Iconic Caddy to go to highest bidder

The owners of a vintage car decided to have the vehicle sold at an auction.

Published January 10, 2007

Many a car collector has heard the tale.

Somebody knows somebody who has a vintage automobile in pristine condition, with low mileage and a strange or sordid history.

"This is a story you hear over and over again and it's never true," said John Pfanstiehl of Indian Rocks Beach.

So when Pfanstiehl was told about a 1960 Cadillac Eldorado Seville in 1981, he had to see it for himself.

This time, the car turned out even better than billed.

"It turned out to be a 1959, which is much more desirable," he said. "The 1959s had the absolute wildest, most opulent, flamboyant tailfins ever out on cars. It's pretty much an icon."

When Pfanstiehl bought the car from the son of the original owner, Maurice Gagnon, he knew little of the car's history.

"All we knew was that the son's dad was supposedly killed in the car," Pfanstiehl said. Turns out, there was much more to learn.

A sad, strange story

Gagnon, a wealthy entrepreneur from Rhode Island, met an untimely end in the front seat of the Cadillac in 1959. He was shot in the head and left in the car on a back street in Nashua, N.H.

"These guys that were going to be arraigned for breaking into his residence kidnapped him in his own car," Pfanstiehl said.

"They drove across Massachusetts to get the car out of state, dumped it in Nashua and probably shot him there."

Pfanstiehl did in-depth research after he bought the car, combing microfiche for newspaper stories from the sensational trial that followed the murder.

Two of the men involved were sentenced to death, and ultimately paroled after the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed the death penalty.

"Everything about this is so sad and strange, because what they stole from him was one-thousandth of his wealth and he wound up getting killed for it," he said.

Through his research, Pfanstiehl found the car's original carpet and floor mats on a copy of the state's evidence list from the trial. He was able to get a court order to have them released and they were returned to the vehicle.

Share it with the world

After 25 years in Pfanstiehl's garage, he thinks it's time that the car was made available to the public.

"It's always been a treasure to me and it just seems a shame it sits in the garage," he said.

On Jan. 19, collectors and aficionados will have the chance to buy the Cadillac at Barrett-Jackson's, the world renowned classic car auctioneer in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Pfanstiehl and his wife, Kelly Cisarik, hope the car will go to someone who appreciates it as much as they do.

With only 2,243 miles on the odometer, the car is believed to have the lowest mileage of any 1959 Cadillac in the world. The white Cadillac, with silver-blue interior and a fabric-covered top also still sports its original tires, battery and air filter.

It's hard to say how much the car will fetch, he said, because there isn't anything to compare it with. Only 975 Cadillac Eldorado Sevilles came off the assembly line during the 1958-59 production year.

Pfanstiehl said he's felt privileged to own his dream car. "You can buy so many wonderful cars, but you're never going to have a find like this again. You typically only get one in a lifetime."

Car auction

The 36th annual Barrett-Jackson Collector Car Event will be from Saturday to Jan. 21 in Scottsdale, Ariz. Pfanstiehl’s 1959 Cadillac Eldorado Seville will be auctioned during the prime time spot on Jan. 19. The auction will be televised live on the Speed channel. Check with your local cable provider for listings and availability.