1942 Cadillac Series 60 Special town car by Derham. Photos by Randy Wells, courtesy RM Sotheby's.In 1941, just as the United States emerged from the effects of The Great Depression, war in Europe (and later, in the Pacific) loomed on the horizon.

To the wealthiest segment of the population, however, life went on as usual, prompting demand for luxury goods like custom-bodied automobiles. Prior to December 7, 1941, coachbuilder Derham planned four conversions of Cadillac Series 60 models, but the war would cut that number in half. Next January, one of these Derham-bodied 1942 Cadillac Series 60 Special Town Cars heads to auction in Phoenix, offered for sale for the first time since 1974.

W. Deering Howe was the great-grandson of William Deering, best known as the founder of agricultural implement maker Deering Manufacturing Company. Later, this business would merge with the Plano Harvester Company and the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company to become International Harvester, making William Deering (and ultimately, his heirs) particularly wealthy. That’s not to say that W. Deering Howe lacked a strong work ethic, but his life was framed more by his passion for race horses than by his business or philanthropical endeavors.

In 1941, fresh from a divorce from his first wife, Howe married divorcee Elizabeth Shevlin Smith, who came from Pacific Northwest timber money. An ordinary wedding present simply would not do, so Howe ordered a coachbuilt Series 60 Cadillac, with a Derham town car body, for his new bride-to-be. Though the order was placed well in advance of December 7, the Cadillac was not finished until after the January 1, 1942, halt on civilian car delivery by the government’s Office of Production Management. Well-connected politically, Howe appealed and was granted an exemption in late 1942.

As delivered, the Cadillac town car came with Bedford Broadcloth upholstery and a rear-mounted radio for back-seat passengers to enjoy. Depending upon the weather, the chauffeur could enjoy open-air motoring, or snap on a cover for inclement days, while seated upon more durable leather upholstery.

Power came from a 346-cu.in. L-head V-8, rated at 150 horsepower and mated to a three-speed manual transmission. Underneath, Cadillac employed an independent front suspension with coil springs and a live axle rear with semi-elliptical leaf springs. Brakes were hydraulic drums in all four corners, reportedly improved for the 1942 model year.
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Howe died unexpectedly in 1948, and his widow kept possession of the Derham-bodied Cadillac until 1951, when her next husband replaced the car with a secondhand Rolls-Royce. In the ensuing years, the coachbuilt Cadillac passed through a series of owners, including Norman “Bill” Macintosh, who ran a successful vintage limousine service out of Detroit, Michigan. In 1974, the car was acquired by the consignor, who later funded a complete restoration.

In the decades since, the car has been driven in several CCCA CARavans (in 1986, 1994 and 2005) and shown at numerous events. In 1997, the Cadillac took its CCCA Primary Custom First Place award, and later went on loan to the LeMay–America’s Car Museum in Tacoma, Washington.

It’s not clear how many Derham-bodied 1942 Cadillacs remain, but this example is surely one of the final models built before the war effort called a halt to civilian automobile production. Though listed as a no-reserve lot, RM Sotheby’s anticipate a selling price between $80,000 and $120,000 when the coachbuilt Cadillac crosses the block in January.


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