If you lived here pre-1973, you might recall the 1903 Cadillac pictured above from the Thomas Winery at Foothill and Vineyard in Cucamonga. Gino Filippi, of the winery family, told me: “I remember when I was young, the car was at the Thomas Winery on display for years. The Thomas Bros. sold the winery to our family in 1967. I think the car was one of a few NOT included in the sale.”
Filippi sent me a link to a Bonhams auction notice for the car, from 2007, when it sold for $337,000. It was billed as “the oldest known surviving Cadillac.”
The fledgling company’s first car was completed in late 1902. Says Bonham: “The car offered here – serial number ‘13’, the oldest known surviving Cadillac – was one of three displayed at the New York Auto Show in January 1903, the others being numbers ‘10’ and ‘11’. At that show, Cadillac’s sales manager William E. Metzger took orders for a staggering 2,286 cars and sold all three on display, ‘13’ being purchased by a Mr. Thomas, owner of the Thomas Winery in Cucamonga, California.
“The factory ledger shows the first 17 cars produced, recording that ‘13’ was the 6th to be invoiced and the 3rd shipped. Six of the first dozen cars remained unsold and may have been retained for development purposes. None is known to exist. Historical research has determined that ‘13’ was the first Cadillac to be shipped west of the Mississippi and the first sold to California.”
Isn’t that something? The first Cadillac to be shipped west of the Mississippi bypassed Anaheim and Azusa to come straight to Cucamonga.
Bonhams continues: “’13’ remained within its first owner’s family, for many years on display at the Thomas Winery in Cucamonga, until February 1973 when it was acquired by Cadillac collector Patrick Herman, who knew little of its history at the time other than it was a one-owner car.” Herman bought the car from Thomas’ great-granddaughter and transported it to his home in Utah.
A Bloomberg story from 2007 says that when Pat Herman bought the car, the winery had been sold “and the Cadillac was stored in a garage full of old refrigerators and washing machines. The car was missing numerous parts and showed the ravages of time, so the restoration, which was completed in 1989, was not a simple process.”
The car was restored in Montebello and went on to win many car show awards.
Bonhams concludes: “The three cars displayed at the New York Auto Show in 1903 were the first Cadillacs shown to the public and the first ever sold. As the sole survivor of these pioneers, ’13’ is thus a vehicle of quite exceptional importance in the history of the American automobile industry. Quite simply: the Cadillac story started here.”
An RM Auctions notice in January 2012 says the car had been bought in 2007 by John O’Quinn, and adds the detail that in 1973, the car had been in storage in Upland. RM says the car sold at its 2012 auction, from O’Quinn’s estate, for $134,750, or well under half what O’Quinn paid.
I don’t know its whereabouts, although surely some Cadillac collectors’ group knows. More importantly for our purposes, do any of you recall having seen the car in its some 70 years in Cucamonga?
Here’s a video dated 2010 of what may be the same car, or at least a similar model, being cranked into motion.