July 26, 2013

Horse 1518 - What is Cadillac?

The easily recognizable Cadillac logo dates back to the company's founding in the early 1900s, but over the last 110 years, there has been an on-again, off-again love affair with the wreath surrounding the crest. Cadillac's current badge design has used the wreath since the 1980s, but Automotive News is reporting that GM's luxury division is planning to ditch the laurel wreath for a cleaner-looking logo.
The new logo could make its debut as early as next month on a new concept car that will be revealed at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, although the report also says that it might be until 2015 before it makes its way to a production car. Even then, it doesn't like anything has been finalized yet, as the article also says that plans could still change.
- Autoblog, 23rd July 2013

The easily recognizable Cadillac logo? Easily recognizable?!  Surely they jest. I for one would not have recognised this as any company's logo unless they said so:

Whilst it is true that a logo should speak something of the car underneath, it is the prestige, the traditions and the history that really give life to a logo. To be honest, I don't really think that this logo particularly screams "Cadillac" to me. I don't know what it says exactly but it sure ain't Cadillac.
Just what is a Cadillac anyway? Often the best way to define what something is, is to have a look at what is is not.

BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz spring to mind immediately as three marques of German luxury. BMW and Audi built their reputations on building cars which are very well appointed. Mercedes-Benz in particular became known as the pinnacle of German luxury because in addition to building cars with very high levels of trim, they also spent a fortune on technological research and development.
Seeking to apply for readmission to society after one of their sports cars crashed at the 1955 Le Mans 24 Hour Race, killing 84 people including the drive, Mercedes-Benz would spend the next 30 years leading the world in seriously paying attention to safety and crash testing. In a round about sort of way, it helped by doing its part in reinforcing stereotypes about Germany and Germans with ruthless efficiency.
Cadillac is definitely not German though.

Marques like Datsun, Toyota and Mazda, started out by building cheap and uninspiring cars. However, they did so by doing something which was common of a lot of Japanese firms in the 30 years post WW2, and that was to take existing ideas and build them to a better quality than their rivals.
Even to this day, Toyotas are still not usually seen as exciting but incredibly reliable.
Cadillac is not Japanese either.

Britain after the Second World War has built a car industry which like so much that is venerated in British society, started in people's sheds. The nation of tinkerers gave us Jaguar, TVR and Noble, as well as the garagistas like McLaren and Lotus.
British cars are famed the world over for being brilliantly designed but variable build quality depending on what day the car left the factory. British cars contain compulsory random faults, which are so random that two cars produced on the same day will have different faults. Then there's Jaguar which is noted for its amazing talent in wasting more oil than a fish and chip shop.
Cadillac isn't even British either.

So what is Cadillac?

Even if I were to show you even just this much of the car, most petrolheads would be able to tell you the Make, Model and Year. (Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz 1959).

One of the things which America does very well is ostentatiousness. This is a nation which took the game of Rugby, made it slower for television, added marching bands at half time and watches it at home with copious amounts of grilled animal and potato snacks with flavours developed in an underground chemical bunker. This is a nation which isn't afraid add unnecessary amounts of cheese to food. This is a nation where a "large" coffee isn't enough and you get enough scalding brown liquid in a bucket sized cup to be able to drown a cow.

A Cadillac should have more chrome and silverware than Buckingham Palace, more leather than an Italian furniture store, as many ornamental fins and skirts as is possible to fit, an engine so massive, loud and raucous that it will cause another 1970's style oil crisis the second you put your foot down, and be kitted out with so much bling that the amusingly illiterately named rapper Xzibit, will simply be unable to Pimp Your Ride.
The whole car should be one giant cacophony of noise and confusion. It should be full-fat, high tar, dolphin unfriendly, high-carb, eat the whales, burn the forests, mental, bonkers, crazy-go-nuts, with cherries on the top, super-extra-ultra caffeine, five dollops of cream, extra-extra-burn-your-eyeballs Tabasco and chili sauce, ten sugars and don't hold the anchovies.

To be honest, the "wreath" around the logo isn't really that important at all. What is important is that a Cadillac has to be a Cadillac. The ideal Cadillac logo would be of Chuck Berry with his guitar; on fire; standing atop a raging bull; diving headlong into a volcano.

That's what Cadillac is.

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