From the late 1930s through the 1970s, the name “Sixty Special” denoted some of Cadillac’s most luxurious and exclusive production cars. Originally intended to fill a gap between the entry level Series 60 and the more opulent Series 62, the first generation of Sixty Specials were built between 1938 and 1941 and featured sleek, Bill Mitchell-designed bodies with no running boards, a steeply raked windscreen and somewhat sporting coupe-like lines. Sales were acceptable, but Cadillac buyers still demanded big luxury automobiles. So for 1942, the Sixty Special was heavily reworked and took on a new position in the Cadillac line. Riding on the longest wheelbase of all non-limousine Cadillacs, the Sixty Special took on the role of the top traditional luxury offering, allowing wealthy clients to choose from a Standard Sedan or the divider window-equipped Imperial Sedan.
One such wealthy client was W. Deering Howe, founder of Transair Inc. and a well-known Long Island socialite. In the fall of 1941 he was set to be married to Elizabeth Shevlin Smith, who was described as a strikingly beautiful woman and daughter of a famous former Yale football star who hailed from a prominent Northwest timber family. Deering Howe chose a very special gift for his bride-to-be, in the form of this elegant, coachbuilt 1942 Cadillac Series Sixty Special Town Car by Derham. Originally ordered through a New York dealer, it was immediately shipped to Derham’s coachwork shop in Rosemont, Pennsylvania to be converted to the Town Car configuration it wears today. Derham had actually planned to build four of these Sixty Special Town Cars, but records indicate just two were completed before the outbreak of war ended automobile production prematurely in 1942. For an Imperial Sedan to become a Town Car, Derham significantly modified the Cadillac with an open driver’s compartment with occasional weather equipment, fitted a padded formal rear roof with small backlight, and retrimmed the rear interior compartment in luxurious Bedford Broadcloth upholstery. A separate radio for the rear passenger was also included as a “special request” from Fleetwood.
With war looming, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had issued a moratorium on the deliveries of any new cars after January 2nd 1942, and this opulent wedding gift almost didn’t happen - but given Mr. Deering Howe’s social standing, he was able to secure priority status with the local bureaucrats and thus the Cadillac was finally delivered to Elizabeth later in 1942. The Cadillac remained part of Mrs. Howe’s life until 1951, when, three years after Mr. Howe’s untimely passing, it was replaced with a used Rolls-Royce, given by her third husband. It subsequently passed to Frank Low in 1958 and, later, to Norman “Bill” McIntosh, owner of a classic limousine service in Detroit, who sold it in 1974 to the most recent owner, a longtime and active CCCA member. Upon acquiring Mrs. Deering Howe’s Cadillac, an exhaustive restoration effort followed, with the engine rebuilt using new-old-stock components, the body refinished in maroon with matching genuine leather upholstery for the chauffeur, and the rear compartment upholstered in plain tan broadcloth (a replacement for the unavailable Bedford Broadcloth).
The car has been regularly driven over many years, including in three CCCA CARavans in 1986, 1994, and 2005, and it achieved its Primary Custom First Place award in CCCA competition in 1997. It has appeared in The Classic Car, Beverly Rae Kimes’s 1990 book on the CCCA, in a prominent two-page spread in which the owner described it as being “a unique glamorous as well as dependable car.” More recently, it has been displayed at America’s Car Museum in Tacoma and it is offered with a set of original manuals. Driving the car belies the age of the restoration, the car drives fabulously, and is simply one of the best driving 1940’s cars we’ve ever had the privilege to offer. It presents today in beautiful condition inside and out. It is eminently usable, and as many CCCA and Cadillac club members will attest for cars of this era, would make a wonderful tour car. This is one of only two cars of its kind built by Derham and represents a tremendously rare opportunity to acquire one of the last great coachbuilt American Pre-War classics. This fantastic automobile will surely charm its next keeper as it has its previous caretaker of 42 years.
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