Elvis Presley and his famous luxury gold Cadillac
When you think of a Cadillac, you tend to think of ELVIS. The two have gone together ever since he bought his first “Caddy” in 1955. It was a Cadillac Fleetwood Series 60 Special Sedan. From this point on, Elvis began a life long love for the car.
Elvis soon became the Cadillac King. In his lifetime he bought over 100 Cadillacs, spending millions of dollars customizing them. Elvis also gave many of these amazing cars away to family, friends, associates, police officers and even total strangers. However, being Elvis, he just had to have something that he could call his own unique style. A Cadillac fit for a King.
Upon Elvis’s release from the U.S. Army, Elvis’s success grew with massive hits with both records and movies. Elvis bought himself a 1960 Series 75 Fleetwood convertible limousine, registration number 2X-139, which in 1960 was one of the most luxurious of vehicles. While recording the soundtrack to his latest movie, “Follow That Dream”, Elvis met George Barris. Barris is the owner of “Barris Kustom Industries” in Hollywood, California. Barris is well known as the "King of Kustomisers". He created some of America's most famous custom cars for films and television series, including “The Munsters”, “The Green Hornet”, and the Batmobile used in the 60’s Batman TV series, which only took Barris three weeks to build. Elvis commissioned Barris to customize his 1960 Series 75 Fleetwood convertible limousine. This would cost him a total of $100,000 (approx. $2.3 million US Dollars today) to have it fitted out with just about every little luxury you could possibly think of at that time.
Before we look at the interior, the exterior is equally flamboyant. Barris gave the car an entirely new look. Modifications included lengthening the roof with the rear quarter windows removed and replacing them with small porthole style windows. They could be sealed with a plush velvet style plug to fit in the window space for privacy. Another change was a smaller sized rear window. The entire top was covered with coarse white pearl imitation leather. The paintwork is done beautifully with forty (40) coats of paint, but not just any old paint. This paint was translucent pure diamond dust pearl, which was made from crushed diamonds and fish scales. It was imported from the Orient. The paint was then mixed into a plastic liquid base, then sprayed onto the bodywork with a high pressure hose. It was then followed by hand rubbing into a high mirror-shine finish. The rest of the impressive exterior included the bumpers (fenders), the front grille, hubcaps, wheel-rims, covers, wing mirrors, door handles, and the rims of the headlights which were plated in 24-karat gold.
We have all seen the film footage of this car in the movie ‘This Is Elvis’. This car was pure bling, pure luxury, pure Elvis. The top panel at the rear is designed in a horseshoe pattern, air foam biscuit tufted panels made from gold frieze imported especially from France. It is finished off with inserted pearl buttons. The back seat is in a semi-circle, which has the same design biscuit and beaded pleats. This includes the inside of the boot (or trunk), which is upholstered in white pearled imitation leather -grained vinyl and imported gold-colored crushed velvet. The floor is covered with thick white sheepskin carpet. Gold lamet curtains covered the now smaller rear window. They also separated the front and rear seats.
Elvis could not get enough gadgets and this King of Cadillac’s oozed them. The metal trim on the door panels are 24 karat gold. This includes the air vent covers, and interior light fittings, etc. On the inside of the roof are six 24 karat gold 45 rpm records, each one engraved with one of Elvis’s hit records. The main gadget section which faced the rear seats is called the “Centre Lounge”, which housed many of those boys toys, all being 24 karat gold plated including a bar full of Pepsi, a vanity case, an electric razor, duel French made radio telephones, a shoe buffer, a refrigerator, an ice cube maker which makes ice cubes in 2 minutes, electric clippers, a gold brush, a Kenwood anti-theft system, a state-of-the-art entertainment system that included a Kenwood multi-speaker stereo system, a 10-disc auto-changer record player (AP-1 RCA Victor Auto Victrola ) and amplifier, a Kenwood AM-FM radio and a gold-plated swivel-mounted RCA color TV. Along with the stereo system inside the car, there were also top of the range speakers that were mounted underneath the front bumper (fender). The system can also be used as an intercom with microphones for Elvis and his chauffer to communicate. Elvis liked to sit on the right side of the car at the rear. Barris was informed of Elvis’s preferences and ensured that all the controls were situated on the right side of the car. Along with the controls in the rear, the driver can also control the radio, air-conditioner, heat & climate control, and all the door locks. The driver also controls the power to all the entertainment systems should Elvis exit the car. If various parts of the system were left on, the driver could turn them all off from his seat. The duel French made radio telephones (24 karat gold flake) were installed so that the driver could pick up all incoming calls. The driver would then use the intercom to inform Elvis who was on the line. If he wanted to take the call, Elvis would simply pick up his phone located in the middle of the rear seat.
