Thursday, November 29, 2012


Over in one corner of the San Diego Automotive Museum was a nondescript 1947 Cadillac. Located not far from the 1966 Bizzarrini (see yesterday's entry), this unrestored auto appeared out of place.

But this Caddy had a story to tell that went beyond mere glamor.

This was a story--actually, two stories--of function.

The Old '47 is the product of five years of Louie Mattar's inventiveness that produced a world endurance non-stop record across the United States, making the round trip of 6,320 miles in seven days--from September 20-27, 1952! (San Diego to New York City Round Trip, Non-Stop.)
And then, as if to show this amazing accomplishment was no fluke, Mattar's group made a second run--a non-stop goodwill tour from Anchorage, AK to Mexico City from August 10-28, 1954, covering a distance of 7,482 miles!

How were those feats accomplished?

Three men drove in five-hour shifts, refueling on the run from fast moving trucks at Kansas City, MO; Camden, NJ; and Omaha, NE. The trailer (below) held 230 gallons of gas (plus 15 gallons of oil and 30 gallons of water). The car was escorted by local police through all towns and cities.
The Caddy automatically refilled the radiator and changed the oil. Having drilled axles, the wheels could be inflated while turning and, also, hydraulic jacks could raise the car to allow the wheels to be changed while moving.

The platform that encircled the car enabled the team to retrieve a tire
and change the tire with the extended platform by the wheel.
A video display showed how this was accomplished.

For more complicated repairs and adjustments, the hood featured clear panels, which allowed the driver to keep on going, while the other two passengers fiddled under the hood, standing on movable platforms attached to the side of the car.

(By the way, the pipe shown in the photo (left) leads to a showerhead.)

And under the hood was an array of additional containers, tubing, and wires.
This display photo identified some of the components under the hood.

Louie's Cadillac is considered to be the first motorhome ever built. In addition to using the shower noted above, the three men who completed the grueling journey had other services of the rolling home at their disposal. The modified Cadillac featured many luxuries such as an electric stove, refrigerator, TV,

washing machine, chemical toilet, medicine cabinet, a kitchen sink, and even an ironing board, all integrated into the back seat.

Another function made more to meet Mattar's early interest in developing a vehicle for camping trips is this dining booth located at the back of the fuel tank.

Up front, the car had a nationwide mobile telephone, PA system, tape recorder,

a Turkish water pipe,

and a bar
It took Louie Mattar $75,000 to make his dream a reality. But this car was worth far more to Louie. He said, "If I sold that car and had all the money in the bank, I wouldn’t meet the important people I do. That's worth all the money in the world."
More information about this truly one-of-a-kind car can be found at the following web sites:

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