21-22 January 2010
1956 Cadillac "Maharani Special" Motorama Show Car
Sold for $225,500
In the 1950s, if there was one thing a gearhead could always make time for, it was General Motors’ highly anticipated Motorama traveling car show. These shows were more than just a glimpse into tomorrow but rather exhibitions of the latest technical advances, secrets, styling trends of tomorrow and a look into what breakthroughs and amenities everyone would benefit from in the future. While all GM divisions took part in these cavalcades of steel and chrome, Cadillac seemed to receive some of the most innovative, if not outlandish, treatment.
On their own, the styling trends from Cadillac in the mid-1950s were a bit over the top. From the exaggerated “Dagmar” bumpers to the vast amounts of chrome used for the grille, trim and even interior appointments, everyone knew that it was a Cadillac from a block away. For 1956, a few new touches were incorporated, including the flared exhaust nacelles on the rear quarter panels, revised textures in the trademark front-end design and, most noticeably, a lower and leaner profile. While the famous, extravagant tailfins were still somewhat subdued in their size, they were certainly the talk of the town, especially if one worked for one of Cadillac’s competitors in Motor City. For the most part, these cars were among the most luxurious automobiles produced in America, and everyone expected nothing less than perfection and cutting-edge technology from GM’s top-dollar car line.
In order to help promote this image, the go-ahead was given for the 1956 Motorama for which Cadillac produced a quartet of special edition models, of which the Maharani Special is widely considered the most outlandish. From the outside, there is little to differentiate this Fleetwood Sixty sedan from a regular production model, save for the unique Chantilly metallic maroon color and the use of golden anodized saber-spoke wheels. Instead, it was the interior that really left onlookers awestruck. As one writer described recently, “it is enough to make even the most well appointed Winnebago jealous!”
Although the car was officially named the “Maharani Special,” in reference to the wife of a maharajah or king, it is widely referred to as the “Kitchen Sink Cadillac” by collectors and enthusiasts today. Its stated purpose was to store, prepare, serve and clean-up an entire meal, in a setting fit for a king. As such, it was designed as nothing short of a kitchen on wheels – a function that required the removal of about half the front seat to allow for the installation of various unique features. The first feature is a specially designed electrical hot plate on which to warm one’s food. For those who enjoyed a sandwich from time to time, a toaster was installed as well, large enough for two slices. Perishables need to be kept cool, which is why a refrigerator was also installed, with cooling systems mounted in the trunk. This unit was designed by GM’s Frigidaire division and was conveniently located for access by the back-seat chef. To serve dinner, there is enough storage for the finest china as well as a cutlery tray that features individual positions for forks, knives and spoons.
There’s even enough room for a custom-crafted folding table as well as a coffee dispenser. But the car’s most distinguishing feature – from which its nickname was born – is the kitchen sink, complete with running water supplied through a custom pump and sanitary tanks. In short, the Maharani Special was capable of offering a lavish and complete dining experience, from start to finish. Even the dishes could be washed in the sink before being stored in their respective compartments. All of these items were designed compactly within this special console and could be hidden away with a special roll-top covering that slides up to present a neat and tidy appearance for guests.
But wait, there’s more to this Maharani Cadillac! As this car was designed for affluent owners or even members of royalty, the designers took into account any cash, jewels and other valuables that might require safekeeping. The Maharani Special was therefore equipped with a safe, neatly concealed in the hand-crafted console along with a custom lady’s vanity.
Finished in its correct, original shade of Burgundy, the interior presents a Far Eastern motif that is fit for royalty. Seating and door panels are covered in a color-coordinated snake skin-pattern bolster, complemented by golden satin-print insert fabrics. Plush mouton fur carpeting covers the floors, and the engine bay retains the original Cadillac engine, as well as the beverage and water supply tanks.
In addition to the jaw-dropping aforementioned list of unique features, this car naturally retains all of its Sixty Special equipment, including all the power features one would expect from a luxury car of the era. Power steering, brakes and windows are included, and the driver’s seat can be adjusted electrically. A factory AM radio is still mounted in the dashboard as is the auto-wind clock.
With its original drivetrain, this car is reported to be in excellent mechanical order. It has been shown at only a few select shows and exhibitions and consistently draws a crowd that still marvels at all the gadgets this kitchen-on-wheels offers. Every feature the car originally came with is still in place today, although they have not been tested by the current owner.
In fact, the car shows just 1,704 miles – tremendously low mileage that was accumulated primarily from minimal movement in and around car shows. It has its original tools and still wears its original gum dipped Firestone tires, complete with an original and unused spare tire on a matching gold Kelsey-Hayes spare spoke wheel. It was formerly part of the collections of Gene Zimmerman and Joe Bortz, whose expertise in collecting rare dream cars is highly respected in the industry.
While many of the special dream cars created by Cadillac have disappeared over the years, the fact that this very special example has survived, as it was originally presented, renders it all the more desirable for dedicated collectors and avid historians of the marque.
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