After the customizing was completed, the car was delivered to Elvis who after setting his eyes on it for the first time said; “Mr Barris, this is the most beautiful car I have ever seen.” Barris told Elvis that he couldn’t be anymore pleased with the work he had done on the car. It’s not known how much or how often Elvis used the car. An interview with actress Yvonne Craig was done for an online Elvis show, “Elvis Express Radio” . She appeared in two movies with Elvis, ‘It Happened At The Worlds Fair’ and ‘Kissin Cousins'.
“Elvis and I dated. It wasn’t the love of our lives but we liked each other. I really loved the way that he was. Elvis never asked anyone out. At least I don’t think he did. Joe Esposito got that job. I guess that way, Elvis never had to hear no. But who would say no? I said yes, I would go out with him. So, the day comes and the driver knocked on my door. Elvis remained in the limo. When I went out to the car there was this dreadful looking Cadillac. I mean it was so over the top. When I got in, I sank into six inches of plush carpet. He had this sheepish grin on his face; he said I thought you would get a kick out of this. So Elvis knew it was over the top. (laughing) I remember it had a bar in the back that was full of Pepsi because he did not drink and neither did I. This car was so bright that it looked like it was glowing. I was recently buying a car and they asked me if I would like a white one. I said that would be fine. When the car arrived the color looked like that Cadillac. I told the seller, I can't buy this car. He asked why not? I said, because it looks like an Elvis Presley mobile. Well they did not have another and I needed a car right away, so I took it. The next day I went to lunch and a friend of mine saw the car and said you have an Elvis Presley Pearl. So I have come full circle because I am now driving one.”
The car was certainly an eye catcher and it was not too long before it became obvious that it was unable to be driven around the streets. The car would literally stop traffic whenever it went out in public. Hoards of people would surround the car knowing it was Elvis’s. It was also impossible to leave the car unattended. When fans got close to the car they would touch the bumper, door handles, paint work, and as a result, Barris would send a bill to Elvis for several thousand dollars for what he called “repairs”. Elvis was disgusted and felt he was being taken advantage of. He ordered the car to be storex in the garage at Graceland.
In 1965, ‘Tickle Me’, Elvis’s latest movie, was about to be released. As promotion, Colonel Parker persuaded RCA Records to buy the gold car for $24,000 (a fraction of what Elvis had paid out for it). He sent it out to local premiers around the country and at the same time used the draw of the car, to distribute promotional items such as postcards, record and 8-track catalogues, and brochures.
Between 1965 and 1966, Elvis’s gold Cadillac made appearances at cinemas and in shopping centres across the U.S. In March 1966, the gold car was given a new registration (AY-394) and was brought to the Dodgers Stadium parking lot in Los Angeles, California during the filming of Elvis’s next movie, ‘Spinout’. Amongst promotional items, there were photos taken of Elvis, Colonel Parker, Larry Geller and the leading ladies: Shelley Fabares, Deborah Walley and Diane McBain. As 1966 was coming to an end, the car tour proved to be a great success. In Houston, Texas, 40,000 people came to take a look and walk away with a FREE ‘Elvis’ Gold Car’ postcard. Then it was announced that the car would be going on a tour of Australia for a fund raising tour. It was in support of the Benevolent Society of New South Wales. The Cadillac toured forty towns and raised (in today’s money) almost one million dollars. Before the car even left Memphis, Elvis purchased one thousand dollars worth of toys to be put inside the car to be handed out to needy children around Australia. it arrived, in January 1968. Elvis continued his connection with the Benevolent Society throughout his life and he was later appointed a Life Governor. He was also presented with a certificate which can be seen on display in Graceland.
