3 March 2015

The Cars of Elvis: What did the singer keep in his garage?

This year marks the 80th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s birth. Had he not passed away in 1977 at just 42, it is virtually certain that in addition to creating more music, Elvis would have bought more cars. As it was, he made enough music and owned enough cars for several lifetimes. Here are some of the greatest hits of Elvis’ garage:

  1. 1959 BMW 507: Let’s be up front about this, Elvis would probably identify more with Guy Fieri than Jay Leno when it comes to car collecting. Elvis was less a thoughtful connoisseur and more about flash, so the tasteful and subdued BMW 507 V-8 roadster was a bit out of character for him. Bought during his stint in West Germany with the U.S. occupation forces there, it was not surprisingly a very pricy car at more than $7,100 (about $60,000 in today’s money). That pales in comparison to the over $2 million that an ordinary non-Elvis owned 507 might bring today. The V-8 507 sports car is the most collectible regular production BMW ever.
  2. 1956 Cadillac Eldorado: Elvis was a fan of Cadillacs and Lincolns. Not so much a fan of subdued colors. He preferred pinks and purples. Legend has it that this particular car (which was originally white) was painted the shade of a concord grape (with matching carpets) simply because the impulsive King of Rock ’n’ Roll was a fan of the fruit.
  3. 1970 Mercedes-Benz 600: The 600 was the King of Benzes so it was clearly the right Mercedes for Elvis. He was in good company — John Lennon, George Harrison, Hugh Hefner and Elizabeth Taylor were also 600 owners. He was also in not-so-good company — Pol Pot, Robert Mugabe, Fidel Castro, Idi Amin, The Shah of Iran, Kim Jong-Il and Saddam Hussein were 600 owners, too. Even fictional James Bond villains loved the 600, with Ernst Stavro Blofeld and Kamal Khan both driving them.
  4. 1961 Rolls-Royce Phantom V: Before buying the Mercedes-Benz 600, Elvis owned his one and only Rolls-Royce. And if you’re just going to own one, the Phantom V was the one to own — it makes today’s Phantom clientele look positively common by comparison. Built for Rolls’ best customers and heads of state, just more than 500 were made from 1959-68. The old world craftsmen in Crewe, England, who painstakingly hand rubbed the lacquer finish of the car would likely have not appreciated the sight of Elvis’ mother Gladys’s chickens pecking at said finish. The car was reportedly painted a number of times to repair the chicken beak damage.
  5. 1973 Stutz Blackhawk: Elvis may have loved his Stutzes even more than Cadillacs. Built in Torino, Italy, on of all things a Pontiac Grand Prix chassis, the Stutz embodied everything that “new money” (both legitimate and otherwise) associate with class and status — lots of shiny chrome, wood and leather plus some gold accents for extra added panache. The King owned five of them.
  6. 1971 De Tomaso Pantera: The Pantera was a breathtakingly beautiful mid-engine sports car that boasted Italian styling courtesy of Ghia and American grunt via a Ford 351 V-8. It was sold via Lincoln-Mercury dealers.  Although Elvis bought this car for Linda Thompson, his last special lady (who was later to become Mrs. Bruce Jenner), He evidently drove it enough to become thoroughly annoyed with it.  When it broke down on him in Memphis, he managed to limp back to Graceland. When it refused to start in the driveway, he produced a small caliber handgun and shot it through the open window with the bullet passing through the steering wheel. As legend has it, this prompted the recalcitrant Italian sports car to start.

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