18-19 August 2006
1970 Cadillac N.A.R.T. Coupe
- Chassis no. 1486238
Sold for $57,750
400 hp 500 cu. in. overhead valve vee eight-cylinder engine, four-speed automatic transmission, four-wheel independent suspension with torsion bars, four-wheel disc brakes.
In the late Sixties being Ferrari’s US distributor put Luigi Chinetti back in the driver’s seat which he had exited nearly twenty years before after his last Le Mans win. His North American Racing Team attracted the best drivers and had no trouble selling its used, and frequently race-winning, team cars to wealthy clients. From its headquarters in Greenwich, Connecticut the Chinetti organization enjoyed success and admiration.
However, even in these heady times, there was a cloud on the horizon: the certainty of more stringent auto emissions regulations. There also was an apparent reluctance on Ferrari’s part to acknowledge the superiority of mid-engine designs, or at least their attractiveness to potential buyers of high performance limited production automobiles. What part these factors played in the evolution of the 1970 Cadillac N.A.R.T. offered here is only conjecture, but work began in 1969 on an exciting and daringly different four-seat, mid-engined concept which became the 1970 Cadillac N.A.R.T.
Conceived by Luigi Chinetti, Jr., the Cadillac N.A.R.T. was designed to provide Chinetti’s clients with a luxurious, sophisticated, high performance four seat automobile that could be built in limited quantities at a reasonable cost. It was based upon the simple but ingenious concept of relocating the front wheel drive Cadillac Eldorado power train to behind the rear seats to create a mid-engined layout, then using other standard Cadillac assemblies for the front suspension. Carefully packaged and built in limited series by independent coachbuilders in Italy, all of whom were well known to the Chinetti family, it promised to deliver neck-snapping performance in a distinctive package.
Luigi Chinetti, Jr. worked with General Motors in the initial planning and, with GM’s guidance, employed an Art Center graduate to convert the layout and Chinetti’s concept drawings into full size elevations. Following the practice of a major automaker, a full size clay model was then made in GM’s studio. Zagato was chosen to build the prototype from the drawings and clay model. Chinetti provided a Cadillac Eldorado and other parts from which the finished car, offered here for the first time to the public, was constructed.
In addition to the Cadillac Eldorado powertrain, including the torsion bar suspension and disc brakes, the front suspension of the Cadillac N.A.R.T. is from a full size Cadillac, with the giant vented disc brakes needed to arrest a loaded six-passenger Cadillac. All the comfort and convenience features expected by buyers of Cadillacs, or of top of the line Ferraris for that matter, were provided including power steering, power brakes, power windows, climate control air conditioning and an AM-FM signal seeking stereo.
The design communicates its American origins with flared wheel arches that tightly wrap the tires but those cues are countered by other elements of Luigi Chinetti, Jr.’s design. The reverse wrapped rear window is buried deep within the roof’s rear quarters to give adequate access to the mid-located engine and the rear deck is high both to enclose the engine and to give a reasonable amount of luggage capacity for a four-passenger automobile. The side windows drop below the fender tops, giving the driver and passengers great visibility. High visibility also has another aspect: it allows the occupants of this distinctive and rare automobile to be recognized as they pass by in comfort and safety and at speed.
Fitted with pop up headlights over shallow parking lights recessed in the full width grille, from the front there is no mistaking the Cadillac N.A.R.T for anything but the high performance luxury coupé that it is.
After this prototype’s completion it was displayed at the 1971 Turin show by Zagato and a few months later on Chinetti Motors’ stand at the New York International Automobile Show. It was reportedly well received by potential buyers, but Chinetti’s Ferrari business had come to require their full attention and a second prototype for further development work was never built. This is the only example of the Cadillac N.A.R.T. ever built.
It was acquired nearly twenty years ago by the present owner in original, as-displayed condition directly from Luigi Chinetti, Jr. Since then it has had cosmetic attention and consistent care and maintenance.
Concept cars and prototypes are among the most exciting and vibrant area of collecting today but few examples have escaped either the manufacturers’ collections or the crusher. As an example of an extremely rare collaboration among three of the most recognized and respected names in automobiles, Cadillac, Zagato and Chinetti, the Cadillac N.A.R.T. is particularly important and rare.
“Unique” is a word frequently misused when describing collector cars, but in the case of the Cadillac N.A.R.T. it is fully deserved. Whether it is conserved as an artifact of automotive history, advanced concept and design or treated to a concours restoration for the many shows, events and concours where it would be an appreciated participant, this is a unique opportunity to acquire a unique automobile with the combined heritage of Cadillac, Zagato and Luigi Chinetti’s North American Racing Team.
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