Most of the AWMOK knows I’m a car guy. Not the foremost expert, not ready for prime time in terms of writing for “Car and Driver,” but nevertheless not without a passion for autos. The Petersen Auto Museum in Los Angeles is a well-known organization dedicated to the car. On this shot of the museum looking east on Wilshire Boulevard in L.A., you can almost see clearly a facsimile of the Chrysler Imperial that was customized by Dean Jeffries for the original “Green Hornet” TV series. More on him in later posts.
This story is about my visit to ebay, my love for cars, Monica Johnson, and the Petersen Auto Museum. Most of my AWMOK friends know I’m a little dingy about cars. The one time I met that most fantastic showman, and BFF of Allee, Charles Phoenix, he tried to give me advice about buying old cars. His advice was to stick with the cars that don’t have many options, like power windows, seats, radio antennae, in other words luxury cars of their day. Charles, you’re brilliant, but Dude, I just love the ones with the gadgets. Just look at this fantastic 1978 Cadillac Seville.
I love Amercan Iron. Monica Johnson, our AWMOK friend and wonderfully weird screenwriter and author, convinced me that I would love Palm Springs a year or so ago. So when prices looked cheap, I decided to buy a little 1964-built by Les Paul condo out there. My wife and I are crazy about it. But I needed something to get me around when we’re there. I love the blue California license plates on the older California cars like on this old Caddy.
So about a month ago I was drinking Margaritas on a Friday night, and browsing Ebay for what might be a prospect for a nice old Margarita Cruiser in Palm Springs. I saw a car with 40,000 miles, it was the right color for PS, and the bidding seemed low. I thought I’d just have some fun and stick a very low bid in, and then watch where it went from there. Nobody bid higher. I bought the car. Of course, this is it, shown here on the top floor of the parking structure of the Petersen Auto Museum in Los Angeles.
From time to time, people donate their vehicles to the museum. As it turns out, one family in Beverly Hills owned this car from new until about 4 years ago, when (presumably) Grandma passed, and no one wanted the yellow beauty. So the museum stuck it in climate-controlled comfort for those years, and then stuck it on ebay to sell it. Who doesn’t love yellow leather seats?
So a couple weeks ago, I flew into LAX, took a shuttle to within a couple blocks of the museum. I walked to a Wells Fargo, had them make a certified check for the purchase price, and took, sight unseen, delivery of a 30+ year old car. Filled it with gas, and drove it 70 mph all the way to Palm Springs to our little condo garage where it now sits. Monday I’ll take it to get it’s Smog Test in Palm Springs: I haven’t had a lick of work done to it, and it’s been sitting for years except my drive on I-10 to where it sits that day. Wish me luck!
I’ve always loved the Peterson building with those giant fins. I love driving on Fairfax and Wilshire just to see it.
Charles Phoenix is indeed both one of my best friends and an unbelievable expert on vintage cars among other things. As a 1955 Studebaker Commander sits up on blocks in my driveway and a 1955 DeSoto Fireflyte sits in my storage garage up on blocks, he’s completely right that the less gadgets there are the better chance you have of a car that still reliably runs. But I was always a gadget freak when it came to automobiles just like you are.
I wasn’t crazy about 1970s and 1980s Cadillacs when they originally came out but I love them now!
I love original blue and gold California license plates too. Both my Studebaker and Desoto have even more original black and gold California plates.
I of course am completely wild and crazy about Monica Johnson, a great friend, brilliant screenwriter (she cowrote almost all of the Albert Brooks movies for anyone reading this who may not know) and was a very loyal aKitschionado here at AWMOK. She sadly passed away in November. Her spirit certainly lives on here! https://www.alleewillis.com/awmok/kitschenette/author/monica-johnson/
I love that you buy cars to match the places you’re living. I would do the same thing if I had more than one home. I also love that you photographed your gorgeous purchase on the roof of the Peterson Museum. Now you need a shot of it in front against those giant fins.
And UNBELIEVABLE that the Peterson was who was selling the car on Ebay!!
GORGEOUS!! EXCITING!! GOOD LUCK! I WANT A RIDE IN IT NEXT TIME YOU’RE IN LA!
Very cool car and I love the yellow interior (you need a round happy face ball to hang from the mirror – http://www.happyballs.com/ ). Did THEE Les Paul (the famous musician who invented the electric guitar) really build your condo?!
Thanks Allee for the awards!
I forgot to mention that the musuem had a ’67 corvair 2-door hardtop-also pale yellow on the auction block for much more at the same time on ebay. It would’ve been interesting too, but I just couldn’t picture my bombastic revelers
driving it around Palm Springs.
Michael, I laughed out loud on your comment. I send my Mom e happy balls every year for her birthday. I’ve been toying with the idea of submitting their mascot, super happy ball guy.
The president of the condo board tells me Les Paul was the owner of the company that developed this complex (I’m sitting in it now) in the early 60’s. I said the same thing, “Thee Les Paul?”
