So I caught up with this Cadillac the day after the 1970 Cadillac Calais and the white car here never grabbed me, never felt memorable. Why?
This 1962 Cadillac is probably a much more engaging subject than the 1970 Cadillac I’d caught the day before, or the 1983 Cadillac from earlier in the week. It’s got a great look, not so much set apart from the other Cadillacs by the width of its grille or the height of its fins, but the sense of quality that the construction exudes.
Just looking at that most familiarizing point of a car, the headlights (windows into a car’s soul?), gives a sense of how the three cars differ. The 1970 Cadillac has just slightly inset headlamps against dished, ridged metal. The 1983 Cadillac has nearly flush-fitting lights, not altogether different from an average commuter car. The 1962 Cadillac, however, has these deep set lights in some kind of complex assembly that looks so much closer to concept car fantasy. The closing gap between fantasy and reality as the years go on reflects the ever more affordable pricing of Cadillac’s cars. As the cars get cheaper, the more they have in common with everyday cars and the less spectacular they feel.
I think that location played a huge part in the matter: the setting of the ’70 and ’83 Cadillacs were both so welcoming for taking pictures and the light when I was shooting was so much better. The pictures delivered; they had that feel of something special that I thought was all down to the car.
This white convertible, however, is parked in what might be my least favorite parking space in New York. On the corner is a garage that does the servicing for a lot of the East Village’s old, well-maintained cars. This Cadillac is parked on the block that acts like the garage’s waiting room, while around the corner are the bays for the cars to get worked on. On that block, there are wide open views, usually few parked cars, and interesting buildings to serve as backdrops. The waiting room-block is almost always packed (affording few good angles for framing the car) and the light never seems to be right. The cars parked there always feel too shaded to me and the pictures never feel right.
I still remember vividly an old Isuzu I-Mark Diesel from my hometown because my girlfriend and I both took pictures of the car on the first day that I ever went out shooting old cars on the street. I remember looking over her picture and my picture, trying to understand her reasoning, her eye, her style. The car then, became deeply ingrained in my memory.
What I mean in all of this is that what I often think of memorable cars are rather memorable moments of Raphael/automobile unity, with a camera acting as an intermediary. The car, as a thing, is only part of a collective experience between the subject and the object. The two cans of worms I’m not opening up here are the whole host of issues brought up in terms of subject/object relationships, as well as the issue of how this sort of synthesis applies best to when cars are only functioning as separate objects. Cars get much more complicated when they are used, driven; things get mixed up in our head’s spaghetti folds when we feel them, live in them, live through them. Taking pictures is only part of the story, but as it appears with this 1962 Cadillac, photographs play a large part in how I remember cars.
Check out a design history of why the 1962 Cadillacs looked the way they did here at Curbside Classics: http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/05/curbside-classic-1962-cadillac-series-62-sedan/
and for some more history on how Cadillacs changed over the years, a topic I just hinted at, contrast these two of Ate Up With Motor’s in depth histories: the 1967–1970 Eldorado http://ateupwithmotor.com/luxury-and-personal-luxury-cars/185-1967-cadillac-eldorado.html, and the 1976 Seville http://ateupwithmotor.com/luxury-and-personal-luxury-cars/210-cadillac-seville.html
If you don’t have the gusto to go through all of those two articles, look here to The Truth About Cars’ more concentrated editorial here: http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2007/05/general-motors-branding-fiasco-part-six-cadillac-falls-down/
or in a much more personal read here, in the first Curbside Classic, a 1971 Coupe DeVille: http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/03/curbside-classics-1971-cadillac-coupe-deville/