The earliest Escalade?

Plying the streets of Santiago de Cuba is the Cadillac of people carriers.
   I CAN THINK of just two possible explanation for this great red machine.

1. Back in 1957, a group of up-and-comers in the Cadillac division of General Motors hit upon an idea for a bold new model that would combine the refinement and style of a passenger car with the people- and cargo-hauling capability of a truck. They called it a "utility-sports vehicle." Surreptitiously, they removed a 60-S sedan body from the assembly line and, toiling at night in the basement of the Cadillac headquarters, replaced its tail fins and rear roofline with a tall, wedge-fronted box. They weren't good welders, but hey, it was a prototype. After spraying the body a bright Dakotah Red and mounting it on a pickup truck chassis, they presented their creation to Cadillac general manager James Roche. "This," they told him, "is how we can grow our brand." Alas, they had seriously misjudged their reception. The normally restrained Roche was furious. "Destroy this immediately," he ordered, "and never again use 'grow' as a transitive verb." Crestfallen, the conspirators slunk away. That night, though, gathered in a Clark Street tavern, they decided to disregard Roche's order and instead hide the prototype in some foreign market until the time was right to present it once more. "Someday," they said, "the world will be ready for a Cadillac utility-sports vehicle." And indeed, 42 years later, Cadillac would decide to introduce a luxury car-truck-combination that it would call the Escalade. By then, however, the 1957 effort was long-forgotten, and Cadillac instead looked to the GMC Yukon Denali as the basis for its new offering. And the prototype? It rolls on still in a far corner of Cuba, appearing much the same as it did the day it emerged from the Cadillac HQ basement, except that some wag painted the tips of the Dagmar bumpers the same red as the body colour.

2. It's just another use-what's-at-hand amalgamation in a country that can't afford to let vehicle bits go to waste.

But which of these explanations is correct? Your guess is at least as good as mine.

FC Barcelona decals may have been meant as camouflage.


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