The Cadillac Le Mans: A Concept Car Shrouded in Mystery
Even among the great concept vehicles in automotive history, the Cadillac Le Mans holds a special place. This is due to more than its beauty and craftsmanship, as superb as both those are. It stands out because, of the four built, one disappeared into thin air back in 1953. Should you stumble across it one day, you can kiss any money problems you have goodbye. The Le Mans was the brainchild of design genius Harley Earl. Other than Henry Ford, Earl is more responsible than anyone else for America’s love affair with the automobile. Earl wasn’t a tinkerer or inventor, though. He was a designer, whose job it was to turn GM’s cars from boring to beautiful starting in the late 1920s. At a time when arch-rival Ford was still stuck in the “any color as long as it’s black” days, he taught his employers how to sell the sizzle along with the steak. PHOTOS: See More of the 1953 Cadillac Le Mans Concept
Earl was equal parts artist and showman. He replaced boring, cube-like designs with sleek, sensuous curves; offered vehicles in a variety of eye-catching colors; and, for the first time, made cars that appealed to buyer’s emotions. To showcase his ideas, he staged gala events like the GM Motorama. Complete with live music, show girls, and all the trappings of success, these gatherings usually centered on a red-hot concept car.
In 1953, that vehicle was the Le Mans, named after the famous European endurance race. It was a two-seater fiberglass convertible with an ultra-low profile and Cadillac’s first wraparound windshield. Under the hood was a 331 ci V8 that turned out 250 horses, a serious powerplant by the standards of the time. The Le Mans was a vehicle that caught the eye and created a compelling vision of the industry’s future. Earl had four of them built.
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After the ’53 Motorama, the vehicles that bore the Le Mans name were split up and went their separate ways. Two are known to exist and one was destroyed in a fire in 1985. As for the fourth one, it was put on display at a Cadillac dealer in Oklahoma City in November 1953. It stayed there for two days, which is the last anyone recalls knowing its location. Numerous investigators and auto enthusiasts have tried to find the missing Le Mans, but so far their efforts have yielded no results.
Autoweek did a piece on the story in July of 2013. Our research turned up no new leads since that time. But, if the owner of the missing Le Mans is reading this, we appeal to you in the name of car lovers everywhere to go public. There’s a ton of fame and fortune waiting for you, and we doubt the Oklahoma City police are still working on the case. Hopefully we’ll hear from you soon.
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