Though today we may look at Italian design houses as semi-mythical and completely magical places where the most incredible vehicles were shaped, the reality is that they were viable businesses that depended on contracts from major manufacturers.
Bertone, Pininfarina, Zagato—to name the three most known today—but Fioravanti, Frua, Vignale, Touring, Ghia, Allemano, Castagna, and others all made their reputations by creating bodywork for production car mechanicals.
It's fertile ground for Car of the Day—they often look fantastic, have interesting stories, and look great. What's not to like?
You might be surprised to learn that Cadillac and Pinin Farina (the name was joined collaborated frequently in the 1950s and 60s. Though not mentioned on the company's website these days—they prefer to talk about their long-term relationship with sports car makers such as Ferrari—the company worked with many automakers.
The Jacqueline was shown first at the 1961 Paris Salon, named for then-First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. Imagine a current automaker producing a concept called "Michelle"…
Pininfarina had been hand-building Cadillac Brougham bodies, in fact—200 of them—from 1959, but the arrangement was such that one of the world's premier automotive design firms was simply pounding the work of General Motors designers into metal.
At this point, the U.S. car industry was focused on both year-over-year changes to keep their cars fresh and increased oversight into the costs of running a car company. Aspects of the business, like product planning, marketing, and tight budgets were just beginning to take hold.
(Whether or not executives listened or acted upon insights from these new departments is another discussion entirely!)
The Brougham program was shelved, with Cadillac citing costs.
These days, the Jacqueline looks modern—little chrome, sweeping lines, a simple-but-imposing front fascia, and wraparound tail lights will do that. The car's wheelbase (the distance between the wheels) was an immense 10.8 feet.
At the time, however, production vehicles featured chrome, tail fins, and increasingly over-the-top design cues. Pininfarina's only real concession to period trends was its polished stainless steel roof—a leftover from top-of-the-like late-50s Cadillac Brougham models.
It's at this point I share the bad news before the good: It was just a styling mock-up and not really a car. It didn't drive, but was pushed where it needed to go. A shame, perhaps, but the good news is that a Cadillac enthusiast located the original body and has since installed mechanicals. It's now a running, driving car.
There are other American-Italian one-offs, of course, but they're stories for another day.