Cadillac on the Lincoln - 1956 Cadillac Series 62
Article and photography by Richard Butschi
The 1950s autos were known for their abundance of chrome and flamboyant designs, and Cadillac was at the top of list in that respect. The Series 62 Caddies were produced from 1940 through 1964. In ‘59, the name was changed to “Series 6200” and in ‘65 it was called the “Calais.” Cadillacs built in 1954-’56 represented the fourth generation. They had a wheelbase of 129 inches, and its overall length was just under 18’. They sat lower than previous generations, had a wrap-around windshield and cellular grill with an inverted “gull wing” bumper. Sitting above the bumper were bumper guards that looked similar to artillery shells. These were nicknamed “Dagmars” in reference to the well endowed TV celebrity with a one-word name, Dagmar, who starred in “Broadway Open House” the forerunner of The Tonight Show. ‘54-’56 models also had a wide ventilator intake at the base of the windshield, visored headlights, automatic w/washers, p/steering, 12-volt electrical systems and alumium alloy pistons – a first time addition. The optional 365 cubic inch engine would do 0-60 in 12.0 seconds on new tubeless tires, getting 8.3 mpg. The Series 62 set an all-time sales record in ‘56 with 134,502 units.
In 1966, Keith Slack, of Des Moines, was driving a pretty prestigious car in its own right – a 1948 6-cylinder Frazier Manhattan. A “car-flipping” friend of his called about a ‘56 Cadillac that he thought Keith “needed” to buy. When Slack asked what color it was, he replied “Chartreuse,” which didn’t thrill Slack, but he found it instead to be a pale yellow. He bought it for $560 and drove it for 45 years!
Slack was a family man and had thoughts of buying a travel trailer, which were the rage in the ‘50s. (Remember “The Long, Long Trailer”, 1954, starring Lucy and Desi Arnaz?) The Caddie with the gutsy 365 V8 engine and Hydra-Matic 4-speed auto trans, would be just the ticket to pull something like that. He bought a 17’ Monitor that slept five, including his wife, Lois, son Mark and daughters Cheryl and Julie. He pulled it over the Rockies to California in 1969. With a mind still sharp at age 91, he remembers slowly heading up the mountains in low gear with the gas pedal to the floor, followed by a semi oil tanker and seven cars that were not happy with him. The Caddie got less than 9 mpg, but used only three quarts of oil on the trip. Julie was pretty young then, but recalls all the attention they got pulling into campgrounds, and how the trailer would sway on the road, but the car stayed rock solid.
The current owner is Ed Fosselman, of CR, son-in-law of Keith Slack, and was married to Keith’s daughter, Cheryl, who passed away in 2005. Fosselman feels very fortunate to have the Cadillac passed on to him in 2010, and is still considered part of the family. He purchased the ‘56 from Slack for $2, just to make it a legal sale. The odometer read 101,436 when Slack purchased it in ‘66; 122,000 miles when sold it to Fosselman, and currently reads 125,500. Ed had it hauled from Des Moines, had the carburetor and radiator rebuilt, and renewed the original yellow paint with compound and polish. The lower part of the body had been repainted when Slack had the car, taking care of some rock chips.
Fosselman installed new brakes, added radial tires and spoked wheels, electric wipers and had the speedometer rebuilt. He also removed the seatcovers revealing the pristine originals. Bob at Mefferd’s Auto Service, Mt.Vernon Road, rebuilt the engine, transmission, replaced the master cylinder and booster, upgraded the front brakes to disks and installed a new gas tank with stainless lines. Fosselman added an electric fan to the new 4-core radiator, “Just in case...” Future plans include a new rear bumper, and upgrades to make it safe and reliable because Ed says, “It’s going to stay in the family forever”.
Thanks to Bill Cary for the car connection and setting up the photo shoot on the Lincoln Hwy, Mt. Vernon.