Like a healthy meal at McDonalds, a Cadillac military vehicle sounds like an oxymoron; however, as wrong as a Cadillac military vehicle sounds, the reality is that at one point Cadillacs were used by the U.S. military. This Ordnance Green 1918 Cadillac Type 57 is the real deal, having traveled to Europe in the early part of the 20th century to help America fight in the international scuffle that we now refer to as World War I.
Bought new by John H. Dension, “a Presbyterian minister who served with the Y.M.C.A. in a troop support role,” this old Cadillac was certainly not the only one of its kind to serve in the war, writes The New York Times: “According to ‘Cadillac Participation in the World War,’ published by the automaker in 1919, the United States government selected Cadillac for the army based on an endurance competition among ‘several of the best makes of automobiles.'”
Despite the brand serving an important role in the war effort, very few of the 2,095 Cadillacs General Motors claims were sent overseas actually made it back to the U.S., making the Denison Cadillac’s survival all the more interesting.
Currently owned by Marc Lassen, this rare war relic was recently added to the National Historic Vehicle Register. With only the car’s green paint suggesting a military background, Lassen had little else to go by in order to prove his car’s storied history to the Historic Vehicle Association, the group that manages the register.
Fortunately, as The Times notes, manager of General Motors Heritage Center, Greg Wallace, discovered “a build record for a Type 57 with the same engine number as Mr. Lassen’s car.” Some sleuthing by Lassen eventually revealed that Denison had donated his Cadillac to the military, thus explaining why the car was not registered with the U.S. Government and why it no longer wore its factory blue paint color.
Those interested in this fascinating piece of American and General Motors history can see the car displayed at the Concours d’Élégance of America at St. John’s in Plymouth, Mich., on July 27.