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"Lost  And
Found!"

 "Cadillac
Motorsports
Heroes"

"Le Mans
  Cadillacs

"The Royal
Baby
  Cadillacs

"The Best And
The Worst"

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Chairman"

"Letters To The
Editor"

"Comment From
The Secretary"

 

NEWSLETTERS


Ron Van Gelderen, past president of the Cadillac LaSalle Club and author with Matt Larson of LaSalle, Cadillac's companion car, stands in front of GM Chairman, Bob Lutz's Convertible 1934 LaSalle.  In front of Ron, at the Detroit Centennial in 2002, is the matching Coupe he himself once owned.
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Chairman's Bits Letters to Editor Membership Sec
(Click above to access sections indicated - general items below)

Le Mans Cadillacs
By Maurice Hendry
    The 24-hour race at Le Mans, quite apart from several British successes, must also go down in history as an event in which in 1950 a fairly standard Cadillac saloon averaged over 81mph for the 24 hours and finished eighth. There was much favourable comment about its silence and stability at high speed. The significance of this feat was noted by the press throughout the world and it was pointed out in ‘The Motor’ that such a challenge by a comparatively stock car from across the Atlantic laid a certain responsibility on our own manufacturers to see that an adequate reply should be made 12 months later. But we failed to make motoring history at Le Mans in such a way. This was from the British press some fifty years ago.
     Today, of course, I am writing after the failure of Cadillac’s entry last year when the cars finished twentieth and twenty first, partly because the 750hp Northstar engine had to be drastically down-rated to comply with race regulation. But then look at Mercedes ‘aviating’ entries the year before, when they put on a display worthy of Warbirds Over Wanaka! (This is what brought engine power limits by the race authorities)
     While I would be delighted if Cadillac succeeds at Le Mans (and they will be back for two more years, again in contrast to Mercedes who have tossed in the towel), I don’t think Le Mans is all that important in assessing luxury, quality, prestige automobiles. Most of the best makes have never competed there. The cars are specials extraordinaire! To me, it is important to have, say, the world’s best air-conditioning, both bi-level and tri-level, rather than registering the highest g-pull on the skid pads (which most owners would never see anyway).
     No German cars until recently have had air-conditioning systems equal to American cars, where this superiority has been taken for granted for decades, but never mentioned by journalists. Let me cite something else - stereo. I bought my 1964 Coupe deVille from Leila and Murray Fastier, Kiwis who lived Stateside but regularly returned to New Zealand. Both were professional musicians, very significantly in this context. They told me they preferred to sit out in the Cadillac at night to listen to the hi-fi in the car because it was far superior to the one in their luxury flat! Just think what Rolls-Royce or Mercedes would have done with a story like that!
     This leads me to point out that whether its self-seeking radios or automatic transmissions, most (not all, but most) desirable features of today’s luxury cars originated with US manufacturers. Here are some more: the self-starter, V8 and V12 engines (Cadillac and Packard had them in World War One!), all-steel bodywork, power steering, flat-riding suspension (front frequency lower than rear), power seats, windows, alternators, automatic headlight dipping, onboard computers, economy cylinder selection, hypoid drive, limited-slip diff, etc, etc. None of these vital attributes came from Mercedes, Rolls, or any European maker - they’re all-American, mateys!
     Just a final dig at the New Zealand Herald, which publishes some amazing Cadillac misinformation from time to time. When announcing the Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph (BMW V12, ZF transmission), much was made of the care in testing the car: "The car is mounted on special test equipment, simulating road conditions of all kinds, without the car leaving the facility" - In 1998? Cadillac has been doing this for about forty years!

Lost And Found!
    In 1903, Frederic Stanley Bennett, engineer and entrepreneur, imported the first Cadillac, No. 530, into England - even before a Cadillac had reached California. In September of that year, he entered the car in the 1000-mile endurance trial from Crystal Palace, first run in 1900. After a hectic eight days, including an accident with a steam omnibus that necessitated a frenzied dash to London in search of a suitable replacement wheel and an impromptu repair in a nearby cottage, car and driver won their class. Thus was the start of Cadillac in England, not much more than a year after the Cadillac Automobile Company had been formed in Detroit - and a full year before the first Rolls-Royce appeared on the road. 
      Wheel Grab.gif (8865 bytes)                  Wheel Repair.gif (10823 bytes) 
   