I had a ’62 pink Corvair that made a brief appearance in the Breakfast Club “Right On Track” video but finally sold it a couple of years ago. The Studebaker and DeSoto are with me forever.
Oh, and it didn’t pass.
So I ran it over to a mechanic for a tune up.
I’ll drive it over to L.A. one of these days, because we need to find some 8-tracks for it, and maybe go to Century City and drive up to the CAA building on Avenue of the Stars, have them valet park it, then go over to the Westfield shopping center across the street and have some fast food.
I’m sure I have some 8-tracks I can give you. My friend, Pamela Adlon, (Bobby Hill in King of The Hill and on Californication) gave me her entire collection, a zillion of them. I’ve sorted out the killers of course, but there are still a ton leftover, all recognizeable names.
Mark – I also have some 8-track tapes (in a carrying case with a simulated wood top) if you want them. They include Jimmy Reed, a 70’s funk compilation, a Hawaiian band, a polka band, a couple Streisand, Statler Brothers, a couple country compilations, and, get this, an unopened realistic 8-track recording tape! Not sure how you record on it tho. Let me know.
p.s. Do you know the original name of the car’s color? My parents once had a car in a very similar color and it was called “banana.”
Seriously? That’s fantastic!
Michael-the original GM color name was “Colonial Yellow.” I think it’s supposed to represent the color of our forefather’s teeth.
That would be unreal. I am going to do a little thrifting this weekend in PS, so I’ll try to pick one up at Angel View just to see if the thing works before I try to take you up on your generosity!
Congrats on the Caddie! My grandparents had a ’80 Seville, with the new, sophisticated “bustleback”. Theirs was the same creamy yellow, which they called buttercup.
My wife and I have a stash of 8 tracks, but we’ve got a functioning player as part of our stereo system, so they’re in regular rotation here.
Also, there’s a ’79 Seville like yours that runs around Alameda, only it’s not quite stock, as it sports a supercharged small block Chevy. I don’t know how (or if it’s even possible) to include photos in replies, so here’s a link to a photo I took at a car show a few years ago:
Thanks Mel! My sister had the same ’80 Seville as your grandparents with that “bustleback,” it was silver and blue. Were they the grandparents with the cool place you showed us on here?
That Hot Rod Seville is a jewel. Built for comfort AND for speed!
Yes, my grandparents in New Rochelle/Florida were the ones with the Seville, one of a long line of Cadillacs they had. They followed it up with an ’83 or ’84 model in two tone like your sister’s only theirs was light/dark blue. Sadly, that one was a lemon, and my mom convinced them to buy a Mercedes 300 E in 1986, which my Grandmother still has. Interestingly, the Merc is that same buttercup yellow.
Did you get the Seville to pass inspection? Clogged EGR valve could be the cause of the failure, or carbon buildup from sitting idle for so long.
On the topic of 8-tracks, to complete the 1978 Cadillac experience, you should get the complimentary tape that came with the car – “Cadillac 1978 – The Beautiful Sound of Contemporary Music” features Henry Mancini, Barry Manilow, “Many Moods of Love” by the Anita Kerr Singers, and a Stereo Showcase. How do I know? There’s one on ebay right now for $4!
My first car was my father’s Oldsmobile – a 1986 Custom Cruiser station wagon. It had the complimentary cassette which featured the Oldsmobile theme – “There is a special feel in an Oldsmobile” I loved to tool around listening to that. You should find similar joy with the 8 track in your Seville!
Mel-It’s the EGR solenoid, needs replaced. And carbon buildup is a given, although I tried my best to blow out the cobs before I took it in. Also a couple of plug wires, which I knew, and hoped, as opposed to an accelerator pump and carb rebuild, we’ll see on that, it had a little hesitation on the line, and sounded a bit like there was a hole in the exhaust which made me think EGR.
And thanks for the tip on the 8-track Man! Just picked it up! Maybe my wife won’t be so mad when she figures out I bought the car when she listens to that.
Okay so it passed the smog test today, after a little mumbo jumbo by a local service station last week. By the time I got over to the smog test joint, I’d already had an adventure. About 6 this morning I was making coffee, and I heard what I thought was possibly some kind of horn blasting somewhere. Then it occured to me that it was the caddy horn as it sat in the communal parking garage of our condo complex. I grabbed the garage door opener and the keys and ran to the garage, which actually butts up against three condos. My elderly neighbors Dick and Mary were already there-I’ve never seen Dick walk around -he’s always on a scooter-anyway I opened the hood, disconnected the horn, and it stopped. Dick asked what year the ‘Cad was. Sheepishly, I said a ’78. He said “that’s when a Cadillac was a Cadillac! I stopped buyin’ ’em in ’99 because they just didn’t make ’em like that anymore!
Congrats on passing the test!! Hi to Dick and Mary.