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A matter of design

Story and Photographs By Tom Strongman

Check out Tom Strongman's new book, "Wheels of Dreams" Vintage Cars and the People Who Love Them

Not only is this collection of beautifully-illustrated true stories perfect for car lovers, it is charming enough to captivate even the reader who never before understood the mystique of vintage automobiles.

Clark Olivers 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Seville is Elysian green, a color whose name holds a special allure to him.

The dictionary defines Elysian as of, relating to, or characteristic of heaven or paradise. Elysium, in Greek mythology, is the abode of the blessed, paradise. Situated at the end of the world, it is here that those chosen by the gods are sent to.

Oliver, of Leawood, loves his Cadillac for its sculptural beauty. The understated elegance and the simplicity of design are both part of its attraction. Oliver is the proprietor of Hair Salon in Westport, and he appreciates good design wherever it occurs. His shop has been recognized for its award-winning interior. It was named one of the top 20 shops in 2005 by Salon Today magazine.

Oliver bought his Cadillac 25 years ago. A couple from Arizona owned it previously. They had painted the car in aqua metallic. It was awful, Oliver said, It lost all of its pizazz.

The Eldorado was sound but in need of lots of work. Oliver painstakingly refinished the body and repainted it in the original color, working in the garage of his home. He stripped the aqua paint from the dash and door panels and painted those as well. The interior is loaded with chrome, and the upholstery is original. The car has 79,922 miles.

The engine received a much-needed overhaul, and now it idles very quietly. Cadillacs were known for their smoothness in the 1950s.

The Eldorados lines are similar to those of the Park Avenue, a show car built for GMs 1954 Motorama. The Seville coupe sold for $7,286, and 2,100 were built. The 365-cubic-inch V-8 produced 300 horsepower.

The Eldorados shape is highlighted by the thin tailfins that protrude from the round, sloping back fenders. These fins are delicate and subtle, unlike those that appeared on some GM cars around 1959. Splashes of stainless steel trim flow from the rear wheels back into the tiny rear bumpers that house the backup lights and exhaust outlets. The overall look defines the less is more philosophy as it was interpreted in 1957.

Oliver describes his Cadillac as more artwork than mechanical. It was, he said, designed like a piece of art. 

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