- Arguably the most famous, well-known surviving V-16 sport phaeton
- Believed to have been originally owned by legendary silver-screen actor Richard Arlen
- Featured in the 1964 film The Carpetbaggers
- Formerly owned by the Brucker family, “Cadillac Jim” Pearson, and Donald Mayoras
- Well-preserved older concours restoration
- Original engine and coachwork; documented by its build sheet
- Classic Car Club of America (CCCA) Full Classic
With its disappearing tonneau windshield and second set of instruments for the rear-seat passengers, the Cadillac V-16 Sport Phaeton was a sleek beast that looked the part of a star’s car. And so it was with car no. 702478, offered here, which was delivered via Los Angeles’s Don Lee Cadillac. Its original owner is long said to have been Richard Arlen, one of the most respected Hollywood actors of the 1920s. Arlen got his start as an extra when he fell off his motorcycle outside the Paramount gates, and his best-remembered role is as the lead in the 1927 film Wings, winner of the very first Academy Award for Best Picture. He was also a notable car enthusiast who obviously appreciated fine styling and engineering, as the Cadillac shared space in his stable with a Model J Duesenberg.
The car’s build sheet reflects the original color scheme, Pastel and Talina Brown. There is an apocryphal tale, too delightful not to repeat, that when Arlen arrived at Don Lee’s to collect his new sport phaeton, he found Mae West sitting in it, saying that if he did not buy it, she would. She would be disappointed; the car is marked as “sold” on the original build sheet, indicating that it was already Mr. Arlen’s!
In the late 1930s, Mr. Arlen’s film career slowed, and the sport phaeton passed to a Mr. Brinkerhof of Bishop, California, who largely garaged it except for occasional appearances in the town’s Fourth of July parade. Some twenty years later it was purchased, following a tip from a friend, by James Brucker Sr. The Brucker family was for decades a major supplier of automobiles to the film industry; when not on a studio lot, their cars were exhibited at a famous roadside museum in Buena Park, California—Movieworld Cars of the Stars and Planes of Fame. Mr. Brucker enjoyed Cadillacs especially, and his collection included many fine examples.
The Bruckers customized the sport phaeton for a starring role of its own, in the 1964 film The Carpetbaggers, in which it is driven by Alan Ladd in his last film appearance. Befitting Ladd’s role as Nevada Smith, a flamboyant Western gunslinger turned actor in the Tom Mix mold, the car was painted bright white and decorated with calfskin seat covers, six-guns as door handles, and a pair of longhorns atop the radiator.
Dubbed “Bull” for its most famous role, the Cadillac remained with the Bruckers at Movieworld until the museum closed, and then was acquired by Don Westerdale, a California V-16 enthusiast whose collection also included the one-off Murphy-bodied all-weather phaeton. Following Mr. Westerdale, the sport phaeton was briefly owned by the noted V-16 authority “Cadillac Jim” Pearson, then by Rick Carroll and finally Donald Mayoras, then of Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. In Mr. Mayoras’s ownership the sport phaeton received a well-deserved restoration by the respected Stone Barn of Vienna, New Jersey, completed in May 1990. Subsequently, the car was acquired by the current owners, avid Cadillac enthusiasts, for their distinguished private museum, in which it has now remained for nearly two decades.
The car’s restoration is very well detailed, with many of the original components still intact, including correct V-16 instrumentation, engine splash pans, rear-view mirror, and badging, with the interior upholstered to the proper pattern. Only the highest-quality chrome trim was used throughout, and the acrylic lacquer Satin Red finish and tan leather are both well preserved. The original Fleetwood body-stamping “55” is still visible in the floorboards, testimony to how well kept the Cadillac has been for its entire existence. The car is even accompanied by a genuine original and correct “low boy” trunk, with three pieces of fitted luggage, an accessory now nearly impossible to find. Other desirable accessories include a radiator stone shield, metal side-mount covers with mirrors, Pilot Ray driving lights, and dual cowl-mounted spotlights.
Further, the Cadillac boasts a long and enviable record in national competition, including a Classic Car Club of America National Senior First Prize, and Antique Automobile Club of America Senior First and Preservation honors; it was also a class award winner at both Meadowbrook and Pebble Beach following its restoration. More recently, its appearances have been limited to occasional showings at regional concours in the South, including twice at Boca Raton. The Cadillac has been well-known to armchair enthusiasts for decades, as well, having appeared in Car Classics in May 1969 and Car Collector in December 1992, as well as in Roy Schneider’s book Sixteen Cylinder Motor Cars. Its history has been more recently detailed in Chris Cummings’s book, Cadillac V-16s Lost and Found.
The car has been recently freshened by the well-known Steve Babinsky’s Automotive Restorations of Lebanon, New Jersey, including installation of a beautiful new top and leather interior.
Few surviving V-16 sport phaetons have such a long, well-known history, beginning with one of the great actors of his era, continuing through its own Hollywood appearances, and time with many noted collectors. That rich provenance makes “Bull,” as it is still fondly known, the most famous and best-known surviving sport phaeton—a true star in its own right on the show field as it was on the screen.