Auctions and Brokerage
Coachwork by Saoutchik
Rick Carroll, Jensen Beach, Florida (circa 1985)Don Williams, Danville, California (acquired from the estate of the above circa 1991)Noel Thompson, New Vernon, New Jersey (acquired in October 1992)Current Owner (acquired from the above in 2002)
36th Salon de l’Automobile, Paris, France, October 1949Pebble Beach RetroAuto™, Pebble Beach, California, August 2009Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance®, Pebble Beach, California, August 2012
While Cadillac ruled the American luxury-car market after WWII with its incomparable design and engineering prowess, a select few wealthy buyers demanded “show car” styling while Europe’s top coachbuilders awakened to the creative possibilities afforded by a sophisticated American V-8 platform. Renowned French coachbuilder Jacques Saoutchik and his talented son Pierre accepted the challenge to design and build two dramatic show cars based on the Cadillac Series 62 chassis in 1948. From their debut, they created an absolute sensation, one that continues today with the dramatic Three-Position Cabriolet offered here.
While Cadillac’s newly restyled Series 62 line for 1948 was an ideal foundation for a true coachbuilt show car, it was nearly impossible to procure a bare chassis from Cadillac, which was striving to supply its dealers with finished cars. Nonetheless, connected insiders were accommodated by the factory, and it is well known that two bare Series 62 chassis were built and sold by Cadillac for 1948. It is also known that Tommy Lee’s Don Lee Cadillac in Hollywood, California, arranged with Roger Barlow of International Motors in Hollywood for at least one (486237307) to be sent to Saoutchik in France for Louis Ritter. That was the sister car to the more elaborate Three-Position Cabriolet offered here: chassis 486234577, also by Saoutchik. Extravagantly designed and beautifully finished, both cars shared Saoutchik’s avant-garde design language, including artful bumpers, sweeping front fenders, and brilliant chrome trim preceding each fender. While generously proportioned, the size of these vehicles was skillfully minimized with skirted fenders and use of color to counterbalance the cowl height.
One of these Cadillacs' early devotees in America was Strother MacMinn,the highly influential designer whose career included 50 years on the faculty of Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design. Mr. MacMinn had photographed one of the cars circa 1950 at an event held at the Miramar Hotel in Santa Barbara, California, and he vividly recalled its striking colors and painted cane work accents. “What a sweeping, dynamic design! The ideal combination of brilliant French craftsmanship and a refined, bullet-proof American chassis,” MacMinn wrote of the fabulous lavender Cadillac.
Due to their basic similarities, some confusion has long existed between the Saoutchik-bodied 1948 Cadillacs. However, thanks to painstaking research and documentation amassed by Peter M. Larsen of Denmark in his recently published and exhaustive book, Jacques Saoutchik, Maître Carrossier, photographic evidence confirms that this car, chassis 486234577, was indeed Saoutchik’s 1949 Paris Salon car. However, it was not, as has often been written, the car commissioned by wealthy New York furrier Louis Ritter with the assistance of Hollywood dealer Roger Barlow. Other accounts state that this car was once owned by Hollywood actress Dolores del Rio, but this has not been conclusively confirmed, and very little further history of its early years has been found. Nonetheless, this Saoutchik Three-Position Cabriolet arrived in California by 1950 and surely captured plenty of attention with its audacious design and colors.
By at least the mid-1980s renowned collector Rick Carroll had added this car to his incredible collection and, soon after his passing in 1990, Don Williams, of Danville, California, was able to buy the Cadillac from Mr. Carroll’s estate. In 1992, Mr. Williams found the perfect collector to be the next caretaker of the curvaceous Saoutchik Cadillac: Noel Thompson. Mr. Thompson, who had an astonishing collection of American classics, soon retained gifted restorer Mike Fennell of Southern California to return the car to its original glory.
Following completion, the Saoutchik Cadillac earned AACA National First Prize honors in 1993 and 1994. It was acquired by the consignor in 2002, and its restoration was freshened before the car was exhibited at the Pebble Beach RetroAuto™ in August 2009 and the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance® in 2012. Predictably, this Saoutchik Cadillac has continued to garner worldwide coverage in numerous magazine and newspaper articles. Simply striking, fascinating throughout, and one of only two postwar Cadillacs ever bodied by Saoutchik, this 1948 Series 62 Three-Position Cabriolet beautifully embodies the unbridled creativity of Jacques and Pierre Saoutchik.