Kiwi's 'Yank Tank' is a car fit for a king

Wayne McCurdy and his 1976 Cadillac Eldorado.
Wayne McCurdy and his 1976 Cadillac Eldorado.
An Elvis Presley figurine mounted on the dashboard of Wayne McCurdy's 1976 Cadillac Eldorado.
An Elvis Presley figurine mounted on the dashboard of Wayne McCurdy's 1976 Cadillac Eldorado.
Wayne McCurdy and his 1976 Cadillac Eldorado.
Wayne McCurdy and his 1976 Cadillac Eldorado.
Wayne McCurdy's 1976 Cadillac Eldorado.
Wayne McCurdy's 1976 Cadillac Eldorado.

Elvis Presley was dubbed the King of Rock'n'Roll but, thanks to his love of lavish automobiles, he may have also earned himself a crown as the king of Cadillacs.

First car: 1938 Chevrolet Coupe
Best car: 2003 Jaguar XJ8
Dream car: Bentley
Current car: Range Rover
Presley bought at least 200 Cadillacs during his lifetime and the American luxury car soon became a symbol of Americana, the ultimate achievement of the American dream.

A decade ago, Wayne McCurdy of New Plymouth bought his 1976 Cadillac Eldorado convertible and felt it was only right to name his new ride after "the King", and his wife, Frances, a fan of Presley, agreed.

That explains why the massive convertible has its PRSLEY registration plate and is decked out with Presley memorabilia, including the hip-shaking figurine on the dash. McCurdy admits all this means he sometimes finds himself the butt of his friend's jokes.

"They give me heaps about my hair and that they don't know who is fatter - me or Elvis," he jokes.

McCurdy, who owns four American classics, says he has always been a petrol-head. He discovered the convertible was for sale in Fort Worth, Texas, via an American car trading magazine.

"I had always wanted a Yank-tank of some description," he says.

"We stripped it right back, worked on the rust and replaced all of the panels. There was a lot of wear and tear, it had done a lot of miles and was worn out. I had to fix it up quite a bit," says McCurdy.

The candy-apple red classic's interior was re-upholstered in white leather with red trim, propped up on chrome spoke wheels, and a continental kit for the spare tyre was mounted on the back. "Cadillacs never came with them but, it made it look more American," he says.

Despite the Cadillac's massive 8.2-litre, 500 cubic inch V8 engine, it lacks clout, McCurdy says.

"It isn't very powerful, it's sort of a granddad's car," he explains.

But the Cadillac is still a special car for its part in the marque's history, he says. The year 1976 marked the end of factory-produced very large Cadillac convertibles, from that point the cars began to downsize because of the oil embargo of the early 1970s causing oil prices to skyrocket, coupled with an economic recession mid-decade, all of which forced American car manufacturers to produce vehicles with more of a focus on fuel efficiency.

"The 1975 and 1976 Cadillacs are actually a dime-a-dozen, because so many of them were built. Cadillac said that because they would be the last of the large convertibles they would become collectors' items that would go up in value. But they did the exact opposite," he says.

But the car is still a treasure for the McCurdys nonetheless, and they say it's a pity they can't take it for a spin as often as they would like.

"For years our lives have revolved around work and our business," he says.

This is why the McCurdys, who share a love of cars, enjoy being involved with car clubs, as it motivates them to drop-the-top and head out for a drive.

McCurdy, a devoted entrant and sponsor of Taranaki's Americarna since its inception, says the biggest trip he has ever taken in the Cadillac was to Invercargill for the Americarna event down there.

"It was nice weather and beautiful roads, and I don't travel very fast - 95 to 100. I sort of nurse it, but with the roof off on a sunny day, it's great."

Quite content with his current collection, McCurdy isn't sure if or when he will buy another classic.

"The future is determined by the wife," he quips.

Taranaki Daily News