Why I like Ike and LaSalles





Those of you who have known me over the many years with The Cadillac-LaSalle Club, or from any other affiliation know that there is no doubt that my favorite car of all time is the 1940 LaSalle.


Over the last 12 years, many of you have seen our current (and probably last) Sally on various tours. Some of the members know the story behind the car and they have been begging me to write about her so others could know her wonderful and colorful history.


She was produced in January of 1940 on an order from a local doctor in Denver. It was shipped to the major local dealer, which was Hall Cadillac & LaSalle Inc., located at 945 Broadway in Denver. At that time, this was the real Auto Row of this growing city. The doctor took delivery on Jan. 29, 1940. Ironically, this doctor was a neighbor, friend and physician of the Doud family, including Mamie Doud Eisenhower.


The doctor traded in his 1938 LaSalle on this car for about $1,100 difference. Meanwhile, Col. Dwight D. Eisenhower was stationed in the Philippines as an aide to Gen. Douglas MacArthur. After Eisenhower’s son John received an appointment to West Point in late April to early May 1940, Col. Eisenhower returned to the United States on leave to put son John into West Point and to take a vacation.


Their vacation was spent in Denver and around Colorado. The doctor lent the Eisenhowers his new LaSalle to make a few tours around Colorado and eventually used it to take John to the Denver Union Station to go off to West Point. Ike returned to his military duties and you all know his history from that point.


As for the LaSalle, the doctor drove it until 1949, and by that time, Ike was rather well-known. A fellow doctor wanted the car to restore and bought the car with that intent. Some work was done on the car that now had about 60,000 miles on it, but the car just seemed to disappear sometime in 1951. The doctor died in 1985 and they began to settle the estate. The LaSalle was nowhere to be found, only the title.


As they were selling off the various properties, there was a warehouse in a suburb that had a semitrailer parked in back that had sunk down over the years and the trailer was sold as-is/where-is, contents unknown. A fellow that wanted the trailer bought it under those conditions. It took he and a friend over two days to dig out the trailer and to be able to get the door open.


The first comment was, “No wonder it was so heavy, there is a damned old car in there.” The fellow that bought the trailer wasn’t interested in the car, but his friend was and made a deal for the car. When he got it home, his wife informed him that he already had four old cars and he could only keep this one if he got rid of one of the others. He decided to sell the LaSalle and came to the club meeting to offer it for sale.


In the meantime, we had built a garage and with a stroke of luck, won $5,000 in the lottery. This was exactly the car we wanted. We made a deal and bought the car. The price was reduced because between the time we bought it and the time we took delivery he banged up the door in a little accident with the garage. When we drove home with the car the radio came on with “Old Time Radio” playing the “Fred Allen Show.”


The restoration began under a very limited budget. I was very careful to make sure the takeapart was not too far to be quickly reassembled, so we could drive this wonderful machine. A few months later, I stopped at a local gas station with Sally to put gas in her near empty tank and bought two lottery tickets and, lo and behold, I scratched off a $25,000 winner. After taxes, that about took care of the balance of the restoration but a lot faster than we had originally anticipated.


The restoration was completed and Al White, one of our members, was an official and researcher at the Lowry Air Museum at Lowry Field. He had helped me on some of the research on my car and when a special ceremony was planned at Lowry that included the now-retired Gen. John Eisenhower, Al asked me to chauffeur John around in the LaSalle, I quickly agreed. John and I talked at length during that day and he verified what we had known about their connection to the car and filled me in on a lot more.


The research on this car involved a lot of sources including the late Al White, Cadillac and dealership records, motor vehicle records, Colorado Historical museum personnel, and neighbors and friends of the Doud family who are still in the area.The car today is still one of the most dependable cars in the club, though not as glamorous as some. To my wife and I, she is the most beautiful one around. Why? because, Sally is truly Our Gal Sal.


See ya next month.