There’s nothing quite like having the man who designed the Corvette Sting Ray tell you, the interviewer, that you’re not giving GM’s larger-than-life chief designer Harley Earl enough respect.
My question: “Did you ever work with Harley Earl back in the day?”
Bob Veryzer: “He was around. It was never Harley Earl. It was always Mister Earl.”
To which GM’s VP of Global Design Ed Welburn added, “It was only until recently that people started calling him Harley Earl.”
Apparently, GM’s artistic duo hadn’t seen any of Buick’s “My name’s Harley Earl” TV spots. Nevertheless, at this gala in honor of Cadillac, clear respect for an icon was the order of the evening.
Last summer we drove up to Saratoga Springs, New York where instead of placing bets on horses we braved the worst tempests that the Hudson River Valley could throw our way to tape a story about Cadillac’s past and where it might fit in GM’s tomorrow.
GM had turned 100 years old and the Saratoga Auto Museum threw a party in honor of Cadillac. Many GM big wigs were there, including GM’s G.M. for Cadillac, Jim Taylor.
As grim as Caddy sales looked last July, the financial markets had yet to crash and the General was still almost a year away from filing for bankruptcy protection. We were in, if you like, the eye of the perfect storm.
In this segment with a T.R.T. of 07:15, we watch some of the best and worst of Cadillac’s past; hear comments from the marque’s fans; and get a real sense that in the midst of the celebration, GM’s top brass knew what was to come.
“This is a new world we’re going into,” Mr. Taylor notes, “Quite frankly I don’t think anybody realizes how big a difference there’s going to be. Until you wake up in four or five years and realized what happened.”
Executive Producers: Gunnar Heinrich & Neil Rogers
Editors: Michael Russell | Neil Rogers | Kevin Kusina
Camera: Joshua Schnitzer | Gregory Dwyer | Neil Rogers
Writer | Host: Gunnar Heinrich
Special Thanks: GM | Saratoga Auto Museum | Dres. Ward Heinrich, Sr. & Jr.| J.M. Ficca
By Gunnar Heinrich with photography by Neil Rogers
FIRST impressions mean so much.
Back in March, the Suburbans that GM transported the ADL crew around the City (for NYIAS) displayed an unreal level of refinement for any Michigan built vehicle that I’ve experienced since – ever.
The Cadillac Escalade Platinum which is essentially the same truck only shorter in length and wheelbase takes the Suburban (Tahoe) level of accoutrement and raises it by a Vegas high roller’s wager.
Anodized-chrome trim dripping over exterior sheet metal broadcasts the truck’s arrival from a distance of give or take three blocks away. Once the presence parades to curbside; step inside and close the door with a satisfyingly soft “whump!” and you soon realize that there’s truth to Jim Taylor’s talk of Cadillac turning a new page.
The marque has changed. And hasn’t if we remember our history.
On first take, fit and finish seems Lexus precise. The new interior’s so nice, so buttery soft, it makes an ’00 STS seem like the act of some ugly transnational cooperative act of friendly commerce gone wrong: Cadillac Built by Zil.
The second impression that hits home is the absolute silence that envelopes a cabin. New York’s war zone asphalt seemed such a distant reality.
There’s a bit of rocking front to back as the truck crossed the more serious dips in asphalt that coincide with each intersection along Park Avenue, but nothing that remotely reassembles the jello mold jiggle float of yesteryear’s Fleetwoods.
But what’s more telling than just about any specific feature in how this Caddy registers, is how the truck registers with people.
Arriving outside Grand Central Station, Team ADL exited the vehicle onto the sidewalk where a middle aged man ground his New Yorker’s gate to a halt; turned, stared, and muttered the simple word that any Escalade owner would really want to hear.
By Gunnar Heinrich with photography by Neil Rogers
UNDER the soft blue cast of an early New York summer’s eve, Cadillac’s PR staff quietly set the stage in the gated court yard of New York’s Palace Hotel to offer members of the press a preview of the Escalade Hybrid and Platinum editions.
GM’s G.M. for Cadillac Jim Taylor led the talking points by noting how far he felt Cadillac had come since the dour days of the late 90s. The Escalade is the focal point of Cadillac’s cool new image.
And on the subject of image, it’s worth taking notes on just what the Escalade presents to the world.
For those who can’t afford four dollars a gallon, gas prices have made driving truck framed SUVs as palatable as chasing three Martinis with four quarts of Drano. For those who can afford the cost to filler-up, the image association with driving such a beast is akin in its saintliness to supplying the Drano to the hapless boozer.
In this politically correct age of in… incontinent truths, who but Texans and a certain set of oily haired customers from Jersey dare ride high on a 5,700 pound, 74.3 inch high by 79 inch wide by 202.5 inch long carbon footprint whose 6.2 Liter, 403 horsepower V8 guzzles as much dino-juice exiting a parking lot as the Queen Mary II uses when leaving port?
Don’t know for sure.
But, would it help matters if Cadillac put a Caddy sized green on chrome colored “Hybrid” badge over a fake quarter-panel air intake?
Or would it assuage guilty feelings if Cadillac implemented a two-stage hybrid system that kicks in at various levels of speed and load so that it’s neither/nor but either and both gas and electric?
Or could Cadillac convince you that if a full size SUV is what you need to tow and haul people, that the big Caddy can do it using less gas than any foreign rival of similar size?
It’s 20 mpg urban and 21 mpg highway.
No truck this size has a right to be so frugal.
But for customers who just don’t care (about much of anything, really), there’s the gas powered Platinum edition (12/18 mpg) that shows off with premium leather (worth the upgrade), all kinds of DVD and TV sets, trick LED headlamps, and an assortment of other goods and services to pamper occupants.
Yours (or theirs) for $12,000 over standard MSRP ($60,000 +/-).
I’ll share my notes from that last night’s ride-along in the next post. In the meantime, check out the following gallery of pictures shot by the one and only Neil Rogers.
[Click to enlarge]
Special thanks to General Motors for graciously hosting Automobiles De Luxe.