FEB 27th 2014

Classifieds Combo: 1953 Cadillac, Oldsmobile and Buick

Keen students of American iron will have noticed right away that what we have here is commonly referred to as the ‘Triple Crown.’  No doubt RM Auctions, who include the lavish trio in their Amelia Island auction will be bracing themselves for a bidding frenzy, with many a serious collector intent on bagging all three.

In 1953 General Motors celebrated its 50th anniversary by producing three very special, very costly, low-production cars to show-off their design leadership at the time; the Cadillac Eldorado, Buick Skylark, and Oldsmobile Fiesta. They lost money on each one, but then again in those days GM didn’t need to make money on them and could do anything they wanted. That the Eldorado’s first public appearance was in President Eisenhower’s inaugural parade could well have been as a result of GM’s mighty influence as much as the need of the Whitehouse for a distinctive and prestigious vehicle.

The three GM subdivisions already produced convertible models on which these cars are based, and at a glance the Eldorado looks similar to a Series 62 Convertible, the Skylark like a Roadmaster, and the Fiesta like a regular Ninety-Eight. Look a little closer though and you can see the extraordinary lengths GM went to in order to set the ‘halo’ models apart.

Unlike their cooking counterparts, each had a wrap-around ‘Panoramic’ windscreen and was loaded to the hilt with every option available like power steering, windows, and even seats. In the case of the Cadillac and the Buick a cut-down ‘beltline’ – a dip in the sheet metal at the bottom of the door glass – was incorporated at great cost in order to further separate the cars from the mass-produced versions.

With a list price getting on for double what you’d pay over the regular models, there were instances of the halo cars ending up being sold at a discount after sitting for too long on dealers’ lots. Nowadays of course, that has all changed and the ‘Triple Crown’ (one of each model) is one of the most desirable sets of cars to own for those who like their American Classics.

The first car to cross the block at Amelia Island will be the Buick. Having previously won the Dave Holls Trophy (for finest GM car present) at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance it is in superb, restored condition and is presented beautifully in Mandarin Red with red and cream interior. Buick produced almost three times as many Skylarks as either the Eldorado or the Fiesta, but it nevertheless ranks as one of the most-wanted of all Buicks and was the car in which was introduced the famed ‘Nailhead’ V8. As such, expect it to clear its high estimate of $160,000.

With the Buick sold, all eyes will be on its new owner to see how much competition they face for the Cadillac Eldorado. Always the most prestigious of GM’s premium brands, the Cadillac cost the most when new, and commands the highest estimate of the trio today at $180,000. This car comes from the same collection as the Skylark and has been a regular at a number of Stateside concours events. Like the Buick it also runs on oh-so-stylish Kelsey Hayes wire wheels and is an older restoration which still looks utterly stunning.

If the Cadillac is sold to the same party as the Buick then the anticipation as the Oldsmobile approaches the block will be feverish. When new the Oldsmobile was the rarest of the Triple Crown cars, with only 458 units built (versus 532 Eldorados and 1690 Skylarks). Like the other two cars here it is an older restoration from the same collection, and has graced a number of concours events as well as Forbes magazine. Despite its rarity, the Oldsmobile doesn’t have quite the same draw as the other two, although the upper estimate sits at $160,000.

So, although you’ll need the best part of $600,000 to acquire the set, as a whole I’d argue they’re worth considerably more and competition to snare all three will be huge. The first million-dollar Triple Crown collection? I wouldn’t bet too much against it…

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