|Flora and owner, Donald, pictured outside the 100-year-old Palais Royale Hotel in Katoomba (Roderick Eime)|
Flora is 90 years old and still runs around the block like she’s a teenager.
She loves to make new friends, go to weddings, visit parks and gardens and be with her sisters, Ava and Ella.
No, Flora is not some miraculous nonagenarian. You see, she is simply an example of what can be achieved with love and careful, regular maintenance.
'The very essence of beauty, chic, smartness and luxury'
- 1929 advertising tag line
Flora has, however, a proper pedigree. She is a 1929 Cadillac-LaSalle
4-seat Phaeton, a revolutionary car for its time with such modern wonders as the world’s first synchro-mesh manual gearbox, meaning you could change gears in one motion and not crunch between changes. LaSalle was a General Motors brand and known as a “companion marque”, a half-notch below Cadillac in the luxury range.
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A ‘phaeton’ was a term inherited from a type of sporty horse-drawn carriage designed to be lighter and more nimble than the larger ‘sedans’ or ‘limousines’.
LaSalle was only produced from 1927 to 1940, and like so many prestige brands, was affected by the depression but persisted until the war whereupon it was decided to bring LaSalle back under the Cadillac brand entirely.
“When most regular cars could be bought for around $500 in 1929,” owner Donald Millar tells me, “this LaSalle would have been more than $2500, so it was quite a luxury item.”
The 1929 LaSalle was similar to the 1928 model 303. Power was from a 90-degree 328 cubic inch V8 engine. There was a selective transmission with synchro-mesh and 15-inch drum brakes on all four corners.
Donald’s father saw Flora languishing in a Parramatta Road used car lot in 1954 and vowed to liberate her then and there. She’s been in the family longer than Donald.
Ava and Ella have similar stories although Ava, a 1928 LaSalle 5-passenger Coupe, was found in a very poor state sharing a paddock with two donkeys in much better condition.
Today Flora can be hired for special occasions from Blue Mountains Vintage Cadillacs
who operate the three rare vehicles. Even a simple tour around the beautiful leafy streets of Katoomba, Leura and Wentworth Falls will allow anyone to get a feeling of what this exclusive enclave would have been like during the ‘Roaring Twenties’.
She’ll love you for it.
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