Fri Nov 22, 2019 London
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OPULENCE & SPLENDOUR

Luxury and the arts From houses to cars and from Hockney to van Dyck, a profile of the best and the worst

Being Liberace with the facts

A Cadillac that may or may not have belonged to Liberace comes to auction without much evidence of its provenance

 

In The Talented Mr Ripley, the detective appointed to discover what happened to Dickie Greenleaf states: “In America we’re taught to check a fact before it becomes a fact”. In the case of a 1930s Cadillac being auctioned by Barrons at Sandown Park in Surrey on the 17th September, this quote ought to have been applied.

 

The 1931 gold leafed 5.7 litre V8 Cadillac golfer’s drophead coupé that may possibly have belonged to Liberace
The 1931 gold leafed 5.7 litre V8 Cadillac golfer’s drophead coupé that may possibly have belonged to Liberace
The gold theme continues in the interior of the vehicle
The gold theme continues in the interior of the vehicle

The 1931 car on offer, a gold leafed 5.7 litre V8 Cadillac golfer’s drophead coupé, is described by the auctioneers as being “believed, by the vendor, to have once belonged to mega star pianist Liberace”. It is indeed akin to something the celebrated pianist would have had in his collection and it “spent 12 years in a German museum purporting to be Liberace’s Cadillac” but the fact that the only evidence offered is from a random Internet posting does not speak volumes.

 

The auctioneer quotes the passage concerned in their description and it reads thus:

 

“I believe this is a car I photographed at a J.C. Leake auction, in Tulsa (OK), back in 1978. I came across it again in a specialized auto magazine in 2009.  It is owned by Mr. & Mrs Jack Smith, a couple from Garden City, Kansas. Mr. Smith says the car is not painted gold but rather is layered with 23.75-carat gold foil. He spent three years creating his ‘Golden Oldie’ which was valued at half a million dollars. The outside door handles were sterling silver and the interior ones 24-carat gold. The gearshift knob is platinum, set with 18 rare gems. It is believed to have belonged, at one time, to the entertainer, Liberace. It sold at a Kruse auction in 1975 for $100,000, according to this account by the company, who have conducted collector car auctions since the 70s. The car was in a German museum for 12 years and displayed as Liberace’s car then sold when the museum closed. It was then brought to the UK and has spent  around 14 years in store (storage?). Since June 2011 the car has been fully repaired and extensive restoration on the engine, also had the gold leaf repaired”.

 

Given the “not pristine” vehicle comes with an £85,000 guide attached, one would have thought a little more attention could have been devoted to discovering its true history.

 

 

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