Every once in a while I check out the “News” at Elvis.com. Unfortunately, to find the few newsworthy items, you have to skip through a lot of what really are advertisements. During the past week, so-called news reports have been about the new 64 gigabyte Elvis USB drives, the 2013 Elvis Presley Holy Land Tour, big saving on Valentines Day gifts at ShopElvis.com, and my favorite, a 30% discount at Graceland’s Chapel in the Woods.
However, one news item that caught my eye was this:
I immediately recognized the car as Elvis’ customized Cadillac that toured all over Australia in 1968. It has an interesting story. Elvis wanted to have his own classic-styled luxury limousine, so he bought a 1960 Cadillac Series 75 Fleetwood for $10,000, and he took it to Barris Kustom City in North Hollywood, California. George Barris had considerable fame for producing customized cars.
Elvis told Barris what features he wanted, and Barris gave Elvis many designs, artist renderings and engineering drawings before the modifications were decided. The price tag was $65,000, which is $487,000 in today’s dollars.
Exterior modifications made significant changes to the roof, the paint, and the trim. The headlight rims and all other trim were plated in 24 carat gold, as were hand-spun hub cap bullets and flanges. The car is painted with forty coats of translucent pearl paint containing crushed diamond dust and pure fish scales from the orient. The top was lengthened and the rear quarter panel windows were replaced by portholes.
Here’s what the rear quarter panel windows on a standard 1960 Cadillac Fleetwood look like. In addition to the portholes, the back window above was also replaced with a smaller one. The roof was covered with coarse grain white pearl naugahyde.
The interior modifications were even more impressive. Keep in mind that Elvis had no intention of driving the car himself. His concept was for a chauffer driven limousine with a yacht-inspired lounge area in the back for him.
Elvis’ Dream Car was designed to give him the ultimate in comfort by transforming the back-seat into a plush private cabin. The seats are done in air-foam biscuit tufted panels made from gold frieze (with pearl buttons) imported from France. The two-tone trim is done in white pearl Naugahyde. The side and roof panels are covered with same gold-frieze biscuit panels and white Naugahyde. Note that the porthole has the privacy cover in place, and gold lamé drapes can be closed to cover the smaller custom rear window. Not shown in the photo is a car-phone mounted in a console between the seats. To the right of where Elvis sat is his private control panel.
Here is a blow-up of Elvis’ control panel which contains the intercom microphone Elvis used to talk to the chauffer, as well as controls for the radio, air-conditioner and heater.
Here is a view of many of the customized features at Elvis’ disposal. At the top is the gold lamé privacy drapes between the front and rear seats. The gold plated color TV sits on a swivel. To the right of the TV and clock is a closed vanity case. Below the TV is a gold refreshment bar that freezes its own ice cubes in two minutes and a refrigerated cab unit. On the left is the pull-out RCA record player with 10-record automatic changer.
This shows a different view of the center lounge. The gold vanity case is open. Below it is the AM-FM tuner and the open shoe buffer. Note the TV is not on the swivel in this shot, which seems to serve as a small table for Elvis to put stuff on. Somewhere in the panel of accessories is a pull-out bar. The open side door window has the same gold lamé curtains used throughout the car.
This close-up shows the fold out shoe buffer and white mouton fur on floor.
This close-up shows the open gold vanity case which contains a gold electric razor, gold hair clipper, chrome brush, etc.
It is not recorded just how much Elvis used his dream car, but souvenir-seeking fans caused enough damage to the car that he ultimately stopped using it. He sold it to RCA who used it for promotional purposes across the country from 1965 to 1967.
Next, the car was shipped to Australia for a tour to raise money for the Benevolent Society of New South Wales. It made almost four-dozen stops and was viewed by almost 400,000 people.
Elvis’ gold car was not just displayed at large Australian cities like Sydney and Melbourne. It also appeared in schools, shopping centers, and civic centers in many smaller communities.
As the Elvis.com news report above states, the tour of Elvis’ gold Caddy raised over $110,000 ($700,000 in today’s dollars). You all know how generous Elvis was and how much he contributed to charity. You may not have known that his car could do that too
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