From Graceland to Raceland: Elvis' Pink Cadillac to Headline Charlotte Motor Speedway's Pennzoil AutoFair
Move over, Richard Petty and Steve Kinser: another famous car belonging to "The King" is coming to Charlotte Motor Speedway. Elvis Presley's™ pink-and-white 1955 Cadillac, the car most associated with "The King" and the birth of rock 'n' roll music, will roll into Charlotte Motor Speedway to serve as the centerpiece attraction for the April 2-5 Pennzoil AutoFair.
Other than a trip to London in 2015, the iconic Fleetwood sedan - recognized as one of the most famous American-made cars - has not been displayed outside of Memphis since Elvis Presley's Graceland® opened for tours in 1982. Currently the car resides in the new Presley Motors exhibit in the Elvis Presley's Memphis entertainment and exhibit complex across the street from Graceland.
Charlotte Motor Speedway, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, was no stranger to Presley during his remarkable career. Alongside Nancy Sinatra, Presley starred in the 1968 movie "Speedway," which was filmed at Charlotte Motor Speedway. By then, Presley was a worldwide star.
"We are thrilled to join in celebrating the Charlotte Motor Speedway's 60th anniversary," stated Jack Soden, CEO of Elvis Presley Enterprises. "No doubt that Elvis would be delighted to support the celebration."
As a struggling, 19-year-old singer in October 1954, Presley and his band began traveling from one performance to another by car. To make the hectic, grinding schedule work, band members often slept in the car between gigs when they weren't taking a turn at the wheel. Band cars had to be large, comfortable, fast, and stylish, which narrowed the field in the mid-1950s to the powerful V-8 engine Lincolns and Cadillacs.
Contrary to legend, the famous pink '55 Caddy was not The King's first car as a traveling musician. In January 1955, Presley bought a 1951 Lincoln, which his bass player totaled in March. The singer replaced the Lincoln with a used, pink-and-white 1954 Cadillac that caught fire and burned on the side of the road in June. To keep Presley happy and mobile, his manager helped the singer finance a new Cadillac Series 60 Fleetwood Special on July 7, 1955.
Cadillac's Fleetwood sedan came equipped that year with a 331ci, 250hp V-8 and HydraMatic automatic transmission. Measuring 227 inches from end to end, it was 2.5 inches longer than today's Chevrolet Suburban full-size SUV and would seat six comfortably. It came standard with luxury equipment such as power windows, power brakes, and a power-adjustable driver's seat for $4,728.
Presley's four-door was loaded with optional air conditioning, dual-speaker radio, a pair of spotlights, and Cadillac's high-tech Autronic-Eye sensor, which automatically dimmed the car's headlights when it detected oncoming traffic. The Fleetwood could be ordered in one of 200 color combinations; Presley's car was blue with a black roof when he bought it. He had the body repainted pink so the sedan would match the pink-and-black color scheme Presley had popularized with his suits.
On Sept. 2, when the car was less than two months old, the Caddy was in an accident while the band was performing in Texas. Presley had the Cadillac repaired and repainted in the now-familiar pink and white color scheme. He gave it to his mother Gladys, who had no driver's license.
Today, any finned Cadillac painted pink has come to symbolize Elvis Presley's early career and the birth of rock 'n' roll. Thousands of tribute cars - usually convertibles from the late 1950s driven by Elvis Tribute Artists and car collectors - can be seen around the world at car shows and in parades, but the original Elvis pink Cadillac will be on display during all four days of the April 2-5 Pennzoil AutoFair at Charlotte Motor Speedway.