Perhaps you have seen this photo on the internet. I run into it from time to time, but nobody has ever included a caption or text explaining the story of Elvis and this old car.
It turns out, there is quite a story. While doing research on an upcoming article in Elvis International magazine, I found something in the book “Baby Let’s Play House: Elvis Presley and the Women Who Loved Him,” by Alanna Nash.
The book stated that Elvis’ father purchased him a 1942 Lincoln Zephyr for his 18th birthday. That’s the car in the photograph. It cost $50, which was a lot of money back in 1953, especially for a man of modest means like Vernon Presley.
Elvis owned hundreds of Cadillacs, Lincolns, and other fancy cars in his life, but it is unlikely that any of them had the kind of impact on his life that this worn out old Lincoln did. The reason is simple. The car sparked a big jump in Elvis’ social life. It enabled him to go out on dates with teenage girls.
According to the book, in the first three months after his 18th birthday, Elvis used the Lincoln for at least five different dating opportunities:
Driving to a party and giving a pretty girl a ride to her home afterward.
Going to the “Teen Canteen” at McKellar Lake and enjoying hamburgers and shakes.
Attending the All-Night Gospel Singings at Ellis Auditorium to see the Statesmen and the Blackwood Brothers perform.
Parking on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River and watching the water roll by.
Taking in a movie at the drive-in theater in West Memphis, Arkansas.
The last two on the list would seem to be perfect places for serious making-out, which the book says Elvis enjoyed during this period. You can bet Elvis loved having his own car.
Elvis had enough money to pay for his gas and dating expenses, because he worked part-time at night ushering at Loew’s movie theater and selling soft drinks at Ellis Auditorium.
So, when it came time to attend his Senior Prom on April 17, 1953, Elvis used some of those earnings to rent a shiny new, dark-blue Chevy. The next day it was back to the old Lincoln again, and certainly Elvis longed for the days when he could afford to buy his own fancy new car.
That happened twenty-three months later when he purchased a 1954 pink and white Cadillac, but Elvis had to cherish his happy memories of dating in the car he received for his eighteenth birthday.
Elvis’ birthday on January 8 is always a special day for his fans.
Happy Birthday, Elvis.
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