19-20 January 2012

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Lot 115

1956 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham Town Car Concept

  • Chassis no. S02491

Sold for $258,500

305 bhp, 365 cu. in. OHV V-8 engine, four-speed Hydra-Matic automatic transmission, independent front suspension with coil springs, live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 129.5"

• Offered from the Estate of John O’Quinn

• One-off Motorama and Paris Salon show car, unveiled at Waldorf=Astoria

• Completely restored and operational with V-8 powertrain for show use

• Saved from destruction and hidden until the 1980s

• A wonderful example of Cadillac and GM design and engineering leadership

The Eldorado Brougham was sometimes called Cadillac’s answer to the Ford Motor Company’s Continental Mark II, but in many ways General Motors’ product was more impressive. The Eldorado Brougham was not only more exotic and exclusive than the Mark II, it commanded a price nearly a third more than the Mark II’s $10,000 sticker.

Finally readied for production in 1957, the Brougham made the show circuit in 1956, including the travelling GM Motorama tour and the Paris Salon. Known in GM Styling as project XP-48, the four-door hardtop Brougham had a nearly forgotten sibling, the Eldorado Brougham Town Car, which debuted at the New York Motorama held at the Waldorf=Astoria.

Constructed of fiberglass, the Town Car was more concept car than prototype. Just 55.5 inches high, it had a half-roof over the passenger compartment, covered in black leather, an open chauffeur’s compartment, a different roofline and more understated body-side trim. Inside, the passenger compartment was trimmed in beige leather in a “biscuit and button” motif with gold trim; the chauffeur was surrounded by black Moroccan leather and chrome. The passenger compartment was lavishly equipped with twin compartments furnished with, among other items, a decanter and cups, a vanity case and a tissue dispenser, all in gold plate. The divider bulkhead had a sliding glass window, but for contacting the chauffeur without opening the window, a bulkhead-mounted telephone was provided, also in gold.

The 1956 Motorama tour was called the “Highway of Tomorrow,” and following New York it went to Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston. In October 1956 the Town Car was shown at the Paris Salon, where it drew much acclaim. At the end of the show season, of course, the Brougham entered production, and the Town Car retreated to the shadows. Eventually, like many other GM concepts and prototypes of the era, the Town Car concept was consigned to the storied Warhoops salvage yard outside Detroit in December 1959.

The staff at Warhoops, however, most of whom had endured the hardships of the Great Depression and the rationing of World War II, could not bear to destroy it, so the Town Car sat for years under a tarpaulin until discovered by renowned Chicago entrepreneur, collector and restorer Joe Bortz in 1989. Mr. Bortz has made a career of rescuing and collecting concept cars and prototypes, particularly those of GM’s Motorama era. However, Mr. Bortz did not restore it, and instead he sold it to J.C. Whitney owner Roy Warshawsky during the early 1990s. Mr. Warshawsky planned a total restoration but sadly passed away before he could complete the job. A subsequent owner was Dick Baruk of Detroit.

Ultimately, RM Auto Restoration completed the car’s restoration and rebirth to its former glory. One particularly complex aspect of the project was the installation of a proper 365-cubic inch V-8 engine from a 1956 Cadillac sedan donor car. The engine compartment was dressed up with such items as gold-plated valve covers, dual four-barrel carburetors and unique air cleaners. Had Cadillac brought their prototype to running condition in period, this is what it would have looked like. It should be noted, however, that RM did not build the car to be road- and highway-worthy. The intention of the modification was to allow the fortunate new owner to run and drive the car on the show field, as well as on and off the trailer. Naturally, no road or safety testing was ever done, by either GM or RM Auto Restoration, and consequently the car is not suitable for road use of any kind.

The restoration is now several years old, but it still presents extremely well. The gold trim is intact and vibrant. The steering wheel is unmarked, the dashboard equipped with the original Wonderbar signal-seeking radio, and air conditioning cools the car, front and rear. The passenger compartment has deep-pile Wilton carpeting to match the beige leather upholstery, all in excellent condition. The engine compartment is clean and well detailed.

A star in its day and hardly faded by time, this historic GM Motorama show car presents beautifully and carries a fascinating history. In an age where bulky stretch limousines are the norm, it is seductive, smart and sultry, just the right car in which to amaze onlookers at a concours event. Thankfully saved from destruction for future generations to appreciate, it remains an important part of Cadillac’s design and engineering leadership.

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

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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

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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

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Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 9... read more

David Swig

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California, United States

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

Don Rose

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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

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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

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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

Ian Kelleher

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California, United States

Ian Kelleher began his automotive career immediately following his graduation from Oberlin College with a Bachelor of Arts in Politica... read more

Jake Auerbach

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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

Jonathan Sierakowski

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Ontario, Canada

Jonathan Sierakowski developed a passion for classic cars while working at a Connecticut restoration shop as a teenager. He graduated with a... read more

Kurt Forry

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Ontario, Canada

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

Peter Wallman

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United Kingdom

Peter Wallman joined RM Europe in 2007 following nearly two decades in the international advertising industry, where he was based out ... read more

Shelby Myers

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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

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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