Let’s be clear. I’m a huge John Wayne fan because he was a one-off Hollywood legend who had a style that will never be equaled.
The Duke was all about well-defined concepts of right and wrong in every Western he ever made because he lived by a code that was summed up perfectly in his last movie (The Shootist): “I won’t be wronged. I won’t be insulted. I won’t be laid a-hand on. I don’t do these things to other people, and I require the same from them.”
I thought about that “won’t be wronged” part when I climbed into his ’59 Cadillac at a recent auction.
Obviously, I can’t speak for the Duke but I’m sure I would have asked for his permission to climb into his car if he was next to it because he threw some of the best punches in the history of Westerns. You don’t learn how to do that without hands-on experience.
1959 Cadillacs have their own built-in cool factor because these cars are massive and they exude a presence that no Toyota ever built will have–unless you count sheer production numbers. Add the John Wayne name to a ’59 Caddy and you have a top tier automotive icon.
Duke was the quintessential American legend and quite frankly we need more of that in 2014 because he was a man who was always very clear where he stood on every issue. He didn’t embrace fashionable causes because the only cause John Wayne ever pushed was patriotism–there were no gray areas in the Duke’s philosophy.
This Cadillac reflected that attitude because like the Duke, this car represented the United States at its best. Detroit didn’t follow trends in 1959—they set trends and this Caddy told the world, “we’re at the top of our game, we’re in a space race and we’re going to win it, so we’ll build cars like this Cadillac to show the world what it’s like to lead rather than follow“.
John Wayne’s Cadillac was easy to spot even in a large building because…it was a ’59 Caddy.
This car was in the middle of several vehicles but you could spot it from outer space. It was a massive, white, large and in charge, finned beauty and if you wanted a quick study in what made the 1950s cool you need look no further than John Wayne’s Cadillac.
I kept watching this car because of its link to the Duke. This car was a legacy in so many ways it almost defied description so when it rolled up to the auction block the place had an instant buzz. Eventually the bidding halted at a number that would be top dollar for a ’59 Caddy two-door hardtop but it wasn’t enough to pry the legend away from the current owner.
Duke Wayne was a mythical guy to me so that’s why I popped the door open and jumped behind the wheel.
Typically I don’t take liberties like that, even at an auction, but this was the Duke’s car so I was willing to take the heat.
1959 Caddys are notoriously short in headroom and I’m six feet tall so I was touching the headliner. I guess tall in the saddle Duke had to set the electric seat back to drive this brute but I thought about something else when I looked at this car from his point of view.
What would John Wayne think of the world he’d see through that windshield in 2014?
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