the pool a second time.

Some questions that come to mind are: who was the Italian car nut within GM? Was it Harley Earl? Or his right hand man Bill Mitchell? Was Detroit shoving money at Italy an attempt to counter what Chrysler was doing with Ghia?

And, where did these Cadillacs go, the Skylight, the Starlight? Do they still exist–are they hidden deep within Pininfarina’s works? Or GM’s? Or were they melted down to make a dozen Fiats? To this writer’s knowledge, only the Jacqueline and the ’53 PF-designed and built three-seater have reappeared on the show/auction circuit. There is a possibility that the Starlight was for sale in New York City for $9000 at one time as a running car, but their is no confirmed reference yet. Readers?

Cadillac Skylight Convertible (Pininfarina), 1958

Cadillac Skylight Convertible – photo from Pininfarina.

Decades later, Cadillac did award a production contract to Pininfarina for the Allante, a two-seater reportedly designed in Italy. There’s no doubt it was bodied in Italy, and that, for a time, fulfilled Cadillac’s ambition to have an Italian-connected car to sell in the U.S.

Cadillac Jacqueline by Pininfarina.

Cadillac Jacqueline by Pininfarina – photo from the GM Archives.

I’ll always wonder why Cadillac didn’t have more built limited editions bodied in Italy but maybe it demoralized the designers in Warren, Michigan to see some furrin’ designers getting all the attention on a prestige model. Maybe they said “What are we–chopped liver?” and Harley Earl decided it was quieter on the home front if he didn’t go off on some path that would demoralize his troops…

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

 
 
THE AUTHOR: A fiction story about a missing Cadillac prototype will be in Wallace Wyss’ new anthology of short stories, expected to hit the press in 2021.

 
 

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Summary
Pinin Farina’s Missing Cadillacs
Article Name
Pinin Farina’s Missing Cadillacs
Description
With the Cadillac Jacqueline, Pinin Farina made the mistake of pandering too much to American taste when it was conceived, thinking if they made it “look American” GM would buy it.
Author

Comments

  1. tom burnett says

    Wow, that Cadillac Jacqueline is a really nice looking car.

  2. Excellent piece, Wallace! I wish we had it at Blackhawk…

  3. Glen Durmisevich says

    Nice article Wally. I think the Jacqueline is very clean and very Italian as compared to American design of the time. I think Pininfarina must have struggled with the size and proportions. Quite different than a Ferrari or Lancia. It would be nice if they all still existed. I don’t believe GM has any that I know of.

    The ‘’58 & ‘60 Broughams have a real presence in person. Cadillac let the designers push the envelope with the Brougham hence the sleek design. I personally prefer the ‘57/‘58 Brougham as I own a ‘57. A true Motorama Dream Car.

    Glen

  4. Wallace Wyss says

    I wish some historian would reveal who the Italian fan was in GM Styling I think Harley Earl even knew of prewar Italian re-dos of American cars Italians only to do the building of the prototype.

  5. I recall seeing some of these cars at Concorso Italiano 10-15 years ago with Pinninfaria exec’s driving prototypes across the stage. I believe they had the original Allante prototype there too.

  6. SKIP HINOJOS says

    THEY ARE NICE BUT NOT GRAND ENOUGH TO BE A CADILLAC.

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