Imagine it’s the mid-seventies. Cruise through the streets of Hollywood, Palm Springs or Las Vegas. You’re standing at a stoplight when you notice a jet-set celebrity—perhaps Elvis, or Sammy Davis Jr., or Dean Martin—stopping next to you. What are they driving? A C3 Corvette? A Ferrari California Spyder? A one-off Barris-built custom?
How about a station wagon?
The celebrities mentioned above, and a handful of others, owned and drove cool custom Cadillac station wagons. Traditional coachbuilders built 11 (by most accounts) of these luxurious long roofs and called them “Castilians.”
Did Cadillac build? a station wagon?
Cadillac itself stayed out of the wagon market until 2010, but customizers had been making their own versions since the 1950s. The Traditional Coachworks Castilians, built from 1976 Fleetwood Sixty Special Brougham sedans, were perhaps the most elegant. The rationale behind these conversions was to combine functionality and luxury for an elite group of customers. Doing something different and the challenge of making a car that looked like it could come out of the factory must also have been motivating factors.
We had never seen a Castilian until we ran into one at a local auto show this past summer. It is one of approximately 35 specialty cars owned and driven by Hiram Bond of Torrance, California.
“I had been looking for one of these for about 20 years,” Hiram told us. “I had read articles about it, and I have a friend in Northern California who had one, but I couldn’t find one in any state. Then it came up at a Mecum auction in Kissimmee, Florida, about three years ago. I couldn’t get to Florida, so I ended up bidding on the car over the phone, based on the description one of the Mecum employees had given me.”
“It’s not a race car, but it’s in excellent driving conditions. It’s a California car and it still has a decal in the windshield of Desert Island, a country club apartment complex in Rancho Mirage, near Palm Springs. I don’t know how long had it been there, but it was a while. It has low mileage, is completely rust free and the undercarriage is as clean as the body.”
The shop behind the Castilian
Traditional Coachworks was located in Chatsworth, California, in the Los Angeles area. The shop existed for about three years, from about 1974 to 1977. In addition to the small number of Castilian station wagons, Traditional built more than 200 Cadillac Coupe DeVille pickups called “Mirages”, and city car-like Eldorados called “Coupes de Roi”. Traditional Coachworks wasn’t the only shop to convert Cadillac, but Hiram noted that it was most successful at building wagons that didn’t look like hearses. Some stores “would use roofs from an Oldsmobile wagon or other wagon.” , which was very square,” said Hiram. “The Castilian roof is custom made from fiberglass and raked to the rear with a fastback style slanted tailgate, along with a stainless steel Targa tire to give it more of a country sports car. club style.” Hiram’s car is also equipped with a sunroof and roof rack.
Under the modified roof, the Castilians remained factory Fleetwoods, with a wheelbase of 133 inches and an overall length of 233.7 inches. The 500-cubic-inch Cadillac engine is fed by a four-barrel Rochester carburetor and assisted by a Turbo Hydramatic transmission. The original interior retains its leather trim, power seats and windows, power steering and brakes, cruise control, air conditioning and tilt steering wheel, plus limousine-style footrests for rear seat passengers. The 15-inch spoked wheels are wrapped with whitewall radial tires.
Still on the street
The next time you cruise the streets of Torrance and a coach-built Cadillac station wagon pulls up beside you, it won’t be Elvis or some Rat Pack celebrity of yesteryear. It will be Hiram Bond, racking up miles on his rare Cadillac Castilian.
“I drive all my cars,” he told us. “Each of them is driven at least once a month, but I have to admit I prefer the Castilian, and more than many of the others. It’s a great driver and a fun topic to talk to people about. Nobody know what it is.”
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