In 1913, after Cadillac's double winning of the Royal Automobile Club's Dewar Trophy - again instigated by the indomitable Fred Bennett - the little one-cylinder car, still sporting its odd wheel, was rescued from its now lowly duties as a delivery vehicle and once again put to the test. Ten years later to the day, and without having carried out any major mechanical overhaul, F. S. Bennett put the car through the exact same rigours of that original 1903 1000-mile trial. This time the test was carried out as a demonstration of the reliability of such an ‘aged’ car from America, many of which at the time did not match the reliability of their European counterparts. Again wholly successful and again authenticated by the Royal Automobile Club, this should have been the end of the story for a gallant, but elderly machine. However, with Fred Bennett in the driving seat, that was not to be.
    In 1953, after an unbroken string of London to Brighton runs and presumably as a gesture of defiance to normal reasoning, the 79 year-old Mr. Bennett decided to embark on a golden jubilee run with his 50-year-old, basic turn-of-the-century car. His course would again start from Crystal Palace and follow as near the exact same routes as he had taken both in 1903 and 1913. It would also, as before, start on the same date and at exactly the same time. Overseen on this occasion by the Veteran Car Club, of which he had been a founder member, Mr. Bennett set off each day on the designated return journeys to the Kent, Sussex and Hampshire coasts. On the 26th of September, after eight days driving with only one involuntary stop to clear dirt from the carburettor and two minor repairs, one securing a mudguard stay and the other re-packing the water pump, the intrepid Fred Bennett and his valiant Cadillac triumphed once more.
    The epic result was recorded for posterity on a Veteran Car Club certificate, authenticated by the members of the then committee. The certificate confirms that not only was the commemorative run a great feat of endurance but the trial was also carried out at a faster average than in 1903. In fact, such was the enthusiasm with which man and machine were perceived that an eager public from top to bottom of the land – and in America too - followed the daily progress with almost obsessive enthusiasm. Updates were reported in newspapers, broadcasts put out on the radio and even an interview transmitted on the new-fangled medium of television. Having passed well into his eighties, Fred Bennett died within a few years of this masterly feat, and that is where the ‘Bennett’ trail had gone cold.
   
As the years passed, no more seems to have been heard either of the car or the Bennett family. In the late 1960s, however, Maurice Hendry, Cadillac’s official historian, attempted to trace both the car and Mr. Bennett’s surviving relatives. In a letter dated October 15th 1970 from Veteran & Vintage Magazine the trail went cold, with the words "We believe that Lt. Cdr. G.F. Bennett (F.S. Bennett’s son and then registered owner of Cadillac 530) lives abroad. Further enquiries in recent years yielded no better results, and the matter appeared finally to have come to its natural conclusion.
    Then, last year while making tentative enquiries about visiting the Dewar Trophy during the International Meet to be held in September 2003, I was informed that a 1903 Cadillac was still listed to a Mr. Bennett on the official Veteran Car Club register. So, as unlikely as it seemed, a member of the family could have hung onto the car after all. The ‘sleuth’ within me was awakened: I accosted both the National Motor Museum and the Veteran Car Club, using the best of my persuasive powers. After telephone calls, faxes and letters, I was rewarded one evening with a voice on the telephone: that of none other than Julian Bennett, grandson to Frederic and son to the Lt. Cdr. and present owner of Cadillac 530 along with his cousin Jill Coppel in Australia.
    Thus, amazingly, after 97 years this famous little car is still in the Bennett family. Furthermore, Julian Bennett has joined the Cadillac Owners Club of GB and intends, eventually, to have the car running once more in the Brighton run – and, at some time, hopes to bring the car to our annual meet at Coombe Abbey, near Coventry. So, welcome to you Julian and thank you for joining the club, and a big ‘thank you’ to all the Bennett family for having, against all odds, hung onto the first ever Cadillac to have graced these shores all those years ago.

FSB & Cadillac .jpg (39012 bytes)
Frederic Stanley Bennett with the gallant little 1903 Cadillac after it had covered
nearly a quarter of a million miles, including the three 1000 mile endurance runs.

