St. John's

The Inn at St. John's
27 July 2013
Lot 172

1941 Cadillac Series 75 Five-Passenger Touring Sedan by Fleetwood

From the Richard and Linda Kughn Collection

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$75,900 USD | Sold

United States | Plymouth, Michigan

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Engine No.
3341578
  • From the collection of Richard and Linda Kughn
  • One of three remaining 1941 Cadillacs with factory air conditioning
  • Cadillac-LaSalle Club Senior Award winner

150 bhp, 346 cu. in. OHV V-8 engine, three-speed synchromesh manual transmission, independent coil-spring front suspension, Hotchkiss semi-floating rear axle, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 136 in.

A chill was in the air among American luxury marques as 1940 came around. It wasn’t due to the coming onset of World War II, but a new accessory called air conditioning, which would make travel in enclosed automobiles comfortable year-round by cooling the inside air. Manufactured by Bishop & Babcock, of Cleveland, the air conditioning system was made available to auto manufacturers for 1940. Because of its tremendous cost, only luxury automakers adopted it at first, and even those were slow to do so: Packard came first, in 1940, followed by Cadillac, and then Chrysler the following year.

For each marque, Bishop & Babcock basically used the same equipment; it was essentially a standard refrigeration system with a condenser placed in front of the radiator and the large evaporator mounted in the trunk. Cooled air exited the evaporator and was blown by a fan into the car through a large vent behind the rear passenger seat. Because it was run by a belt off the engine, the air conditioning system ran constantly when the car was running; to turn it off, the driver actually had to turn off the car, get out, open the hood, and remove the belt. The only interior control was a three-position switch, which was placed beneath the dashboard to the left of the steering column and was used to control the speed of the fan.

Because it ran continuously and was tremendously expensive, the appeal of the Bishop & Babcock air conditioning system was essentially limited to very wealthy people who lived in the desert. Sales were, expectedly, quite poor. It is believed that the system was installed in only about 300 Cadillacs, all in 1941. Today, only three remain.

The Series 75 Touring Sedan offered here, essentially a limousine without jump seats or a divider window, is documented by its original build sheet to have been delivered new with air conditioning by the Greenlease Cadillac dealership in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It was acquired by Mr. and Mrs. Kughn in 1987, and shortly thereafter, it underwent a meticulous repaint and interior restoration performed by their own Classic Auto Restoration. Its original air conditioning system was fully serviced and is reported to still be functional. As the car was otherwise a solid original, it has never been fully taken apart, and aside from its older cosmetic restoration, it remains in excellent, overall original shape today.

This Series 75 is a Cadillac-LaSalle Club Senior Award winner and was featured in Rex Roy’s book, Motor City Dream Garages, in which Mr. Kughn stated of the air conditioning that “it was truly a modern marvel, and when you turn that blower up, it will freeze you right out.”

Nowadays, luxury car buyers take air conditioning for granted, but this 1941 Cadillac is an amusing and fascinating survivor from the days when it was at the cutting edge of technology. Putting its historical importance aside, it is perhaps the ultimate CCCA CARavan car, offering the most modern of Classic engineering, acres of room for friends and luggage, and the convenience of year-round comfort, with no explanations or excuses necessary.