It was my only chance to get my 1968 Cadillac Coupe de Ville to its winter home in northern Michigan. Unfortunately, it was a day too late to beat the snow. Can my freshly-painted classic beat the blizzard?
Other than the obvious stuff-uniqueness, style, class, and the gallons of Cool Vanilla goodness dripping down its body panels-there’s one important reason I drive my 1968 Cadillac Coupe de Ville so often amidst a sea of brand-spanking-new press cars. It’s about the only car in the world that I don’t want to race around in. I’m calm, patient, and cheerful when I’m at the helm of my 4600-lb, 472-powered schooner. Last Friday, the time finally came to say goodbye for the winter, and I left work bound for the small northern Michigan town of Northport, where it would be tucked away with my grandfather’s current collection, a 1923 23-55 Sport Buick Touring, a 1940 Buick Century Convertible, and a 1963 Buick Lesabre.; Please, oh please, I asked the sky-no snow until she’s tucked away safely.
It was cold when I left Ann Arbor, but the skies were clear. I took this last opportunity to drive windows-down, and cranked the heat up so high my leather shoes started smelling like fresh-grilled steak. But half way across Michigan, the rain started and picked up until I could barely see the Peterbuilt ahead of me. My windshield was removed when my brother Todd repainted the car this summer, and well, neither of us should quit our day jobs to install glass. Between the high winds, my speed, and the outrageous amount of water in the air, two leaks began. One dripped down the center of the rear-view, while the other dripped ice-cold droplets on my left hand like some type of ancient Chinese torture. I tried plugging it with a Jimmy Johns napkin, but efforts were useless, and I gave up.
Ironically, it was just south of Cadillac that things got back for me and my Caddy. Within twenty miles of me noticing the raindrops turning hard and icy, I was driving 30 mph through a complete white-out. My poorly designed 1968 windshield wipers were packing a giant snowball in the middle of my windshield, so I cranked the defrost up as a melting device and cracked open my windows (I guess it wasn’t my last chance back in Ann Arbor after all) to keep from sweating.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that 20 mph was not the right speed to be driving through this slushy mess. At that speed, it seemed, the engine was creating all 525 lb/ft (gross) of peak torque, and even the slightest brush of the gas pedal had the nineteen-foot car stepping out across two lanes. I looked over and saw the tops of pine trees next to the highway. Gotta stay focused.
It’s about this time that my father calls. He’s meeting me at my destination, driving my mother’s 2004 BMW 325i. And he’s stuck. His route took;him up a massive hill during the worst of this snowstorm, and the bimmer couldn’t do it on all-season tires. On his second try, DSC off, three eighteen-wheelers came sliding down the hill sideways, causing him to give up and find another path.
I try to think of all the positives of the situation: 1) At least snow isn’t dripping through the windshield like the rain was, 2) the fact that there’s five inches of snow on the road means that they haven’t salted anything yet. I stopped at a gas station and the clerk told me I was “one day too late,” but really, the next day would be a day late, a day saltier. 3) I’m getting some *** good gas mileage at these speeds. Probably some number with two digits. 4) Because the car is so long, it’s incredibly easy to control slides, actually making this otherwise frightening situation a lot of fun.
That sort of thinking helps the time fly by and in no time (read: two hours later than planned), I’m done. I spend forty-five minutes drying and cleaning my baby, then tuck it away in its winter home. I let out a deep breath of relief knowing that she’s safe. Next year, I’ll try to do this in October. Or at least not on the anniversary of the Edmund Fitzgerald sinking. I think that was unlucky.