Automobiles of Arizona

21-22 January 2010


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Lot 253

1956 Cadillac "Maharani Special" Motorama Show Car

Sold for $225,500

285 bhp, 365 cu. in. overhead valve V8 engine, Hydramatic three speed automatic transmission, independent front suspension with coil springs, live rear axle with leaf springs and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 133"

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.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

Cameron Smyth

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Cameron Smyth joined RM Sotheby’s as a Car Specialist in 2015, working out of our corporate office and providing assistance on c... read more

David Swig

+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more