Many of us would like to know more about the history of our car. Sometimes we have little to go on, maybe just a few snippets of information from the previous owner. Sometimes it could even be a claim that once it belonged to Elvis or some other celebrity! In this case it may be possible to find a photo of the celebrity with the car in an old newspaper or magazine. Where else does one start to research the facts? Unfortunately our efforts to learn more could quite easily end up being fruitless, however here are a few pointers that may be of some help. If you have anything to add, any advice to share, please contact me so we can add to this resource for the benefit of all in the hobby.
Firstly it is possible to obtain a copy of your Cadillac's "build sheet" that accompanied your car down the assembly line on the day it was built. Sometimes these build sheets can be found under the back seat, petrol tank or other obscure places on the car. This sheet typically shows the codes for the colours and upholstery fitted to your car, the options, the date it was built and (for 1954 and older) an outlet code (destination) such as NY, LA, SF. At least you will then have a clue as to what state the car was originally in. All models from 1903 to 1970 (except 1968) can be researched, but you must provide your car's correct year, body style and the original engine number, chassis number or VIN. You will also be supplied with copies of other interesting booklets such as the Optional Specifications Manual and the Salesman's Data Book relating to your year of Cadillac. Send $US50 payable to “General Motors”, by check or money order in US funds (PLEASE do not send cash) to:
General Motors Heritage Center,
6400 Center Drive,
Sterling Heights, MI 48312
See a complete listing of information about the service on the home page of the Cadillac LaSalle Club
If you are able to ascertain the name of the original dealer, it's possible that they are still in business, and may even have their old records intact.
Otherwise, if you have any registration details or other documents of your vehicle, it would likely have a previous owner's name and address. These are often found in the glovebox. You could try contacting that person, by mail or phone. The latest USA phone book information is available on the internet here. Sometimes you will find a sticker from a service station on the door jamb indicating when and where the vehicle was last serviced.
Another source for researching the history of vehicles registered in the US or Canada is Carfax, but only for vehicles built after 1981. Amongst other things, you may be able to determine the possible number of previous owners and in what states. Just enter the 17 character VIN.
If you contact the Department of Motor Vehicles in the relevant American state, you may be able to complete a "Request for Title Search" or similar. The Department of Motor Vehicles Homepages has a large list of links to such Departments in USA, Canada, Australia and other countries. I have been told that California DMV purges it's reference numbers after four years of no activity. After this you have to go to Sacramento, CA and search by hand through the records.
For researching vehicles that have been registered in the state of Victoria, Australia, (as far back as 1932) the AOMC may be able to help, phone Daryl Meek on (03) 5367 6995 or fax (03) 5367 6364. They acquired the Engine Records in 1992 from the Public Records Office. Registration Records are still held by Vic Roads but public access is very limited.
Good luck, and if you find out anything interesting, let's hear about it!