CADILLAC is a seriously decorated name in the automotive world. While their cars never made it out the United States in large numbers, this is one of the most visionary car companies in the early 20th century, giving us, among other things, the standard controls layout that we see in our cars today.
If you are glad we don’t have to crank our engines by hand, stick our hands out to indicate a turn and happy to have power steering, then you have to tip your cloth hat to Cadillac.
However, the fortunes of American car companies took a turn for the worse in the 1970s oil crisis and, for the most part, they never recovered.
General Motors (GM) wasn’t just the biggest car company. In the early 1980s, they were still the world’s largest corporation.
Now they are struggling to keep plants open and are forced to kill off so many model lines, and pull out of Europe to focus what development resources they have into electric and autonomous technology.
However, this could be the boost that the world needs in terms of these two technologies because when GM does something, they do it full on. Remember the skateboard platform idea for electric cars?
Funky then, but now looking more and more like reality and could even be the logical way forward for the entire automotive industry, even if big companies resist it.
Everyone blames the oil crisis for the draconian Corporate Average Fuel Economy rule introduced in the US in 1975, but the truth is, the US government had begun looking at ways to make their cars more fuel efficient in the 1960s.
Some of the measures considered would simply kill supercars and sportscars, and one man thought he had better do something about it, and he was Luigi Chinetti.
If you are a fan of Ferrari and voracious reader of anything Enzo, you would know that Chinetti is a colourful character, a former Italian Air force member - he was kicked out during World War 1 for being underaged.
He was the sort of kid we all were, with romantic notions about war and heroics. Except that he kept that spirit for the rest of his life.
He emigrated to America and became the exclusive agent for Ferrari basically from the 1940s until the 1970s. Apart from his legendary Ferrari outlet in New York, he also operated one of the most successful private racing teams of his time, the North American Racing Team.
The oil crisis threatened his business, all the strict emissions and fuel economy regulations would mean Italians sportscars may no longer be legal Stateside.
He got talking to GM executives in 1968 about producing an American sportscar with proper American muscle that would meet Uncle Sam’s exhaust gas rules.
His approach was not unique.
In fact, the DeTomaso Pantera, a gorgeous mid-engined Italian supercar, is the result of similar thinking.
What is unique about the Cadillac NART is that it looks like it was sketched by an American who understands Italian design heritage, but wanted a car that was meant exclusively for US drivers.
Once they agreed to work with the Ferrari dealer, GM stripped apart a Cadilalc Eldorado chassis, stretched it a bit and moved the 8-litre engine amidship to drive the rear wheel.
While Detroit took out their angle grinder, Luigi Chinetti Junior was told to get to work sketching the concept and he came up with several ideas, with this one taking root.
This design, which featured an impossibly low bonnet line, a window line that dipped even further and rather heavy-set rear, captured the essence of the 1970s Italian grand tourers like Lamborghini Espada and Maserati Ghibli.
Thanks to the heavy-set rear, the NART, Ghibli and Espada all looked like the are pointing upwards, ready to launch.
Once the design has been finalised, the modified chassis was shipped to Zagato, who did the actual construction.
The car was completed and made it’s debut on the Italian coachbuilder’s stand at the 1971 Turin Motor Show, and a few months later, at Chinetti’s display at the New York International Motor Show.
Sadly the General lost interest during the intervening three years and the car remains a one-off.
The NART went quiet for a long time until it resurfaced in the current paintjob and was sold off to a French collector nearly 10 years ago.
If not, it could have enjoyed the same limited success as the DeTomaso Pantera and Mangusta, and the Iso Grifo and other Italian-American hybrids.