Every workday afternoon in the late-Sixties, Ray Tanner would drive across the Lion’s Gate bridge from North Vancouver to his job as a printer-typesetter at Pacific Press. He worked afternoons and evenings putting the pages together for the next day editions of the Vancouver Sun and Province newspapers.
In August 1969, he was proofreading a classified advertising page he had just composed when his eyes locked on an ad for a used car: a 1957 Cadillac Coupe de Ville. He thought it was too good to be true but called right away. He liked what he heard and made the arrangements to see the car.
The owner had passed away and his wife was selling the car which was stored at their home in Kerrisdale. Remarkably, the 12-year-old Coupe de Ville had traveled only 1,000 miles. The original owner had loved his Dusk Rose Cadillac so much he hardly drove it and it was just like new. Twelve hundred dollars changed hands and soon Ray Tanner was driving to work across the Lion’s Gate Bridge with his lunch box by his side in his pink Cadillac.
“It was a dream come true,” he says of his early days with the Cadillac.
The car was extra special because Ray and Virginia had been married in 1957, when the Cadillac was a new car. The fully equipped luxury Coupe de Ville would carry the couple and their two sons on many trips down the west coast: Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Utah – Disneyland, Coast Highway 101, the Redwood Forest and the Grand Canyon. The car never let them down.
By the mid-Eighties, the miles had piled up on the Cadillac and rising gasoline prices led Ray to park the nearly 30-year-old car in the backyard of the family home in North Vancouver. His daily driver became a new, and economical, Ford Fiesta. Eventually, his then teenage son Ian got interested in resurrecting the Cadillac. He drove it to high school and then to his first job as an apprentice mechanic. The idea was to restore the car using his work facilities. But, when Ian was on holidays, the owner of the shop sold the car.
“I was so upset over that, but I was only 19 and I had no money to fix it,” Ian says believing at that time the family’s pink Cadillac was gone for good.
Fifteen years went by, and the Cadillac was all but forgotten when Ian got a call from a friend. “I found your dad’s Cadillac,” the voice on the telephone said.
The friend, who supplies classic cars for the film industry, had been sourcing cars for the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie The 6th Day which was filmed in Vancouver when he found the 1957 Cadillac Coupe de Ville in Everett, Washington.
“My friend paid for the car himself, picked it up for me and brought it to Vancouver,” Ian Tanner says.
When the Cadillac was back in Vancouver, Ian hardly recognized it because it had been repainted ‘Pepto Bismol pink’. But he knew it was the old family car as he found wiring in the glove compartment from when he installed an FM radio while he was still in high school.
“It was priceless and one of the best days in my life when I handed over the keys to my mom and dad. It was a total surprise for the whole family including my 96-year-old grandmother,” he says.
The car was taken to Ian’s auto repair shop in Coquitlam, appropriately named Ian’s Automotive, and treated to a full restoration with a repaint in the original Dusty Rose colour. The results are spectacular.
The pink Cadillac is now back in use for Tanner family outings and special occasions. “Father’s Day is coming up and I always take and mom and dad for ride that day,” Ian says with pride.
Alyn Edwards is a classic car enthusiast and partner in Peak Communicators, a Vancouver-based public relations company. [email protected]