The Original Cadillac Motorsports Heroes
By Don Sherman
    Cadillac recently ended a fifty-year racing hiatus with the on-track debut of its Northstar LMP endurance racer. Fifty years ago, in June of 1950, Briggs Cunningham and Phil Walters co-drove a custom-bodied Cadillac to an honourable eleventh-place finish in the 24 Hours LeMans, one of the world's toughest and most prestigious motorsports events. This is the story of their lives and competitive times before and after that long-ago LeMans.
    Briggs Swift Cunningham II was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1907 to a family that had earned a fortune in shipping, meat packing and banking enterprises. After his father's passing in 1912, trust funds paid for the finest private schools and tutors. In college, Cunningham enjoyed engineering studies but stumbled over the maths. In 1929, he dropped out of Yale, married his sweetheart and began pursuing two passions – fast cars and international-class racing yachts.
    Cunningham’s career as a driver and team owner began in earnest in 1948, when he purchased the first Ferrari imported to America. After scoring second place finishes in the first and second Watkins Glen (New York) Grand Prix events in 1948 and 1949, he began dreaming of conquering LeMans with a team of American cars and drivers. Luigi Chinetti, winner of the 1949 twenty-four-hour epic and the man who sold him his Ferrari, urged Cunningham to enter the 1950 race.
    Cunningham's initial plan was to use a Cadillac-powered Ford, but French officials scotched that idea. When Cadillac's chief engineer Ed Cole volunteered support for a two-car team of race-prepared Cadillacs, Cunningham chose that option, not in hope of an overall victory, but to gain experience that might prove useful for constructing his own cars in the future.
    Cunningham's co-driver, Phil Walters, was born in 1916 in New York City and raised in a suburb of Long Island. He began fiddling with hot cars as a teenager and soon developed an insatiable appetite for street-racing. Using the assumed name of ‘Ted Tappett’, Phil talked his way into a ‘midget’ ride and won first time out. His record was remarkable - eleven wins and eleven seconds out of forty-five starts in his first season, followed by twenty-six consecutive victories the next year.
    Drafted in 1942, Walters flew gliders and C47 transports in the Second World War before being shot down during the invasion of Holland. Ironically, the German surgeon who saved his life by removing a lung and a kidney had watched Walters win a Philadelphia midget race five years before. When he returned home after hostilities had ceased, Phil weighed 130 pounds - not counting the Air Medal, Purple Heart and seven Bronze Stars pinned to his chest.
    Before the war, Phil Walters was known for manhandling his machine in the turns. After the war, lacking the energy reserves to support such a technique, he drove as smoothly as possible. Much to his surprise, the newer style was significantly faster. In 1949, he and his partner Bill Frick created Fordillac (Cadillac-powered Ford) hybrids to tow their racers from track to track. Ultimately, over 200 were built and sold, including one to Briggs Cunningham. Another was purchased by Howard Weinman, the Grumman Aircraft design engineer who collaborated on the construction of the Cadillac LeMans racer's special bodywork.
    Walters and Cunningham met at the 1949 Watkins Glen race. Until Briggs mentioned his dream of racing an American entry at LeMans, Phil had never heard of the place. Cunningham soon thereafter commissioned Frick-Tappet Motors to prepare two Cadillacs for the French race and tapped Walters to share driving responsibilities.
    Modifications for the special-bodied Cadillac included a three-speed manual transmission, a five-carburettor intake manifold, commercial-chassis brakes, a radio for car-to-pit communication, extra instruments and a 2.90:1 axle ratio. Unfortunately, the transmission's unsynchronised first gear could not be used to accelerate out of the tight turns so lap times in the lighter and more streamlined Cadillac were initially slower than the stock-bodied series 61 coupe driven by team-mates Sam and Miles Collier. As a stopgap, a stock 3.77:1 axle was installed to improve acceleration.
    On the second lap of the race, Cunningham miss-judged a corner and spent half an hour digging his car out of a sandbank. That dropped ‘Le Monstre’ - as it was derisively nicknamed - down in the standings, ultimately finishing eleventh, just behind the Collier brothers' stock-bodied Cadillac.
    Walters and Cunningham were nonetheless encouraged by the results and work began to fulfil the original dream - an all-American racing car capable of winning the French classic, campaigned by an all-American team.
    The first prototype rolled out of Cunningham's West Palm Beach, Florida, shop late in 1950. When General Motors refused to supply engines, Cunningham tapped his Yale classmate and son of Chrysler president, K.T. Keller, to help arrange alternative power. At LeMans in 1953, Walters and John Fitch drove a thundering Cunningham C-SR to a third-place finish while Briggs co-drove a C4-R to seventh. The team's C-4RK finished tenth. The next year, Cunningham entries finished third and fifth.
    The turning point for both Cunningham and Walters came in 1955. Walters signed a contract to drive for Ferrari in major sports car and Formula One events following LeMans. Barely two hours into the twenty-four-hour race, the sight of a flaming Mercedes hurtling through the air and into a crowd of spectators radically altered Phil's plans. Eighty-three fans were killed instantly and another sixteen died later, in racing's worst ever accident. "I decided at that point," remembers Walters, "if that’s what can happen in this business, I think it's time to get out. So I retired right there on the spot." Walters took up a more sedate profession - selling Volkswagens on Long Island. Today he lives in Florida.
    After spending five years and a fortune trying to win LeMans with an American-built car, Briggs Cunningham concluded that heavy American engines and fragile domestic transmissions could not compete successfully against the best European efforts. He sold his Florida factory in order to handle distribution and racing activities for first, Jaguar and then Maserati. That began ten years of success and glory for Cunningham and the drivers that prospered under his team's stewardship. Aces Walt Hansgen, John Fitch, Mike Hawthorn, Stirling Moss, Dan Gurney, Augie Pabst, Dick Thompson, Bruce McLaren, Roger Penske and others drove the blue-over-white Cunningham cars which were usually the best prepared and supported machines on the track.
    Three Corvettes wore Cunningham colours at the 1960 LeMans race, though only one survived to finish first in the GT class and eighth overall. The following year, Maseratis carried Cunningham drivers to fourth- and eighth-place finishes. Behind the wheel of a Jaguar E-Type, Briggs and co-driver Roy Salvadori finished fourth at LeMans in 1962. After a heavy crash in '63, another E-Type shared by Cunningham and Bob Grossman came in ninth. Recognising his exemplary sportsmanship, the city of LeMans, France, named Cunningham an honorary citizen. In 1967, only two years after he finally peeled off his driving gloves and hung up his helmet, his dream was realised: a Ford Mark IV driven by Dan Gurney and AJ Foyt won LeMans. Suffering poor health, Cunningham now lives in Nevada.
    This June, when the green flag signals the start of the 69th LeMans 24 Hours race, a Cunningham will once again lead the way. To honour one of the most influential sportsmen in American racing history, Cadillac named the modified Seville chosen to pace this year’s race an ‘STS Cunningham Edition’.

