Sometimes you just change your life in a drastic way. Sometimes you do so with a supporting cast of characters. Fiction or life, who can really tell.
You may be wondering why Dynamic Drive has been rather dormant in the last 2 months. Truth is, before even losing a job, and escalating housing costs, I had already been pre-planning my trajectory out of the Bay Area for months. This meant that there had been a general slowdown in posting, less hunting for new vehicles to find and share with you in the San Francisco Bay Area, and trying to plan out where I was headed.
Indeed, one factor that had prompted me to consider my existence in the Bay Area was the dwindling amount of vintage iron and chrome on various Bay Area streets. In a city pre-occupied with hailing an Uber or Lyft, dead set on pioneering driverless pods, the former Detroit of the West is on an accelerated pace to become the Star Fleet Academy San Francisco I always dreaded it would eventually become. Those of you that have a more personal glimpse into my life knew I had debated between Portland and Baltimore.
I’ve made repeated references to being Bay Area born & raised in various car writing pieces. The story of the ways my branches of the family used the automobile as access to fulfill their trek in the Great Migration of the middle of the last century always connected the lure of the motor vehicle to an essential part of my life.
Without the access to the convenience of private transportation, there’s probably little chance I’d exist in the first place. Had it not been for the automobile, some 100 years after it started to dominate the transportation landscape, I probably wouldn’t be writing an update for y’all from North Portland.
Yeah, so that’s part of the story.
I live in Portland, Oregon now.
And I came here in a 1990 Cadillac.
Initially I was going to use Southwest Airlines Points to relocate. Then I thought AmTrak. Then someone offered to help me drive should I choose to relocate via that method. When another friend caught wind of my considerations of driving, first came a 1988 Accord.
The poor Accord suffered from receiving a lot of tough love in its 30 years of existence. With over 305,000 miles on the clock, it no longer passed California Emissions tests. Plus there was a worrisome vibration once you applied the throttle during the first to second gear upshift.
Following a series of electrical gremlins, an offer came to swap out the Accord for a 1990 Cadillac Sedan DeVille that was seeing little action. In actuality, I’ve always been a fan of the Front Wheel Drive C-Body Cadillacs, especially the 1989-1993 versions that added some mid-century girth alongside their remarkable packaging efficiency. I might have influenced the friend that had purchased the car a month earlier out of my own desire to have one for my own. When I took possession of it in early January, the first song I noted playing while I was driving it was a cover of “Together” by Gladys Knight & The Pips released 50 years ago. Given my life long comfort listening to The Empress of Soul’s voice, I named the dark blue beauty Aunt Gladys.
Of course, Old General Motors Products, and especially still striving for Standard of The World status Cadillacs aren’t perfect. The Speedometer is wonky, and of course, this generation of DeVille is notorious for not keeping accurate fuel gauge readings below 5 gallons in the 18 gallon tank. When you average about 13-15 mpg in town….(thankfully, in extended highway driving I’ve been averaging closer to 22 mpg of 91 octane).
And also, a Cadillac, sometimes, is just a Cadillac. Despite pretenses of modernity like a small block Aluminum V8 capable of hustling the car to 60 in under 9 seconds, airbags and anti-lock brakes, there’s still the oceanic silence one could expect from a Sedan DeVille 25 years Gladys’s senior. That means that I’ve had to curtail my own tendencies of using the limits of adhesion with the cornering ability, lest I make fellow passengers nauseous. I don’t want to clean up the results of my enthusiastic driving off of pristine velour upholstery.
Also, this car has been my rock in possibly the most turbulent month in my life, despite her flaws and needs. Never failing to start (okay, there was one serious encounter with the Pass-Key system putting her on total lockdown, because, well, 28 year old security systems). And also, I’ve embraced a certain type of maturity that comes with the special feeling you get when you are driving down the road with the Wreath & Crest setting as your guide for dead ahead.
Even though a lot of Cadillac purists don’t consider these DeVilles “real Cadillacs.” I’ll argue that unlike the larger Fleetwood Broughams produced at the same time, at least the 4.5 Liter V8 was brand specific powerplant that had most of its demons worked out by the 1988 model year. It also was the last Cadillac only V8, as the Northstar eventually saw service first as a de-bored engine in the Olds Aurora before finding its way into Pontiac Bonnevilles and Buick Lucernes nearly 20 years ago.
For a point of my life filled with many ups and downs, this car is something that makes me feel quite special. In a world that has way too many everyday luxuries of little value, it’s very comforting to see that even in our recent past, there was “something special” to aspire to.
I have no clue where this car is taking me in the near or long term, but so far it’s been a great ride in Cadillac Style.