Cadillac

(c) unknown. 1916 Cadillac Type 53.  its not my photo which I regret; not my car either which I regret even more.

Dunedin is full of interesting cars at the moment. There is an international festival of historic motoring here this week and I've nearly come to grief a couple of times rubbernecking some lovely old bits of automotive kit. Driving back from Christchurch a few days ago, the traffic was slowed considerably by old cars puttering along the road on their way to Dunedin and several times I had to join a long a procession behind somebody's well polished obsession. On the Kilmog the queue was probably 40 cars long and moving at less than 70 kph, but who could possibly be impatient or angry, when at the front was a 1938 Morris 8 Sports exactly like the one I owned when I was 17?
(c) unknown. Morris 8 Sports. See the comment under the other car. Only more so.
And this is a 1935 model - OBVIOUSLY - as you undoubtedly deduced from the grille and the wheels. 

But the car I enjoyed seeing most was a 1916 Cadillac type 53 which was filling up with petrol when I stopped to refuel my own car. It was in great nick, of course, and a lovely dark green like the one above, and there were 4 people in it wrapped up in blankets to ward off some pretty unseasonable Dunedin weather. This vehicle, now 100 years old was built only 30 years after the first ever motor car was knocked together by Karl Benz in 1885.
1885 Benz

The Cadillac Type 53 is an important car. It was the first one to have the controls - the pedals and various levers and so forth - laid out in the pattern that we are all now so familiar with. So, only 30 years after the original Benz, which was effectively an internal combustion engine fitted to a gig, the modern car had taken shape. By the time the old Cadillac rolled out of its factory all of the significant technical developments of modern motoring  had been made, and ever since it has all been just tinkering and refining and adjusting.

The progression of design and development in the first 20 - 30 years of motoring far outweighs all that has followed in the century since. Which should give us pause for thought in our infatuation with progress and modernity.
 
2015 Mazda CX 5 (c) Mazda Corp. 

Of course my new Mazda is faster, more powerful, safer and more comfortable than the old Cadillac; but apart from the GPS navigation system and the stereo it's basically just a highly refined version of exactly the same technology as that under the highly polished skin of the old Caddie. And I can guarantee one thing: that nobody will be driving it into the Andy Bay Road BP station in 100 years time. As with all modern cars, from the most exalted Bugatti Chiron down to the lowliest Chery,  when the electronics fail in... what? 20 years time? ... it will be impossible to repair, and will be nothing but a useless pile of old metal and pollutants. And the Cadillac type 53? With the right skills, there is no reason why it won't be still puttering around in another 100 years, or even 200, or 500. And the Mazda is nowhere near as much fun to drive. 

Comments

Alden Smith said…
Kelvin, I remember your Morri 8 very well. Traveling as a passenger was a challenge (Ok for you, you had a steering wheel to hang onto) because when going around corners at speed the wooden body framework would twist and bend and the passenger door would fly open which was somewhat frightening as the door with its hinges on the back opened from the front. As there were no seat belts in those days I developed the strategy of hanging on very tightly to the bottom of the seat subsequently getting my fingers stuck in the seat springs.
It was alarming experiences in this very car that made me drop my ambition of becoming a Hollywood stunt driver. (The double meaning making reference to your driving is intended).
Kelvin Wright said…
Ahhh... The memories! I remember one particular Saturday. Rob was driving, I was in the passenger seat and we got into a deeply felt discussion with about 6 young men in a Ford V8. What with discretion being the better part etc etc It seemed best for us to take our leave of the young gents but they were keen to carry on the conversation and perhaps even develop it somewhat. They were faster - much, much faster; but we were more manoeuvrable and Rob was more cunning. There were many tight right handers during which the old Morrie pretty much got up on her two downhill legs and in which my door flew open and I only stayed onboard by grabbing the steering column. It would have been a bit tricky to have been left on the roadside that day. We lost them at a crossroads in New Brighton.

Or the time I was late for a class, and hit the Ilam Road level crossing at speed. Both doors flew open, the hood came down and folded itself neatly and the bonnet - which was just a hinged piece of sheet metal clipped at the four corners - flew over my head and landed on the road behind me. Stop. Reassemble the car. Drive on more sedately.

Or the time I was stopped by the local constabulary driving on the footpath in Brighton at 40 mph on the wrong side of the road with 12 people aboard. Never seen 11 people disappear so quickly. It was late at night. There was no one else around. The rozzers were pretty good about it. Sent me home with a warning.
Alden Smith said…
I think we all may not be alive today to tell our tales of daring do if Nissan Skylines had been available in our youth. Do you remember a borrowed Austin A40, the Southern motorway and a rather large, extremely rigid lamppost? I thought the owners 'workaround' of cutting the front half of the car off and replacing it was a brand new half was both novel and effective.
Kelvin Wright said…
Aaaarrrggghhhh. Yes. Stupid, stupid, stupid. The fact that the cars were so slow and that fact that at least 50% of potential motoring time was spent beside the road repairing them is probably what kept us all alive.