"The Royal Baby Cadillacs"
By Robert Maidment
    In Maurice Hendry’s book, ‘Cadillac, The Complete History‘, there is very little information about the ‘Royal’ Baby Cadillacs. Certainly he includes a picture in the early chapters describing a one-off 1/3-scale Cadillac powered by the then all-new ‘revolutionary’ electric self-starter. In the other authoritative Cadillac source, ‘Master of Precision’, written by the Leland family telling the story of Henry Leland and Cadillac, there is more. Alongside the same picture are the words: “This Baby Cadillac once belonged to Prince Olaf of Norway..... and was later sent to Wilfred Leland Junior.” 
    Logged in the archives of the Beaulieu Motor Museum is a newspaper cutting with accompanying photograph of what would appear to be the same miniature car, and which tells a different story: “Queen Alexandra’s Baby Cadillac in Pall Mall. A baby replica of the four-cylinder Cadillac, which Queen Alexandra bought as a present for her grandson, Prince Olaf of Norway.” A further revealing piece described how the Baby Cadillac, weighing nearly 400lbs, was capable of travelling some 15 miles on one battery charge at speeds of up to 12mph. How, though, could a ‘one-off’ have been sold to Queen Alexandra in England and then, almost in the same instant, given to Henry Leland’s grandson in America?
    When contacted, the registrar at The Royal Archives in Windsor Castle pointed out that material on Queen Alexandra, King Edward VII’s wife, was limited. They promised, however, to search what they had, while at the same time suggesting we approach the Norwegian Royal Household through the Norwegian Embassy.
    Surprisingly, the embassy was quick to confirm that a certain Baby Cadillac was a very popular attraction at the Norsk Teknisk Museum in Oslo. Gunnar Nerheim, the curator of the Norsk Teknisk Museum, reiterated these assertions and explained that the little car had been given many years ago to Prince Olaf, before he became King Olaf V. “Yes, certainly, Prince Olaf’s little car has always been one of our most favourite exhibits.”
    He then explained that over the years a number of people from England who had known about the car in its early days had contacted the museum. He offered to send the two-way correspondence along with photographs taken by the museum, copies of those sent in by well-wishers and those of its early days with the young princes. One photograph, a large professional black & white, was of the illustrious Fred Bennett of ‘Cadillac and the Dewar Trophy’ fame with some fifty staff gathered around the Baby Cadillac outside the manufacturers, Lockwood & Co, and, firmly ensconced in the little car, were some young Bennetts and a teddy bear. 
    One of the accompanying letters appeared to solve the mystery of the ‘one-off’ being in two places at the same time: the letter from a relative of one of the Lockwood & Co staff referred to there having been not one but two of these special cars. So, there had been two matching Baby Cadillacs, one would having gone to Wilfred Leland Jnr in America, whereabouts unknown, and the other residing happily in the Norsk Teknisk Museum in Oslo. Furthermore, a letter from the Royal Windsor Archives stated that on 28th January 1913 F. S. Bennett was paid £62 for a miniature car for Prince Olaf. What better way to end the story and tie up some historical loose ends?
    Not so: no one had counted on Maurice Hendry, the official Cadillac historian living in New Zealand. On hearing the result, additional information, in the form of an article taken from Motor Sport dated January 1971, winged its way around the world. Part way through the article were the words: “It was around 1916 that Cadillac made a present of an electrically-driven working model Cadillac two-seater to King Rama VI of Siam. This passed to Prince Chula, who took it to Cornwall and one wonders if it is still there?“ Scribbled below by Maurice was: “What about this?” The King of Siam… Cornwall – this was getting ever more confusing. 
    Having by now made contact with Julian Bennett, Fred Bennett’s grandson, another potential source of information was to hand. When confronted, Julian confided that over the years his mother had related stories of Baby Cadillacs sold to Queen Alexandra and to the King of Siam, little of which, however, Julian had tended to believe. His grandfather having died long before Julian was born, and his father’s interest having waned when the family had moved to Africa, meant that Julian was not particularly ‘up’ on family history. All the same, in amongst the papers handed down from his grandfather, Julian produced a photo-postcard of a Baby Cadillac, with his uncle and aunt as children in attendance, on which reference was made to both Queen Alexandra and the King of Siam.
