Richard Heseltine uncovers what has to be one of the most Heath Robinson-esque Cadillacs ever created, that literally featured everything, including the kitchen sink!
The words ‘America’ and ‘road trip’ go hand in hand. Imagine if your life revolves around such adventures: what would be the perfect car for the job? For San Diego garage owner Louie Mattar, it had to be a Cadillac. It’s just that no production model was quite up to the job, so he adapted one to suit his needs. Not only that, he modified the car so that he need not ever leave it on any of his mega-mile runs. ‘The Fabulous Car’, as he insisted on calling it, had everything including the kitchen sink.
Mattar acquired the Series 62 sedan straight off the lot in 1947. As someone not above spending weeks on the road, he began tailoring the car to his own particular requirements to the point that, by the mid-Fifties, it weighed more than 9000lb thanks largely to one or two cabin accoutrements; such desirable extras as a washing machine, an oven, a portable shower attached to a 50-gallon water tank, an ironing board, an illuminated medicine cabinet, a chemical toilet and a dashboard-sited liquor dispenser (yes, really). Accordingly, the car also featured two coils, as many condensers, a pair of supplementary generators, an engine-driven 110-volt alternator, four fuel pumps and more than 100 gauges, buttons and switches. Oh, and a power outlet for the electric razor. Naturally.
Mattar was so obsessed with never having to stop for anything that he or his co-pilot could even change a wheel on the move by means of hydraulic actuators, a drag-link assembly and a hard rubber auxiliary trailing wheel arrangement adjacent to each road wheel. A ‘mobile catwalk’ meant a wheel could be removed and the spare added at speeds of up to 25mph. For serious road trips amounting to thousands of miles, Mattar would tow a trailer behind the Caddy. It contained 230 gallons of fuel, 30 gallons of water (in addition to what was already in the car), 15 gallons of oil, plus spare tyres, batteries, and a whole lot more besides. It stood just 46in off the deck but added a further 6000lb to the ensemble. Throw in passengers and their luggage and you didn’t get much change out of 15,000lb all-in.
The car’s largely stock OHV eight-cylinder engine had its work cut out, but Mattar claimed it was an exemplar of reliability.
That was just as well as he was nothing if not ambitious when it came to criss-crossing the US and beyond. On one trip minus the trailer, he and two buddies drove from Anchorage, Alaska to Mexico City, taking in three Canadian provinces, 10 of the western states of the US and five states in Mexico. All told, the route encompassed 7482 miles in just eight days. What’s more, the car never stopped moving throughout all that time.
Mattar went as far as to pre-arrange for aircraft fuel tenders to be ready to drive alongside the Caddy at predetermined spots for truck-to-car replenishing. Mattar’s adventures were immortalised in Life magazine among countless others publications in period, but they are now largely forgotten.
‘The Fabulous Car’, meanwhile, still exists and appropriately lives in San Diego still.
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