It's easier to build a car than ever before. I'm not saying the average mechanic could assemble, say, a Chevrolet Volt if it arrived on their doorstep in crates but you can buy, for example, a Caterham and assemble it with relative ease. Local Motors recently made a car using 3D printing. And parts, my goodness—since vendors hit the Internet it's been possible to find nearly anything.
This wasn't always the case. Henry Ford wasn't just an automaker, he had factories and ships and tried to establish his own rubber plantation. Early on, you almost had to be magnate to get into carmaking, and had to own the production facilities for much of what is now today handled by suppliers.
Starting around the late 1960s, as coachbuilding began to fade, there seemed to be a rise in the number of companies who would lightly modify a production car and sell it as their own, something that's never really stopped. I've spoken about a few examples before, including the Mitsuoka Himiko Crazy Timer, Triumph Avon Acclaim Turbo, Zimmer Quicksilver, and Sbarro Windhound.
With the Cardin Evolution I, I'm able to add another to the list.
Based on a Cadillac Eldorado like yesterday's car, though a generation later, the Evolution I was a semi-formal collaboration between Cadillac and the fashion designer Pierre Cardin. Introduced in 1980, the car's major claims to fame were its heavy, elongated styling and luxurious interior.
Its best angle is from behind, where a horizontal tail light strip shows how good the Eldorado could have looked had Cadillac ditched the vertical units. Clean and modern, it beat the similarly-styled Alfa Romeo 164 by a few years.
Up front, the nose was elongated by more than 50 cm (19.6 in.), hiding a new grille, covered headlights, and bumpers from the Oldsmobile Toronado. The firm tried to improve the car's proportions, but it didn't work, because the front wheels weren't moved forward as well. As it sits now, the car just looks like some sort of anteater Cadillac.
Inside, buyers were treated to an interior that (yes!) lived up to the Cardin name. Real wood, real leather, and slightly different styling cues—including a new steering wheel—were offered alongside the option to fit a Sony TV, VCR, and minibar between the rear seats. Some had an upgraded sound system, a "Sherwood stereo system with Altec-Lansing power bass." Mmm…power bass…
Under the hood sat the standard Cadillac mechanicals—including the terrible 8-6-4 engine: a 6.0-litre V8 engine with just 144 horsepower and top speed of 165 km/h (102 mph), and cylinder deactivation to improve fuel economy and/or ruin the driving experience.
All of this is to say that Pierre Cardin Automotive felt O.K. about selling the Evolution I for three times more than a standard Cadillac Eldorado. Now you see why it didn't take off…
Because none of you bought one, the Evolution I never evolved into the Evolution II, III, etc. For shame! Some sources say that 100 were produced between 1980 and 1984—but it's likely they made far fewer.
How much do they go for now? About $4,000 Usd.