Wherever the gold car was on display, fans were able to buy souvenir items, which are considered genuine collector’s items among today’s Elvis fans. Some of these items are worth a lot of money on the collectors market. These souvenirs include, a souvenir postcard, a souvenir brochure, two black and white RCA publicity pictures of Elvis, Australian Elvis 'gold label' singles which came with a special Gold Car autograph sticker.
Another display contained about forty gold record awards in recognition of the massive record sales that Elvis had achieved in Australia. Once the tour was over, the collection of gold awards were to be sent back to the United States and presented to Elvis after the tour. In reality, some of the gold 45’s were given to Elvis and a few are now on display at Graceland. The remainders are stored in Elvis Presley Enterprises vaults. However, none of the gold albums were sent over to the United States and to this day their location is unknown.
By the end of the Australian tour, around 400,000 fans had visited Elvis’s Gold Car. It had been displayed at 46 different venues. Elvis’s Gold Cadillac resides in the Country Music Hall Of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee. It has been there since it was donated to the museum by Elvis, Colonel Parker and RCA Records. When the car first went on display, the Hall of Fame devised a special rigging, which lifted the roof of the car up and separated it from the body when the controls were touched by visitors. Fans could then get a better look inside the Cadillac and all the gold equipment, including the six replica 24 karat gold records that are attached to the interior roof. From 1984 to 1987, visitors to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum could buy exclusive souvenirs for Elvis’s Gold Car which included beer mugs, belt buckles, coffee mugs, t-shirt, salt and pepper shakers, etc. The gold Cadillac still resides at the Country Music Hall of Fame. If you are going to Memphis for Elvis Week, make sure to set aside some time to go visit this car at the Country Music Hall of fame.
Lee Dawson / Joe Krein
Elvis Files Magazine Issue 4 June 2013
THE GOLD PLATED 1960 CADILLAC ELDORA DO CONVERTIBLE FEATURES :
14 KARAT GOLD PLATING EXTERIOR COMPONENTS
KENWOOD STEREO DISC ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM
KENWOOD DISC /CASSETTE /AM-FM MULTI SPEAKERS
GOLD PLATED DASH , DOOR INSERT PANELING
COLOR GOLD PLATED TV AND MUSIC CONSOLE
AMERICAN RACING WIRE WHEELS - GOLD PLATED
B.F. GOODRICH WHITE SIDE WALL TIRES
40 COATS OF TWO TONE GOLD / PEARL OF ESSENCE LACQUER PAINT
HAND SWIRLED GOLD LEAF STRIPING BY BOB BOND
GOLD ANODIZED ACCESSORIES BY MR. GASKET PERFORMANCE
MACHINED FORMED GUITAR - E.P. GOLD HOOD ORNAMENT
GOLD CRUSHED IMPORTED VELVET ,TUFTED , GOLD BUTTONS
WHITE PEARLED LEATHER GRAINED VINYL UPHOLSTERY
SHEER COMFORT SHEEPSKIN FLOOR CARPETS
GOLD RECORDS MOUNTED INTO TONNEAU COVER
FRENCH CELLULAR GOLD AND WHITE PEARL PHONE
PADDED DESIGN GOLD SAFETY DASH PANEL
WHITE AND GOLD UPHOLSTERED TRUNK COMPARTMENT
CHROME PLATED AND PAINTED ENGINE ACCESSORIES
KENWOOD ANTI THEFT SECURITY SYSTEM
CENTER REAR SEAT ENTERTAINMENT - MUSICAL CONSOLE
24K INTERIOR / EXTERIOR ORNAMENTATION
ENGRAVED DASH PLAQUE
SHOE SHINE SYSTEM
THE ABOVE CARD CAN ALSO BE FOUND WITH THIS BACK. RARER THEN THE BLANK BACK VALUE $40.00
ELVIS'S GOLD CADILLAC TOURED FOR RCA RECORDS AROUND THE WORLD IN THE 1960S
TODAY , THE CAR CAN BE SEEN ON DISPLAY AT THE COUNTRY MUSIC HALL OF FAME AND MUSEUM IN NASHVILLE , TENNESSEE
above promo folder file. back is blank. does have a small nipper and all star shows. date 1968 interior has a complete description of the car