I should say at the outset that I was a three-year-old when Elvis passed (thanks, Wikipedia!), and my parents had the good sense to start me off right with England Dan & John Ford Coley records rather than Elvis’. [And others! Look, don’t hate. I’ll bet even YOU would take “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight” over “Love Me Tender” any day of the week and twice on Sunday.]
No? Well, you must be one of the healthy number of people—note I didn’t say a “number of healthy people”—for whom “The King” means more than sequined costumes and fat jokes. You might also be one of the people than ensures that any car even suspected to have been near Elvis Presley at some point will pull decent dollars at auction.
How great is it, then, that Elvis was somehow involved with the histories of roughly ten thousand cars? It’s almost like anyone who wanted their car to sell for more money than it otherwise would’ve coincidentally found out that their vehicle had a secret Elvis-involved past. So does that mean actually “authentic” Elvis cars are worth double (or triple, or more) than a sketchy one? Bonhams’ recent sale says….
Bonhams returned to the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles for another “Classic California: Collectors’ Motorcycles, Motorcars and Related Memorabilia” sale, this time held last Saturday, Nov. 12.
And as you’d expect from an L.A. auction, there were a fair number of “celebrity” vehicles, ranging from Lot 328, the ’87 Mercedes 560SL Sean Penn gave Madonna to Lot 327, the “2054 Lexus” from the flick Minority Report (MUCH more on that last one in another feature).
But Lot 332 was not only an incredible-in-its-own-right 1955 Cadillac Fleetwood 75 Limousine, it was an ACTUAL car bought, registered and USED by one Mr. Elvis A. Presley of Memphis, Tenn. It even comes with the original SIGNED sales contract as proof.
Bonhams’ description puts it this way:
“This black Series 75 Fleetwood eight-passenger sedan appears to be typical of the 1,075 built in 1955. However, this one was originally light blue, having been repainted black upon being purchased by Elvis Presley in January, 1956 to transport him and his band to gigs around the South. Rumor has it that his band toured with the luxury limo, strapping their instruments to the roof of the car!
“The Caddy eventually was on display at the Elvis Presley Museum in the 1990s before being put on display at the Elvis-A-Rama Museum in Las Vegas. Currently owned by a prominent Texas collector, this piece of Memphis-by-way-of-Detroit history comes with the original conditional sales contract from Southern Motors of Memphis that was co-signed by Elvis’ father, Vernon Presley. Also included is the original owner’s manual with Elvis’ signature on the back cover, plus one spare tire, lug wrench, and jack. The only thing that seems to be missing is a set of blue suede shoes.”
Cheesy last sentence aside, there’s no question that this Caddy was a no-excuses Elvis relic. But just how much would a Bonhams bidder pay to sit where the swivelly-hipped one once sat? Well, with fees and whatnot included the sale price was $172k, or just above Bonhams’ high estimate of $150k. And as there aren’t many (any?) other 1955 Cadillac Fleetwood 75 Limousine sales to compare it to, I can’t say how much more expensive Bonhams’ car was thanks to its Elvis “bump.”
But what I can say is this: I do not understand the opening sentence of Bonhams’ Lot 332 description:
“It was no coincidence that 1955 was the same year that the American auto industry and Rock ‘n Roll grabbed America’s consciousness by the collar and shook it till she was dizzy about Miss Lizzy.”
I’d ask an Elvis fan if that’s code for something, but I don’t know any—and don’t really care to—so I’ll just lump it in with everything else Elvis and admit that I just don’t get it.
Which proves my point: Powerful lyrics like “But there’s a warm wind blowing, the stars are out, and I’d really love to see you tonight” need NO explanation. And I’ve never even HEARD of an England Dan or John Ford Coley car—let alone one that’s come up for auction—so I’m willing to bet that if one DID, the EDJFC “bump” would put this measly Elvis ride’s to shame on rarity alone!
Right? Someone back me up here….