    Prince Chula, as mentioned in the January 1971 Motor Sport article, was apparently well known in Europe in the 1930’s for his prowess on the race circuits. Reference in the article to the effect that he and the Baby Cadillac had “collided with chairs set at a tea table, luckily, before anyone had sat down” perhaps indicated the Baby Cadillac having been his early racing inspiration. Interestingly, Prince Chula was the great-grandson of the much romanticised King Rama IV (1851-1868) of ‘The King & I’ and ‘Anna and the King of Siam’ fame.
    As further sleuthing was pointing to the likely new owner of this car being Prince Chula’s only daughter, another letter came from Mr Maurice Hendry. Dated February 1975 and written to Maurice, a Mr David Weguelin in London asked Maurice for further information on a most unusual 1/3 scale electric car, as he had been requested to give it the ‘once over’ by the owner. Not only did the letter’s content confirm that Prince Chula’s daughter was that owner but it also stated that the little car’s bodywork was “still in fabulous condition”. Although Maurice had replied to the letter, he had heard nothing more and had been unable to follow it up due to his workload at the time. So, although the Siam (Thailand) car was re-established as recently as the mid-nineteen-seventies, it had managed yet again to slip the history books. 
    Mr Weguelin, when eventually tracked down, confirmed that the car had remained in the hands of the Thai Royal Family until the mid-nineties, at which point it was sold on to a Japanese collector. However, as is their right or any owner’s right, it seems that they do not wish to display the car or for its whereabouts to be known. Sad for us maybe but it is good to know that both Baby Cadillacs are still in good order and in caring hands.
    Therefore, if there were only two Baby Cadillacs, had someone been mistaken about Wilfred Leland Jnr and the car in America? When, as a member of the Cadillac-LaSalle Club, William H Leland II, Henry Leland’s great nephew, was contacted, he well remembered the many occasions his father and grandfather had discussed young Wilfred’s little car. An e-mail from Richard Sills, CLC recent past-president, quoting from Walter McCall’s book, ‘80 Years of Cadillac LaSalle,’ stated that it had long since been confirmed that “this Baby Cadillac was presented to Wilfred Leland, Jnr. on his fifth birthday.” Furthermore, Matt Larson, CLC technical editor, and Greg Wallace at the Cadillac Museum, remember a photograph sent in some years earlier purporting to be of Wilfred Leland’s little car, dismantled and in ‘rough’ condition – they had both concluded that the photograph was in fact genuine. Then Yann Saunders of the Cadillac Database, stated in an e-mail: “I think the toy I saw at the Huntington Beach swap meet in California some 25 years ago, probably was the Leland car.” There had then to have been a third car, as neither of the other two had ever been in anything other than ‘excellent original condition’ condition.
    Why the confusion over these little cars? Certainly, with the passing of time, it is easy for facts to become blurred, especially when the destinations of these three cars were so diverse. Perhaps Frederic Bennett, purely for commercial reasons, promoted only the two cars sold to royalty, while the history books concentrated more on the Leland connection.
    Then, when the Baby Cadillac story appeared in the Cadillac-LaSalle Club’s magazine, along with an array of pictures of the cars, Norman Uhlir, co-founder of the American club, quickly pointed out the differences of three cars. There were, as he explained, some obvious variations in the body styles that could never be attributed to later changes – nobody had previously bothered to check.
    So, of the three Baby Cadillacs made nearly a century ago, two at least are known still to exist – and in excellent condition. Just imagine if the third should surface now – three out of three. What motor manufacturer could match that? It matters not that they were built in England under Fred Bennett’s direction; such is their place in history that they will always be seen as a great trans-Atlantic joint venture. Cadillacs they were, and Cadillacs they will always be – and powered by those very units that gave its name to the Cadillac-LaSalle Club’s monthly magazine: ‘The Self-Starter’.
    Finally, this club’s thanks must go to all those above – and others – who have assisted with this research and helped put a somewhat unusual early motoring story into a semblance of meaningfulness.

"The Best and the Worst"
    Maurice Hendry, our official historian who lives in New Zealand, has informed me that Road & Track, the authoritative US motor magazine, has included five Cadillacs in their 100 best cars of the century. They are: 1908 for interchangability of parts, 1912 for electric starter and lighting, 1930 V16, 1959 for flamboyance and, despite its early problems, the 1981 4-6-8 that has now been adopted by Mercedes. As Maurice says in his letter, five out a hundred, in other words one in twenty, is an amazing number considering the vast number of makes produced over the years and the fact that Road & Track is mainly devoted to foreign imports into the US.
   
The Daily Telegraph on the other hand listed the 100 worst cars of the century. This included two Rolls-Royces, two Aston Martins, two Mercedes, two Jaguars, one Ferrari, one BMW the Dodge Viper and, despite the huge numbers and variation in models, only one Cadillac. Here is Giles Chapman’s somewhat amusing story on the Cadillac:
   
"As a first car, a Cadillac deVille convertible, with 7.2 litres of V8 engine, 8mpg if you’re very careful and more electric toys than in Steven Speilberg's attic, was a stupid choice.
   
Yet, when an American car importer showed me a snapshot of this 1967 model, with its groaning electric roof in full swing and the Baltimore sunshine glinting off its bonnet, my £3,500 savings were as good as blown.
   
When it arrived, I was dismayed to see daylight through rust holes on its sills and a bent front wing. My first journey consisted of a half-hour trip back from the dealer's garage and then a two-hour walk after it ran out of petrol in Oxford Street. Running this car was never going to be easy - or cheap.
   
Then again, it is one of the most needlessly large and heavy passenger vehicles of all time; 20ft-plus of boxy steel, heavy chrome trelliswork for a grille, seating for six large Ohio golfers and an engine noise akin to the rumbling of a nearby Tube line.
   
In a British context, of course, it achieves little more than a Mondeo estate. Driving it in the UK was like piloting some great container ship around the Norfolk broads with an elephant-like roar of scrabbling rubber if you tried any sort of driving that could conceivably be called ‘cornering’.
   
On one trip to Barcelona we signed away more than £1,000 in credit card slips for the fuel alone. Doing 90mph on the French AutoRoute’s probably meant a constant 6mpg if we were lucky.
   
Back home in London, sadly, my modest hack's income couldn't keep pace with Detroit running costs. The paint soon lost its shine, the white hood turned dingy grey and the badges were removed by screwdriver-wielding ne'r-do-wells. Finally, the council left a note on the windscreen asking whether the car was abandoned.
   
So I sold it back to the (grinning) man I bought it from for £2,000 and took a 42 per cent loss in under a year. That's youth, foolishness and Cadillacs for you, I guess."